|Saint John Sea Dogs centre Jonathan Huberdeau answers media questions after working out for Ottawa Senators management in advance of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn. (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).
Already, they're centres of attention in the Ottawa Senators' eyes.
But whether the Senators can land Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog or Saint John Sea Dogs pivot Jonathan Huberdeau is a story for another day. And to hear Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray tell it, that day figures to much closer to the June 24-25 dates for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.
Landeskog, the No. 2 rated North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings, Huberdeau, who sits right behind him at No. 3, spent 30 minutes on the ice at the Bell Sensplex today as part of a pre-draft audition for Ottawa hockey management. Murray suggested afterward that the Senators would be thrilled to select either one of them with their first pick in the draft.
"Both of them appear like they could play (in the National Hockey League) next year," said Murray. "I had lunch with them and they both appear to be real quality men, so I would say we'd be fortunate if they were (available) at our spot, but who knows?"
Problem is, the Senators hold the No. 6 selection in the first round of the draft and, given their lofty status in the eyes of most scouts, neither Landeskog nor Huberdeau figures to be on the board when Ottawa's turn rolls around. But Murray acknowledged a trade to move up for a shot at selecting one of the prized prospects is a definite possibility.
"I would like to move up," he said. "You're rated No. 1 for a reason, you're rated No. 3 for a reason. You should be better than the five or six spot and, therefore, worthy of moving up (to get) if you can do that."
Such a deal, if it happens, isn't likely to go down until the days leading up to the draft.
"I haven't really approached anybody in a serious vein yet," said Murray. "It's still too early. I think everybody's got to really evaluate who they might take and what the option would be. At that point, you try to have a discussion and I think most managers are willing to talk.
"It's a matter of what price do you pay and do they get what they want out of the draft and do we get what we want out of the draft. That's the priority for every organization."
Landeskog, a 6-0, 207 pound centre, has a long-time affinity for the Senators. The Stockholm native attended his first NHL game at Scotiabank Place when he was 11 years old and a participant in the annual Bell Capital Cup. Landeskog bought a Sens jersey and got it signed by Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson
, one of Sweden's biggest hockey heroes. They instantly became his favourite team.
Needless to say, wearing a Senators practice jersey today — emblazoned with Alfredsson's familiar No. 11 — made quite the impression on Landeskog, considered by many experts to be the most NHL-ready player in the draft.
"Since I watched my first NHL game here with my dad, it’s pretty special to see this (jersey) and with my name on the back ... it’s very special," said Landeskog, who notched 36 goals and 66 points for the Rangers this season. "Saying that, we don’t know what the future holds and if it’s going to be my home in the next couple years, I’d be very fortunate.
"My main focus right now is just to enjoy the whole thing and enjoy the experience, because not a lot of people get to enjoy this."
Few players at the top end of the draft have seen their stock rise as rapidly as Huberdeau, an 18-year-old native of St-Jerome, Que. He racked up 43 goals and 105 points during the regular season, then later earned MVP honours as the Sea Dogs claimed the Memorial Cup in Mississauga, Ont.
"I think I worked hard this season to get better every day and to get stronger," said the 6-1, 171-pound Huberdeau. "I just took confidence from the playoffs (in 2010). Last year, I had a good end of season and I just tried to start the same way I finished last season, just get better and work on my weaknesses.
"Every day, I was trying to get better and work on my stuff that I didn’t do well and that’s why I was consistent all year long."
Eight Sea Dogs could hear their name called in the 2011 draft, with four of them — Huberdeau, defenceman Nathan Beaulieu and forwards Zack Phillips and Tomas Jurco — likely to go in the first round.
"That’s nice to have four guys on our team potentially get drafted in the first round," said Huberdeau. "We’ll see what happens. I wish good luck to everybody, all my teammates."