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What we learned at NHL Draft Media Day

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

CHICAGO - Even while answering questions from a crowd of reporters in the pouring rain, it's hard to imagine there being anywhere other than Chicago that hockey's top prospects would rather be on Thursday night.

Besides, with barely 24 hours to go until their futures are decided at United Center on Friday, media day on the Chicago River served as a welcome distraction. Most of the prospects were in agreement that the reality of their situation was only now starting to set in.

"A little bit, yeah," Mississauga forward Owen Tippett said. "You try not to think about it too much. I'm not really picky, just trying to be grateful and thankful for whatever team picks me."

 The thing is, as much as any year in the past, uncertainty is abound for all of these prospects. Even Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier, the projected top two picks, don't know which order they'll go in. Beyond them, anything can happen. 

"I think for the most part, besides Nolan and Nico, it's pretty up in the air," Casey Mittelstadt, a center committed to the University of Minnesota, said. "We'll see what happens. But like I said, I don't really don't think there's a bad spot."

Even the week's worth of meetings the prospects went through at the Combine didn't offer any hints. 

"For me it's kind of hard to tell," Tippett said. "Just sitting in the interview it's kind of hard to tell the emotions that are going through the room. You don't really get a feel for really any team. They kind of keep it all really quiet."

Luckily, they won't have to wait much longer to find out.

Here's a bit more of what was said at media day:


Patrick tells a Sabres story

Nolan Patrick's uncle, James, played for the Sabres and then served as an assistant coach on Lindy Ruff's staff for seven seasons while Nolan was growing up. Patrick's father Steve was a first-round pick of the Sabres in 1980 and spent five years with the club. 

The top prospect already said at the combine that he grew up rooting for the Sabres, and on Thursday he told another story about his Buffalo ties.

"I hung up the jerseys in an exhibition game," he said. "I remember guys walking around the room and I was just staring at them haning up these jerseys so that was one of the cooler things."

Did he know then that he'd one day be wearing an NHL sweater himself? Possible. 

"Ever since I was younger I loved hockey and I was watching hockey more than the other kids were," he said. "And I wasn't just watching it. Even my dad and my uncle will say when I was younger, I wasn't just watching it, I was picking apart the game when I was five, six, seven. I think that might've helped me now."

Patrick and Hischier both hope to be in the NHL sooner rather than later

Patrick didn't think twice when asked if he hoped to be in the NHL next season. 

"It's been my goal for three years and I'm going to do everything I can to make it," he said. "I don't know how much it'd benefit me as a player, going back to junior after playing there for three years. I think it's better competition level to help me improve as a player."

Hischier, meanwhile, simply said he'll work to make the transition as quickly as possible.

"As soon as possible," he said. "I work hard every day and [will] try as soon as possible to play in the NHL."


Video: Duffer with Buffalo's head amateur scout

What Vilardi learned from the Memorial Cup

We wrote Wednesday about Michael DiPietro and his experience winning the Memorial Cup with Windsor last season. Gabriel Vilardi was the leading goal scorer on that team, and he spoke Thursday about how that memorable run helped prepare him for the next level.

"I think it just teaches you what it takes to win," he said. "Obviously not too many people get to play in that tournament, so you see different guys stepping up, playing different roles … If you're a four-point guy, you chip in, you make a big hit, that kind of stuff. It all helps the team. I think that's what I took from it mostly."


Glass discusses his rise up the draft boards

Portland center Cody Glass started last season as an honorable mention on NHL Central Scouting Services' list of North American prospects. Following a 94-point campaign for the Winterhawks, he now ranks No. 6 on that list entering the Draft.

Glass discussed his quick rise up the boards on Thursday.

"I think I trained a lot harder going into the season and going into the year I wanted to prove people wrong," he said. "Confidence-wise, I think that was a huge things for me going into the year and I think I had a lot of adversity going into the year. That gave me an extra boost of motivation.

"Now that I'm here it's just unbelievable I'm getting this recognition."

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