Ladd takes tour of Tampa

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:15 PM ET


 TAMPA -- It was great to catch a Stanley Cup final game. Meeting Wayne Gretzky and Don Cherry wasn't too bad either.

 Though not the biggest highlight of his whirlwind tour of Tampa with a handful of the other top prospects for next month's NHL Entry Draft, a trip to the beach was a bonus for Andrew Ladd.

 "We barely got to swim, though," said the Calgary Hitmen forward.

 "We got to really just run in and run out."

 As part of the buildup to the draft, Ladd was brought to Florida with other hotshots Al Montoya, Cam Barker, Alexandre Picard and consensus No.-1 pick Alexander Ovechkin.

 Ovechkin agreed the beach was a nice distraction.

 "Some girls," he said of what he liked most about it. "It's a nice place."

 They toured the teams' rooms, met some dignitaries and took in last night's Game 2 between the Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning.

 Today, Ladd travels to Toronto for scheduled interviews with various scouts from clubs around the league before returning home to Maple Ridge, B.C.

 The big day for the 6-ft. 2-in., 200-lb. left-winger -- ranked first among North American skaters by Central Scouting -- is the NHL Entry Draft, June 26 in Raleigh, N.C.

 "It's starting to hit me," said the power forward, who netted 30 goals and 75 points in his WHL rookie campaign. "With all the meetings and stuff, it can be overwhelming at times but it was great to have a month off and now kick it into high gear."

 Between now and then, Ladd will try to relax and improve his fitness for what is likely to be another season in the WHL.

 "I'm just going on with everyday life," he said. "It's something to think about but when you're at home hanging out with friends, you're focusing on other things.

 "A lot of people ask but that's the only time it's brought up."

 As for where he'll end up, that's a mystery.

 The Columbus Blue Jackets pick fifth and would be interested in adding another piece to a forward puzzle that already includes Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev.

 "I'm not really sure," Ladd said when asked where he figured he'd be chosen.

 "I'd guess top 10 somewhere but you don't really know. Some guys expect to go really high but end up going a lot later. You can't predict where."


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