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Second day of NHL draft rife with excitement and relief for prospects

NHL.com @NHL

OTTAWA - Sleep didn't come easy for Philip McRae after sitting through the first round of the NHL draft without hearing his name called.

Fortunately, there was plenty of time for him to nap on Saturday because it didn't take long to get selected on Day 2. The son of former NHLer Basil McRae was taken by his hometown St. Louis Blues with the third pick of the second round.

He was ranked 56th among North American skaters heading in, but thought he might get picked late in the first round.

"There's always a hope - deep down you want to go in the first round," said McRae, who plays for the OHL's London Knights. "I tried not to expect it because I didn't want to be too disappointed.

"I had kind of a hard time sleeping (last night) but it's OK now."

There's no prime time TV audience on the second day of the draft and there were hardly any fans at Scotiabank Place. However, there was no shortage of excited young men like McRae.

Even those who were disappointed to fall out of the first round couldn't help but smile after finally putting on an NHL jersey.

Nicolas Deschamps falls into that category. The Chicoutimi Sagueneens centre was projected to go in the opening 30 picks and was devastated when it didn't happen. Still, the world seemed a little sunnier after the Anaheim Ducks grabbed him at No. 35.

"A little bit (disappointing to go in the second round)," said Deschamps. "Like I say, life continues. I don't want to always just think about it.

"I just kept focus and came here with a smile."

Smiles were the order of the day as NHL teams went through the final 181 picks in about the same time it took them to make the first 30 a night earlier. It was a good draft overall for Canadian players as 119 players were selected - the most since 2004. Americans were next with 46 selections followed by 17 Swedes, nine Russians and seven Finns.

There were few players happier than Fredricton native Jake Allen. The draft wasn't even on his radar when he went to training camp with the QMJHL's St. John's Fog Devils as the backup goaltender.

He ended up taking the No. 1 job before starting for the Canadian team that won gold at the world under-18 championship two months ago in Russia. Allen received plenty of exposure at that event and was taken by St. Louis with the 34th pick.

"This year's been pretty surreal for me," said Allen. "It's just crazy."

One of his teammates knew the feeling.

Luke Adam spent the past spent the last two seasons playing in his hometown of St. John's and was the first Newfoundlander selected when the Buffalo Sabres called his name with the 44th pick. He watched as Daniel Cleary became the first player from the province to win the Stanley Cup earlier this month and is thrilled that he's one step closer to having a chance at becoming the next one.

"As the day went on today, you're sitting on the edge of your seat," said Adam. "When you hear that name, I was speechless. I was so happy."

A few players with NHL connections were picked on Saturday. Jared Staal, the youngest of the Staal brothers, was taken 44th by Phoenix but wasn't in Ottawa for the draft; David Toews, the younger brother of Jonathan Toews, went to the New York Islanders at No. 66; and Brett Hextall, the son of former goalie Ron Hextall, was chosen 159th by the Coyotes.

There's a drop in prestige for those taken outside the first round and there's a difference in salary as well. Most first-rounders earn a yearly salary of up to US$875,000, plus a maximum of $2.85 million in performances bonuses, when they sign their three-year, entry-level contracts. The later round players usually sign for less.

That was of little importance to a guy like defenceman Patrick Wiercioch, who was chosen in the second round by the Ottawa Senators. He received a nice ovation after getting picked and was beaming while wearing the team's jersey for the first time.

He was also grateful at not having to wait long before getting selected on Saturday morning.

"Being a tall guy (at six-foot-three), sitting in those seats kind of makes it tough on your legs," said Wiercioch.

The 17-year-old sat through the entire first round on Friday night but didn't expect to be called to the stage. He still managed to have a great time.

"I knew the 30 guys that went ahead of me, they're all great prospects," said Wiercioch. "Playing with and against all of them, I have a lot of respect for the guys who went. They're just as deserving as if I would be picked.

"I'm happy for the friends who went ahead of me."

That was the same way Cameron Gaunce viewed the experience.

The defenceman from the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors enjoyed seeing friends take the stage on Friday before his turn came a day later. Gaunce was stunned when the Colorado Avalanche selected him at No. 50 because that's the NHL team he grew up cheering for.

"I heard St. Mike's and then I kind of waited a second to hear my name and then I don't even remember afterwards," said Gaunce. "I blacked out for a second but I didn't fall down the stairs, I'm not injured, so it's fine."

He's one of many second-round picks who won't garner much attention but that doesn't mean he won't become a steady NHLer.

History is full of players have done just that. It was only a few years ago that Patrice Bergeron was selected 45th by the Boston Bruins before making the team in his first training camp.

Examples like that are something that a lot of players taken Saturday will be thinking about over the summer.

"I just came in with an open mind," said Cody Goloubef, who went to Columbus at No. 37. "I didn't set myself on first round, second round, whatever. I was just looking for that opportunity.

"Now that it's come, I've just got to do something with it. It's kind of just getting your foot in the door and now I've got to close the door."

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