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Top prospects a hit at clinic with Philadelphia youth

by Mike G. Morreale

PHILADELPHIA -- Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart politely introduced himself to a group of six young skaters of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation at the beautifully refurbished Scanlon Ice Rink on Thursday before finally asking if anyone had any questions of him.

"I do," 11-year-old Philadelphia native Yasir Terry boldly announced.

"When you get drafted, can you give me a shout out on stage?"

Reinhart, one of six North American prospects on hand to help run a top prospects clinic in the downtown section of the city, smiled and said, "Hmm, I don't know if I can. But I'll see what I can do."

Terry smiled before getting instruction on how to run the drill at the skating station he was a part of at the time.

It was actually one of the more common requests of the afternoon when members of the Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, aged 8-12, were able to go shoulder-to-hip alongside the top 2014 draft prospects.

It was a nice break for the soon-to-be-drafted players; having an opportunity to give back after gaining so much to this point in their careers.

The first round of the 2014 NHL Draft begins Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN) and rounds 2-7 will be held Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHL Network).

All six prospects working the clinic, including Reinhart, Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, Prince Albert Raiders center Leon Draisaitl, Oshawa Generals left wing Michael Dal Colle and Sarnia Sting defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, are projected to be drafted in the opening round on Friday.

"I'm in my fourth year as a coach for the bantam A team in the foundation, and I can honestly say the kids were so pumped [Thursday] morning to be a part of this," said Ryan Arcaini of the Snider Hockey program. "We run learn-to-play programs, house leagues, travel teams and bantam teams, so you gradually move up the ladder.

"A lot of these kids are from the rink I teach and it means so much. For them it's looking at a hockey idol, because they would like to do what each of the prospects has done."

Scanlon Ice Rink is one of the four city rinks recently renovated by Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider. The foundation uses hockey as a hook to attract inner-city boys and girls not only to learn the game of hockey, but excel in life.

"This is probably the most enjoyable time of the week for us, to be honest," Reinhart said. "It's a lot easier for us to kind of get away from it and give back, and we enjoy it. The questions I got were all pretty good. Curiosity is a good thing to have at that age, and they all want to learn so that's good."

Ekblad, who is projected to be the first defenseman drafted Friday, was impressed with the skill and ability of the youngsters.

"Some of the kids here have a pretty special talent, and to think that Snider's contributions to this community have helped them reach this point is pretty special; I'm so happy to be a part of it," Ekblad said. "I was talking to one of the kids and he told me this was his first year playing hockey and he was playing goal. That's special to be that good a goaltender for that age.

"Sometimes you start from nothing where you can't really skate or scoot and you need people to help you become players. A lot of people have helped and supported me along the way, so it's important that we all show our appreciation and help out any chance we get."

Ekblad was part of a training station that had players skating forward and backward while keeping their shoulders up and square.

"Keep your head up," Arcaini said prior to a drill.

Farrell Vrows, a 12-year-old Philadelphian, said he enjoyed stick-handling with the prospects and watching the way they skated by the obstacles.

Aubrey Carter, 10, said "that Reinhart is a cool player and it was great meeting him."

Snider, also chairman of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers, created his foundation in 2005 and the program currently has more than 3,000 participants.

"These kids are really good; I was really surprised," Draisaitl said. "They can handle the puck and are good skaters. I would love to see one of these young players play in the NHL someday. They all deserve that chance because they've worked so hard. They enjoy themselves and that's important. Teaching them has been great."

Of course, listening to the youngsters was also a treat for the top prospects.

"I had a bunch of kids ask me what team I wanted to go to, and then I had a few ask me to give them shout outs after I got drafted on stage," Bennett said with a grin. "They all wanted me to give them shout outs. I told them that would be kind of hard for me to do, but it was funny."

The clinic concluded with several group pictures of the foundation athletes and coaches, Snider and the prospects.

"In this neighborhood, to say that hockey is a non-traditional sport is not an exaggeration," Foundation president/CEO Scott Tharp said. "We started to change the curve a little. The players are excited just to get out on the ice, whether it's with the prospects or our own coaches. But to have the presence of some of the top respective players for the 2014 draft here and skating with us is a great thrill. I'm sure some of our players didn't sleep much last night."


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