January 14, 2013
By Terry Doyle
HALIFAX - The Canadian Hockey League's top players eligible for the NHL Draft have touched down in Nova Scotia. The 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game takes over the Halifax Metro Centre Wednesday (8pm AST, Sportsnet, NHL Network U.S).
It was a scene reminiscent of minor hockey days Monday. Players rolled into the arena - hockey bags over their shoulder and sticks in-hand before being directed to the Team Cherry and Team Orr locker rooms. This was the next step in the build-up for the annual showcase event.
"It's pretty nerve-wracking at first," said Anthony Duclair of the Quebec Remparts. "But to be sharing this experience with my teammates Nick Sorensen and Adam Erne makes it even more special. It was a long (travel) day but I'm just ready to go here."
After initial greetings and media availability, the players took part in their first practice with their respective teammates and were welcomed to Halifax by a crowd of close to 1000 fans who attended the open skate to catch a glimpse of the CHL’s best.
Some of the players have crossed paths in other events including Under-17 and Under-18 tournaments and took only a few laps around the ice to find their chemistry.
Fitness and on-ice skills testing are also on the schedule prior to the big game Wednesday.
“I really wanted to make this game,” explained Kingston Frontenacs forward Ryan Kujawinski. “At the end of (last) season it was one of my goals and I’m honoured to be in it.”
“There is always a bit of nerves. But at the same time it’s going to be a lot of fun and I just have to work hard and have fun with it.”
Some players lean on current teammates who have played in previous Home Hardware Top Prospects Games for information on what to expect on the national stage.
Kelowna Rockets defenceman Madison Bowey was able to see the 2012 event first-hand when it was hosted in Kelowna. “I kind of got a good look at it last year and I know what to expect this year,” said Bowey.
“I noticed the game is a battle and you have to come prepared and it’s a really competitive game. I was really lucky to have Kelowna host it last year and now I know what the game is all about and it is good for me.”
NHL Central Scouting coordinates with the NHL teams to select the rosters for the annual event. Players are then reminded they were chosen because of the attributes they display during the regular season – and not to change for a special event.
“There are a lot of great players here, but I cannot really think of that too much – just focus on my game, remember to just play my game, that’s why I got here,” added Bowey.