Start the stomach churning

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

OTTAWA -- It's the happiest, most exciting time of their lives ... and a lot of them feel like throwing up.

Nerves have a way of doing that to a kid, and all of these 18-year-old junior stars have every right to be reaching for the Pepto-Bismol on the morning of tonight's NHL Entry Draft.

Today is going to change their lives completely, and it's completely out of their hands.

Today will determine where they spend the next 10 years of their lives. It'll determine who their teammates and coaches will be. Whether they'll be part of a winner or a loser.

Long Island? Florida? Edmonton? Toronto?

They have no idea. And that's, urp, a little spooky.

"The nerves start to kick in now, not knowing where you're going to go," Peterborough Petes defenceman Zach Bogosian said during yesterday's top prospects luncheon at a downtown Ottawa hotel.

"Anything can happen. The last few months have been pretty crazy. To think that draft day is here ... I'm really looking forward to that moment when my name gets called."

But who calls it is the thing that has all of them, with exception of consensus first-pick Steve Stamkos, on edge.

'OVERWHELMING'

"It's a little overwhelming," said Guelph defenceman Drew Doughty, who's probably going second overall to L.A., his favourite team, or third overall to Atlanta. "I'm very anxious for Friday night to come. I really want to see where the pieces fall and which team I'm going to go to. I have no idea.

"Right now I'm trying to relax and not think about it too much, but when I wake up on Friday I'm going to be quite nervous and anxious for 7 p.m. to come around.

"We've done everything we can, there's nothing else we can do now. Now it's just about who the team wants and what they need; that's going to determine who they pick."

They've been poked and prodded and subjected to interviews and psychiatric evaluations for weeks, all of it culminating in tonight's first round.

They're proud, honoured and a little scared.

"It's something that you look forward to as a youngster, but you have no idea it's going to be here so quick," said Bogosian. "It's pretty crazy to think that I'm in this position. I have no clue what I'm going to feel like when it happens, but I'm really looking forward to that moment. It's fun. It only happens once so you have to sit back and enjoy it."

They all have a rough idea of what might happen, but they've seen enough of these things on TV to know that everything could be turned upside down in an instant. Rob Schremp sank to 25th in his draft, Alex Cherepanov fell to 17th last year on rumours he might never play in North America. And most of the kids here know about the 2007 NFL draft where QB Brady Quinn, projected in the top five, fell to 22 - with TV cameras catching each painful step down the ladder.

"There could be a random pick that changes the whole order, so we're all just trying to keep open minds and looking forward to getting it all over with," said Kyle Beach, a rough-and-tumble top-10 player that some teams might shy away from because of discipline concerns.

"It doesn't really matter when you go," said Bogosian.

"You look at Detroit's team, they're all late draft picks. It doesn't matter where you get drafted, it's what you do with it. If you get picked first or 20th, you can be in the NHL if you work hard enough."

NHL IS THE NHL

And in the end, maybe the difference between Long Island and Florida, Edmonton or Toronto, isn't worth getting all worked up over.

"It's exciting," said Doughty. "I'm going to have the opportunity to play the game I love. You can't ask for anything more than that - you're being paid to play a game you enjoy. I'd much rather be doing this than a 9 to 5 job."


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