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Snowstorm can't stop Top Prospects event

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- A snowstorm in Calgary couldn't stop 40 of Canada's top draft-eligible players from invading the city.

Calgary, which will host the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet), was blanketed with heavy snowfall from dusk until dawn, throwing a wrench in some players' travel plans.

"It was pretty interesting," Plymouth Whalers goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic said. "A lot of guys got delayed on the plane so it's kind of been a little hectic getting to the airport and getting here, but it's been pretty cool.

"My flight was delayed a little bit. Just enough to make things hectic."

Nedeljkovic wasn't alone.

Michael Dal Colle, who plays for the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League, was only delayed about a half-hour, but it was enough to build his anticipation for arriving for the Top Prospects event even more.

"I think our flight went a little bit of a different direction too because of the weather so we got in a little late," said Dal Colle, who has 27 goals and 64 points in 43 games. "It wasn't too bad. Some of the guys were a little bit restless on the plane. It was taking a long time.

"The travel schedule was a little messed up but everything's settled now so it's all good."

The conditions, which saw nearly half an inch hit the ground before 11 a.m. MT, was enough to keep Spencer Watson in the sky a little longer than he would've cared to have been.

Watson, who has 22 goals and 44 points in 39 games for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, isn't the most comfortable of travelers in the best of conditions.

"We certainly did a few circles coming around Calgary," Watson said. "I flew from North Bay to Toronto, then Toronto to Calgary. I'm not a really big plane guy but it was good for me, for sure."

Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning for areas north of Calgary, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Olds and Sundre.

It's a direct path that Red Deer Rebels prospects Conner Bleackley and Haydn Fleury, along with team Vice President Marek Sutter, had to drive through in order to make it to Calgary.

Typically an hour-long drive, it took them almost double that in order to arrive safely by car.

"Normally it's an hour drive but it did take quite a bit longer," Bleackley said. "I think [Sutter] was white-knuckling it down here. The weather was definitely a big factor."

Fleury admitted he was more nervous about the drive than he was about arriving at the three-day event, which will feature practices, media availabilities and on- and off-ice testing before the game Wednesday.

"Marek was white-knuckled the whole way," Fleury said. "I was getting a little nervous. It wasn't the best of conditions. The roads weren't that great. Marek got us here safe, so that's good."

After arriving safe and sound, those road nerves quickly switched from getting to Calgary for the Top Prospects game to playing in it.

"It's kind of sinking in now with all the attention that there is on this game," Bleackley said. "You try not to get caught up in it but it's definitely there. I think it's more exciting than anything. I'm just looking forward to the game."

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