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NHL Draft

Tkachuk tries to keep mind off NHL Draft

Forward prospect uses batting practice, Niagara Falls trip to calm nerves prior to Friday's first round

by Matthew Tkachuk / Special to

Matthew Tkachuk, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, finished his first season with London of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound left wing had 30 goals and 107 points in 57 regular-season games. He had 20 goals and 40 points in 18 OHL playoff games, including eight points in four games in the Memorial Cup. Tkachuk is in Buffalo with his family, getting ready for the NHL Draft on Friday and Saturday at First Niagara Center. He filed his most recent post after taking part in the NHL Top Prospects media tour on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hi everyone!

So, I arrived in Buffalo on Wednesday. I got out of a car from Toronto and went right to batting practice at Coca-Cola Field, the home of the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. It was fantastic because five other prospects (Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Olli Juolevi, Pierre-Luc Dubois) and I took part in batting practice. The Bisons are a minor-league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

I thought Auston did the best at first until he admitted to me that he went to the batting cages a week earlier (in Arizona) so there was a little cheating going on right there. So I've changed my mind and now feel that (London teammate) Juolevi did the best. He was really driving pitches.

On Thursday morning, I woke up and helped out at a top prospects clinic with some staff members from USA Hockey and Matthews, Dubois, Laine and Puljujarvi. It was a lot of fun working with some of the kids. Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane was out there as well. It was fun to see him and work with the kids. We all remember when we were that age, when NHL players were giving back to us. So if becoming an NHL player is in our future and part of our dream someday, this is going to be one of our duties -- to give back and help out wherever we can.

After the clinic we took a shuttle to Niagara Falls and went on the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which was a lot of fun. I've done it before with my family but it certainly is a sight that never gets old. It was a hot day out today so to get a little water on you helped a lot. Really, anything to keep our minds off the NHL Draft at this stage, since we're so close, is good.

Speaking of the draft, it's kind of surreal to think Friday is the first round. Hopefully we all get a good night's sleep and we'll be ready for the big day. I have about 80-to-100 family members and friends coming to the draft. It's still a projection but I'll be able to tell you exactly how many when I blog for the final time after the draft.

Thanks for reading everyone.

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