NHL draft hoopla: From Wrigley to the UC to prospects on a boat

NHL draft hoopla: From Wrigley to the UC to prospects on a boat

It’s NHL draft week in Chicago.

The draft itself is Friday and Saturday at the United Center, but there’s much more going this week beyond prospects finding their future team. Here is a running guide to the different events around town.

Wednesday 

Top North American NHL draft prospect Nolan Patrick was forced out of his comfort zone. He traded in his skates and hockey stick for sneakers and a baseball.

The Canadian hockey star threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field before the Cubs-Padres game (spoiler: It was a ball).

“It’s obviously an unreal stadium,” Patrick said. “It’s massive. The thing I was most surprised about was how far the mound is to the plate there, so that’s going to be trouble for me.”

Before his big MLB moment, Patrick admitted he was more nervous about the pitch than he is for the upcoming draft.

Also with Patrick were Casey Mittelstadt and Gabriel Vilardi. The three were given custom-made Cubs jerseys with their names on the back and a baseball hat. None of them are Cubs fans, but they said that they did enjoy Wrigley Field.

Thursday

NHL Centennial Fan Arena private preview

It has been decided: If you’re a fan of the NHL or the Blackhawks, you must check out the NHL Centennial Fan Arena in Lot C of the United Center. This is the setup's 18th tour stop, and the plan is to hit all 31 NHL markets throughout the 2017 calendar year.
 
The museum is one of the coolest parts. There are interactive screens, team-based exhibits and retired equipment. It’s 100 years packed inside a 53-foot truck.
 
“We wanted to show fans there’s a lot to the 100 years in the league that maybe you knew, maybe you didn’t,” said NHL communications manager Jasmine Ghafour. “You really can come in and spend as much time as you want in here.”
 
And since it’s in Chicago, a portion of the museum is dedicated to the Blackhawks.

Also in the arena area: another truck with a video screen, a ball hockey rink, a Zamboni virtual experience and — wait for it — the Stanley Cup. It’s free to get in. Fans just have to register online and pick up their passes at the United Center box office.
 
It’s worth a trip, especially for the kids. Lots of things to play with.
 
Youth ball hockey clinic

The Blackhawks are ahead of schedule — way, way, way ahead of schedule.
 
At a Youth ball hockey clinic in the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, all of the youngsters were wearing jerseys that said “Little Blackhawks” on them. Patrick, Mittlestadt, Vilardi and Nico Hischier, another top draft prospect, helped lead different drills and worked alongside the kids. Former Blackhawk Denis Savard and Blackhawks ambassador Jamal Mayers were also there.
 
“It makes you kind of go back and remember when you were that age, start falling in the love with the game,” Mittelstadt said.

This is your future, NHL.
 
Shoreline boat tour

The less-than-ideal weather kind of put a damper on things — no pun intended. At least there were ponchos.  
 
But rain or shine, all aboard the Bright Star. Attendance included Patrick, Mittelstadt, Vilardi, Hischier, Michael Rassmussen, Cody Glass, Owen Tippett and Klim Kostin. Many of their family members also made the trip.
 
“This is great for us,” Mittelstadt said. “I think if we were sitting around in the hotel all day, we’d probably get a little anxious.”

No one fell overboard, and even more shocking: No one made an “I’m On A Boat” reference. Sorry, Lonely Island.
 
After the interviews ended, prospects relaxed and joked around. Vilardi was even caught FaceTiming. The rain eventually stopped, too.
 
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Vilardi said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. I’m just cherishing every moment and looking forward to (Friday) night.”

Friday

Pre-draft scene

Lot C of the United Center was bustling with NHL fans, and it was practically a sea of red considering all the Blackhawks jerseys around. Looked like a good time. Neon Trees performed on the Blackhawks’ celebration side before the draft started and drew a rather large crowd. The NHL’s side of the parking area had everything that was previewed to the media Thursday (see above section).

