|BOSTON -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Dougie Hamilton walked into the interview room at Boston's TD Garden, their eyes fixated on the empty podium where Bruins coach Claude Julien was set to address the media in about 20 minutes. |
The pair, both top prospects in the upcoming NHL Draft, marveled about how many rows of seats there were for reporters.
"They fill all of these chairs?" Hamilton said, as he scanned the room.
When asked if they'd like to take a picture, it didn't take more than 30 seconds for the duo to hop up onto the podium, remove Julien's nametag -- just temporarily -- and take turns snapping shots on their Blackberries.
So who is Nugent-Hopkins going to send the picture to?
"Everybody," the center said, with a smile.
Nugent-Hopkins, Hamilton, Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Huberdeau -- the four highest-rated North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings for the 2011 Entry Draft -- were given backstage treatment Monday morning at TD Garden, prior to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between Vancouver and Boston.
The foursome sat in on morning skates, walked around the Bruins' locker room during a media scrum and even taped a TV segment with CBC's Don Cherry, a legend in the Canadian hockey community.
"The Don Cherry thing was pretty cool," said Hamilton, the top-rated North American defenseman in this year's draft class. "You grew up watching him on TV, so it's weird to think people will be watching you on his show now."
The four players agreed that the entire experience was both exciting and eye-opening.
"I didn't really know what to expect going in, but just being here and doing all of this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Landeskog, a swift-skating Stockholm native who played for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. "It hasn't really hit me yet that this could be me soon. I'm kind of getting used to that picture, but you don't want to get too ahead of myself."
During the Bruins' morning skate, Nugent-Hopkins -- widely regarded as the No. 1 overall prospect this year -- had his eyes fixated on Boston rookie Tyler Seguin.
Seguin, drafted No. 2 by the Bruins in the 2010 Entry Draft, has recorded 3 goals and 3 assists in nine playoff games this season.
"I actually played him in peewee when we went to Toronto for a tournament," Nugent-Hopkins said. "It's really cool just seeing a 19-year-old doing as well as he has."
All four players had the opportunity to meet Seguin in the Bruins' locker room after practice -- which was jam-packed with reporters, shuffling around from player to player. The boys couldn't believe how many reporters there were.
"[In the OHL] we had a couple media scrums with 10 reporters and I thought that was a lot," Landeskog said. "But in there it was like 20 times that."
"Tough to have a conversation with all these guys around, huh?" Seguin joked to the foursome as he gestured to the video camera inches from his face.
Still, Seguin gave the players advice, reminding them that he was in their shoes just 12 months ago.
Between activities, the four prospects chatted and exchanged Blackberry PINs. They also shared experiences. Nugent-Hopkins said that he has two separate Facebook accounts, because he was getting too many friend requests from fans.
"You have to put it on the setting where only you can add people," Hamilton told him.
The four prospects also shook hands and chatted with about a dozen players. A highlight for Landeskog was meeting fellow Swedes Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin -- and finding out they already knew who he was.
"They are huge in Sweden," said Landeskog's father Tony. "So it's a big thing to have them talk to Gabriel and know who Gabriel is."
When the foursome ran into Patrice Bergeron in the hallway, the Bruins' forward asked how last week's Combine went.
"It's always a tough week, but once it's over it's all good from there," Bergeron told them. "I was nervous for the draft, but top four, you guys should be OK."
Bergeron then shared a few words with fellow French-speaker Huberdeau. Afterward, Hamilton and Nugent-Hopkins asked Huberdeau what Bergeron had to say.
"He just told me to have fun," Huberdeau said.