Top NHL prospects wide-eyed

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

They're wide-eyed, star-struck and the future of the NHL.

Yesterday, the top five prospects for the June 24th NHL Entry Draft got a full access tour of the dressing rooms at the Stanley Cup finals.

Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Derick Brassard and Phil Kessel got an opportunity to meet some of their idols in the morning, then held court at a media luncheon.

"It's a good atmosphere here in the city and the area," said Brassard, 18. "It was fun to watch morning skate and to meet the players from the two teams. I'm lucky to be here with my dad watching the Stanley Cup finals."

Brassard, a native of Hull, Que., got chummy with Edmonton Oilers defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron on his tour of the home dressing room.

"I talked to him because he's from Quebec as well," Brassard said. "He was just telling me about the atmosphere and how excited the city is. They all seem to be really good guys."

Brassard is the fourth-ranked North American skater heading into the draft. He had 44 goals and 72 assists in 58 games with QMJHL Drummondville.

The top prospect is Erik Johnson, 18, of the U.S. National Under-18 team.

The six-foot-four, 222-pound defenceman had 11 goals and 22 assists with the U.S. national team this year.

"This has been a really cool experience," Johnson said. "We were all kind of shy going into the dressing room, because they are the big NHLers and we're just the prospects, but I met a couple of players, Chris Pronger probably being the biggest, so it was pretty cool."

Toews, 18, is the third-ranked North American skater heading into the draft.

Rounding out the top five is Kessel, 18. The Madison, Wisconsin star scored 14 goals and had 28 assists in 34 games with the University of Minnesota.

"This is awesome," said Toews, a Winnipeg product, who played for the University of North Dakota. "It's been fun to hang out with these four other guys over here, especially considering they're usually playing against me and I want to beat them all the time."


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