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NHL Draft

Top draft prospects enjoy visit to NHL Centennial Fan Arena

Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick, Casey Mittelstadt, Gabriel Vilardi also take part in ball hockey clinic

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

CHICAGO -- Growing up in Switzerland, Halifax center Nico Hischier doesn't have the grasp of NHL history as someone who grew up in North America.

So when he got the chance to tour the NHL Centennial Fan Arena museum truck on Thursday, it was a chance for him to learn about teams he never knew existed.

"I was pretty interested in the different logos," Hischier said. "There are some teams that I didn't know were there. Atlanta [Thrashers], I couldn't remember. And there were different names. Hamilton Tigers? I didn't know they were in the NHL. … It's pretty interesting. Colorado Rockies; I didn't know there was a team there before the Avalanche."


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Hischier, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking for the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas, was joined by Brandon center Nolan Patrick (No. 1), Eden Prairie (Minnesota) High School center Casey Mittelstadt (No. 3) and Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi (No. 4) for a tour of the 53-foot museum truck, which includes jerseys, equipment, sticks and interactive exhibits celebrating the 100th anniversary of the League.

Patrick was drawn to an exhibit that featured wooden sticks from the first half of the 20th century.

"I don't know if I could score with those," he said. "Pretty impressive what they did with those sticks."

Video: Nico Hischier participates in ball hockey clinic

Mittelstadt spent time looking at a display that featured jerseys from the Cleveland Barons and California Seals, as well as an old wool referee jersey.

"Some of them are pretty sweet," he said. "It's cool to see them and how far they've come."

Joining them for part of the tour was Hockey Hall of Fame member Denis Savard.

Savard said getting to see the future of the game is as fun for him as it is for the prospects to meet one of the game's legends. He said he'd seen video of a few of them in action, but was impressed by how polite they were.

"I'm honored to meet those kids," he said. "I know that I'm not surprised how they act and how they are with the people. They're hockey players and they come from great families."

The prospects, along with Savard and former Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers, then joined a group of local youth players for a ball hockey clinic.

Tim Frankfort, a Chicago native living in Las Vegas, brought his 7-year-old nephew, Benjamin Swets, to the clinic.

"The fact we get to see one of our family members participate in something like this, which wasn't around when we were kids, is fantastic," Frankfort said. "It's a great thing by the League and a great thing by the Blackhawks to afford these opportunities to kids."

As much fun as it was for the prospects to spend time working on stickhandling, shooting and passing with the kids, it was something that helped keep their mind off the stress of the 2017 NHL Draft, which starts Friday at United Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).

"I had a question today, what are you thinking about [with the draft], and I don't really have time to think about it," Vilardi said. "I'm just here enjoying the experience. It's been a lot of fun, going to the [Chicago Cubs game] yesterday, and today here helping out kids. It's been pretty busy and it's been a lot of fun so far. I'm enjoying it."

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