Inside the United Center was packed well before the first pick. While waiting for the action to start, videos of previous notable draft picks played on the video board. There also were highlight reels to introduce many of the prospects. The bigger names, such as Patrick, had longer packages.

Round 1

Every time the Blackhawks were mentioned, the United Center erupted. Every time NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s name was announced, the United Center booed. That was the common trend throughout Round 1.

It’s worth noting the Blackhawks made a last-minute trade, swapping their No. 26 pick for the Stars' No. 29 pick and a third-round selection. The Blackhawks selected Henri Jokiharju with the No. 29 pick.

Before unveiling the pick, “Chelsea Dagger” blared through the United Center. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was supposed to make the announcement, but he stopped himself before revealing the name.

“You know, I think there’s a better way to do this,” Bowman said.

In entered Jonathan Toews and Kane. The United Center easily topped its prior max volume. The two surprise guests did the honor of officially welcoming Jokiharju to the organization. Much better way, Bowman.

Here are all of the first-round draft picks in rapid fire:

1. Nico Hischier (NJ); 2. Nolan Patrick (PHI); 3. Miro Heiskanen (DAL); 4. Cale Makar (COL); 5. Elias Pettersson (VAN); 6. Cody Glass (VGK); 7. Lias Anderson (NYR); 8. Casey Mittelstadt (BUF); 9. Michael Rasmussen (DET); 10. Owen Tippett (FLA); 11. Gabriel Vilardi (LA); 12. Martin Necas (CAR); 13. Nick Suzuki (VGK); 14. Callan Foote (TB); 15. Erik Brannstrom (VGK); 16. Jusso Valimaki (CAL); 17. Timothy Liljegren (TOR); 18. Urho Vaakanainen (BOS); 19. Joshua Norris (SJ); 20. Robert Thomas (STL); 21. Filip Chytil (NYR); 22. Kailer Yamamoto (EDM); 23. Pierre-Oliver Joseph (ARI); 24. Kristian Vesalainen (WPG); 25. Ryan Poehling (MTL); 26. Jake Oettinger (DAL); 27. Morgan Frost (PHI); 28. Shane Bowers (OTT); 29. Henri Jokiharju (CHI); 30. Eeli Tolvanen (NSH); 31. Klim Kostin (STL).

Saturday

Pre-draft scene

By 8 a.m., there was a line of people outside the United Center's Lot C to enter the NHL Centennial Fan Arena and Blackhawks’ Fan Fest. The festivities didn’t start for another hour, the same time Round 2 of the draft kicked off.

After all of the activities concluded, the NHL announced that the two-day events drew in a record crowd exceeding 47,500 fans. That’s a lot of people.

Rounds 2-7

The NHL cut to the chase for Saturday’s rounds. No national anthems were sung. No team hype videos were played. It was pick after pick after pick. No one even went on stage. There were 186 draft picks that had to be made, so the rush was understandable. 

The Blackhawks had eight picks:
Ian Mitchell (2nd round, 57th overall)
Andrei Altybarmakyan (3rd round, 70th overall)
Evan Barratt (3rd round, 90th overall)
Tim Soderlund (4th round, 112th overall)
Roope Laavainen (4th round, 119th overall)
Parker Foo (5th round, 144th overall)
Jakub Galvas (5th round, 150th overall)
Joshua Ess (7th round, 215th overall)

Of those eight, Barratt was the only one at the United Center.

“That was great,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “Sometimes some kids like to try to play it cool, like they had it all planned out, but you could tell her really wanted that.”

For those curious: Canada had the highest number of selections with 77. The U.S. had 50. Sweden followed with 27.

And with that, Chicago has now officially hosted the NHL draft. There's a first for everything. 

Follow @ChicagoTribune on Snapchat and @ChiTribSports on Instagram for live stories from each event.

Source : http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/hockey/blackhawks/ct-nhl-draft-festivities-blackhawks-20170622-story.html

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