Taylor Hall is an NHL draft veteran. He sat in the stands in Ottawa and Montreal the past two years, eagerly anticipating the first couple of selections.
Those experiences won't compare to today, though, when he sits down for the 2010 entry draft in Staples Center. The Windsor Spitfires forward will hear his own name called this time, and it's likely to be the first one.
Hall headlines the prospect pool for this year's draft, an honor he's spent two seasons creating. He has led Windsor to consecutive Memorial Cup championships, earning the Most Valuable Player award both times.
"There's a lot of mixed emotions involved, a lot of excitement, a lot of nervousness," Hall said Thursday. "It's just going to be really hard sitting there. I was at the draft the last two years, and when those No. 1 and No. 2 picks came up, it was pretty nerve-wracking just for me because I'm a hockey fan. I can't imagine what I'm going to be feeling this time."
It's strange that Hall is so nervous off the ice because he's a picture of poise on it. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder had 40 goals and 106 points in 57 games this season. He shined at the world junior championships, too, finishing second on the Canadian squad with six goals and 12 points.
"He stepped up in every big arena this year," said Kevin Devine, the Buffalo Sabres' director of amateur scouting. "Every time that the spotlight was on he shined. It would be very hard for me if I had the first pick to pass on Taylor Hall."
Alas, the Sabres do not hold the first pick. They are scheduled to select 23rd in the first round today. They have eight picks Saturday, including three in the third round.
Several talented forwards are expected to be around with the 23rd selection. Among the contenders are Notre Dame center Riley Sheahan, former Minnesota State center Tyler Pitlick and Minnesota high school center Nick Bjugstad. All would give the Sabres size down the middle, something they lack.
Sheahan is from St. Catharines, Ont., and is 6-foot-2, 202 pounds. He had six goals and 17 points in 37 games as a freshman for the Fighting Irish.
Pitlick is 6-2, 194 pounds and is leaving Minnesota State for Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League. He had 11 goals and 19 points in 38 collegiate games.
Bjugstad is 6-4 and weighs 188, and his size helped him dominate the high school ranks. He was named Mr. Hockey for the state of Minnesota after recording 60 points in 25 games.
None has the pedigree of Hall, however. The Edmonton Oilers hold the first selection, and the consensus is they will select either Hall or forward Tyler Seguin. The Boston Bruins, who have the second pick, will take whichever player the Oilers don't.
"We're obviously both gifted players, but we both have things that separate us from each other," Hall said. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens. I think Edmonton has a tough choice on their hands."
Seguin was named the Ontario Hockey League's most outstanding player, scoring 48 goals and 106 points in 63 games with Plymouth.
"It's been a blast so far and one heck of a ride," Seguin said. "Everyone's talking about expectations, but I don't know if I have any expectations."
Another early pick will be Hall's teammate, defenseman Cam Fowler. The blue-liner helped the United States win gold at the world juniors.
"It's kind of just like a little kid before Christmas," Fowler said.
When: 7 tonight (first round only)
Where: Staples Center in Los Angeles
TV: Versus Radio: 550 AM
Top five picks: 1. Edmonton; 2. Boston; 3. Florida; 4. Columbus; 5. N.Y. Islanders.
Sabres: Pick 23rd in first round