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Top prospects come together at Rookie Showcase

by Tal Pinchevsky

TORONTO -- More than two dozen of the NHL's top prospects realized every kid's fantasy this week: They posed for their first hockey cards.

The NHL Players' Association's annual Rookie Showcase gave some of the League's top young players a chance to get to know one another. But the primary focus of the event Monday and Tuesday was letting the players don their NHL uniforms and pose for their first trading cards.

"My dad always collected cards. We always had boxes full in the basement. I just think it's pretty cool having your own card made. It's exciting," Chicago Blackhawks prospect Mark McNeil told

In addition to signing memorabilia for the Upper Deck and Panini card companies, the players had to make one of the first major decisions of their young NHL careers: whether they preferred an action shot or a posed portrait for their first hockey card.

Almost to a man, they went for the action shot.

"I always had a lot of cards and I would collect them. My dad would always tell me not to open them. So I have a whole bunch of boxes under my bed. They're still sealed," Calgary Flames prospect Sean Monahan said. "It's a lot of fun. I'm happy to be a part of it."

But the most exciting portion of the two-day event may have been an EA NHL 14 video game tournament in which a number of the players competed for bragging rights.

"It was a lot of fun," said Washington Capitals prospect Tom Wilson, who came from behind to defeat Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche in the final. "He was up 4-2 and I came all the way back. I think he was a little bit rattled. He was upset, but it was a good game and definitely a fun tournament."

The two-day event wasn't only fun and games. The prospects met with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and longtime NHL defenseman Mathieu Schneider, a union official, at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"[The meeting was] basically for us to know that they're there if there are any concerns. If we have any questions to feel free to ask them," said Ottawa Senators forward Cory Conacher, who had 29 points in 47 games as a rookie in 2012-13. "It was a good talk. If we ever need anything, they're the guys to go to."

With training camp just around the corner, the Showcase provided a unique opportunity to learn about some of the ins and outs of being an NHL player, with a little fun and relaxation thrown in for good measure.

"It's pretty cool seeing how this all comes together. It's a big production," defenseman Matthew Dumba of the Minnesota Wild told "There are a lot of people working hard to make this happen. It's exciting to be a part of."


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