MONTREAL -- The elite rookies in this year's NHL Draft met the media on Thursday afternoon in the annual Top Prospects Luncheon in Montreal. It was an orgy of smoked meat sandwiches, French fries and TSN/NBC's Pierre McGuire asking probing questions while standing so perilously close to the players that at times he resembled a ventriloquist's dummy.
The whole enterprise was a reminder that (a) the majority of the 2009 Draft's top prospects were born after the sequel to "Die Hard" was released in 1990 (anyone else feeling old?) and (b) there really is no end to the creepy questions about body image that a draftee can be asked. ("Your build is different. What have you been eating?" "How much bigger can you get?")
The luncheon featured the nine top North American prospects: John Tavares (OHL); Matt Duchene (OHL); Evander Kane (WHL); Brayden Schenn (WHL); Jordan Schroder (U. of Minnesota); John Moore (USHL); Scott Gennie (WHL); Simon Despres (QMJHL); and Jared Cowen (WHL). It also featured European prospects Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Jacob Josefson and Victor Hedman, all from Sweden.
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Tavares is the sort of super-focused, vanilla player that you know is destined to become a star just so fans and media can complain how super-focused and vanilla he is after he wins the scoring title.
Duchene continued to be the everyman to Tavares's chosen one, wearing a Dwight Schrutean short-sleeved dress shirt to the panel. Brandon teammates Scott Glennie and Braydon Schenn were great, with Glennie saying he can take Schenn in a fight and Schenn saying Sidney Crosby is his favorite player because his brother Luke of the Toronto Maple Leafs is "a plug."
Paajarvi-Svensson had one of the best moments, after McGuire asked him if he was more Finnish or Swedish thanks to his hyphenated name. Response: "I have no idea."
But the player who may have come off the best on the panel is defenseman Hedman, who is projected as the first or second pick overall on Friday night, to the New York Islanders or the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hedman told McGuire he'd like to get his pilot's license in the near future, which we're sure is something every team looking to build their franchise around him wants to hear.
Does he think he'd be allowed?
"I hope so. I see other guys. Kovalev has the license. Alfredsson has the license. Hopefully I will. It would be great. Otherwise, I'll do it after the career."
Is Hedman cursing the day the rookie salary cap was implemented, because he could probably have enough dough in his first contract to buy his own Gulfstream?
"No, I'm not. Money's not the first priority for me. There's going to be a lot of money."
Freaky fact about Hedman, other than the fact that he looks like a Swedish Benicio Del Toro in Zdeno Chara's body: He was born in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, which is also the hometown of Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Niklas Sundstrom.
Which means one city in Sweden had produced more NHL talent than the entire Atlanta Thrashers' farm system. But we digress.
Hedman is seen as one of the draft's NHL-ready players, and he said he anticipates playing in the League next season. "Hopefully, I can be ready for the first game. We'll see about that."
But being a Swedish guy, he gets the European player rap: That he's not physical enough, or mean enough to compete against the NHL's best players. McGuire actually flat out asked him: "Are you mean?"
Hedman: "I am."
But can he modulate his game and become a physical player?
"Uh, that's hard to say," he said. "Nick Lidstrom [of the Detroit Red Wings], he's like 185 and he's pretty good."
For Hedman, it's not about being known as a physical player. It's about playing that way when it's warranted.
"I'm not a physical player. But when I have to play physical ... on the ice, I'm a really mean person inside. I do whatever it takes to win. That's for sure."
Attention, New York Islanders ...