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Top prospects enjoying their time in the spotlight

by Adam Kimelman
LOS ANGELES -- Brett Connolly spent Thursday afternoon seated in a chair on the Target Terrace, five stories above the bustling L.A. Live plaza, which was packed with thousands of fans getting ready for the red-carpet premiere of the latest "Twilight" movie.

That's a long way from Prince George, B.C.

But there was Connolly, the Prince George Cougars' right wing ranked No. 3 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting for the 2010 Entry Draft, soaking in the California sun and enjoying another day in the spotlight with nine of the other top prospects.

"It's a different city, for sure," Connolly said. "It's nice to get out of Prince George and come here where the weather's nice, the palm trees. Definitely a good change, for sure."

It's been quite a hectic few days. Since Wednesday, he's visited the famed Hollywood sign, walked along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, taken batting practice at Angels Stadium (he was the only one of the five prospects to clear the fence), and led a youth hockey clinic at the Kings' practice site, Toyota Sports Center. Following Thursday's media session, he'll be walking on the red carpet for the "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" premiere.

Oh yeah, and then there's the draft, which starts Friday (Round 1: 7 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN; Rounds 2-7: 1 p.m. ET, NHL Network).

"It's surreal," said Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin, Central Scouting's top-rated skater. "I've said that a couple times. It's just one step closer to my dream (Friday). All that stuff that comes with it is a huge bonus and it's a blast."

Windsor Spitfires defenseman Cam Fowler said he won't soon forget taking batting practice at Angels Stadium. A varsity high-school baseball player before giving up the sport after his sophomore year to concentrate on hockey, Fowler sprayed balls all over the yard during BP, which was thrown by former major-leaguer and current Angels batting coach Mickey Hatcher. After that, they got to sit in the Angels' dugout and then got a tour of the team's indoor batting cage and video room. They also got to meet Baseball Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda and Angels manager Mike Scioscia, as well as stand on the field while the Angels and Dodgers took batting practice.

But there was another stop on his tour that he liked almost as much.

"The In and Out burger was delicious," Fowler said. "Just so cool."

Those words also describe the entire experience for him.

"I'm so thankful the NHL has set up these fun things for us to do -- Angels Stadium, the Walk of Fame," he said. "L.A. has so much to offer. I think it's great the draft has come out here. It's good expansion for the League, helping out the kids at the youth clinic this morning was a great experience for me, and just being able to take the draft off my mind a little bit."

There certainly has been a lot going on, from events to interviews with teams to media requests. But rather than be stressed, the players said they're all just enjoying their time in the spotlight.

"I'm just soaking up the opportunity," said Medicine Hat Tigers forward Emerson Etem, the de facto host for the event due to his growing up in nearby Long Beach, Calif. "This is once in a lifetime, the draft. I'll find out my NHL team tomorrow. Can't believe it's going to be tomorrow. I'm extremely excited."

"Everyone I've talked to, guys that have been drafted last year on my team, they said soak it all in because it goes fast, and you never have the opportunity to get drafted again," Fowler said. "You've just got to relax and you've just got to take in the sun and the city. There's no place I'd rather be right now. I'm so fortunate to be in this position. No complaints. I'm just waiting to hear my name called on Friday."

Fowler, No. 5 on Central Scouting's list, won't have to wait long to hear his name called. The same goes for his Windsor teammate, Taylor Hall.

All the attention is nothing new to Hall, who has been in the glare of the spotlight since the season started, and he hasn't disappointed. He's No. 2 on Central Scouting's list, and this season he's earned a share of the OHL scoring title, a World Junior Championship silver medal and a second straight Memorial Cup title -- while becoming the first-ever two-time Memorial Cup MVP.

Hall has enjoyed all the attention, and when he was asked what part of his time in Hollywood has been his favorite, he didn't hesitate to answer.

"I think the event tomorrow is going to be the most important one," he said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at

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