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Top prospects look ahead to unpredictable 1st round

Ten players gathered for NHL Draft Media Day on Thursday

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

VANCOUVER - Trevor Zegras admitted that sleep has been difficult to come by this week, with the anticipation of hearing his name called as an NHL draft pick mounting each day. 

Given the gravity - and the uncertainty - of what's awaiting on Friday night, who could blame him? 

"Just excited to get the day going, I guess," Zegras said. "But, I mean, it's the NHL, right? I've been waiting for this for a long time."

Video: Top prospects look ahead to NHL Draft

Zegras joined nine of his fellow prospects to meet the media on a yacht stationed along the Vancouver waterfront on Thursday afternoon, an assembly of talent that served as a reminder of just how hard it is to predict what might happen once the 2019 NHL Draft begins inside Rogers Arena on Friday. 

Joining Zegras were US National Team Development Program teammates Cole Caufield, Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte and goalie Spencer Knight; WHL centermen Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dach; top-ranked defenseman Bowen Byram; and European forwards Kaapo Kakko and Vasili Podkolzin. 

Hughes and Kakko are all but certain to be taken with the top two picks, in some order. After that, it's anyone's guess. 

"I know one and two are pretty good," Zegras said. "But, after that, I don't think it's a huge drop off. I think, for the most part, everyone who's going to be picked in the top 10 can play at a really high level. I think it's a really good draft in general."

The level of respect the prospects have for one another was apparent on Thursday, all having developed a familiarity during their years of either playing together as teammates or against one another on the international stage. 

Dach sounded like an analyst as he broke down the various top-10 scenarios.

"From three to 10, there's a variety of guys you can go with," Dach said. "If you need a D man, you're probably looking at taking Bowen Byram. I mean, what he was able to do this year in the Western League was unreal and just how smart and good a player he was. 

"If you need a smaller forward, you're looking for Cole Caufield or Trevor Zegras, a guy who can make plays in tight, or a bigger centerman which is me or Dylan and Turcotte. It's kind of up in the air. That's the nerve-racking part of it, is you don't quite know what's going to happen, but it's also exciting. It will be an interesting night, that's for sure."

Video: ESPN's Chris Peters looks ahead to Round 1

Although Byram has generally been projected to go somewhere in the top five, it wouldn't be a complete surprise to hear Sabres general manager Jason Botterill call any of those names when he announces the team's selection at seventh overall. 

For the players, one more sleepless night awaits in the meantime. Zegras admitted to playing out different scenarios in his head, be it skating in Buffalo alongside Jack Eichel or in Chicago with Patrick Kane. It's fair to assume similar thoughts have crossed through the minds of his fellow prospects. 

"You have so many daydreams thinking about where you could end up and what city you can be playing in," Cozens said. "But at the end of the day, no matter where it is, it's the NHL and you're going to be so happy and excited to be a part of that organization."

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