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NHL players make March Madness picks

Duke, Arizona popular choices to win NCAA men's basketball championship

NHL.com @NHL

The craziness of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is less than a month away, but March Madness starts in full on Thursday.

Following two "First Four" games each on Tuesday and Wednesday, 64 teams remain in the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament.

NHL.com talked to players around the League to see who they think will be cutting down the nets at the completion of the tournament in Glendale, Arizona, on April 3.

Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets forward
Arizona Wildcats

"Arizona is going to win. They have the Finnish player (Lauri Markkanen) on their team. I don't know him, but I hear he is pretty good."

Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres forward
Duke Blue Devils

"I really liked how Duke finished in the ACC. I think that they're real strong. I watched Arizona play a couple times. I think they have a good team. Gonzaga's good. Villanova's good. I think it's probably going to be like a sleeper. I don't know. I'll take Duke, actually. I think they could win it."

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche forward
UCLA Bruins

"Lonzo Ball is a player. I've watched him a little bit this year and I think one player can win it in basketball if they have their best game."

Calvin Pickard, Colorado Avalanche goalie
Southern Methodist Mustangs

"I've been paying attention a little bit and they seem to absolutely throttle teams. They're my dark horse."

Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers defenseman
Gonzaga Bulldogs

"I might go with Gonzaga to win it all, they have a great team, but I think I Notre Dame might shock some people. I think Notre Dame is a sleeper at the No. 5 seed."

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Arizona Wildcats

"I really like Villanova. I really like their coach, Jay Wright. I read that article about him not too long ago about how he approaches the game and their players. I drew from that a little bit. I'll root for them, but I didn't pick them. I picked Arizona. The team of destiny, right?"

Erik Haula, Minnesota Wild forward
Arizona Wildcats

"I'd like to see Arizona do well. There's actually a Finnish kid (Lauri Markkanen) on Arizona, so I'd like to see them do well. My alma mater (University of Minnesota) are a No. 5 seed, so hopefully they can have a good tournament. They haven't been there in a little bit and they had a good regular season."

Jon Merrill, New Jersey Devils defenseman
Duke Blue Devils

"I like Duke. Just the way they played in the ACC tournament to run the table like that, and win four in a row which had never been done before. Grayson Allen is playing well, coming off the bench. Jayson Tatum is finding a rhythm in his game. You can never bet against coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"I went to Michigan, but I don't really like their team this year. They're older but they don't have too much versatility in their lineup. They just seem to shoot the three-pointer, so if they run cold then they lose the game. That's not a recipe for success."

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