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Behind the scenes with final hopefuls

DENVER – ” Fast! »

That’s the only word that comes to Shane Wright’s mind when asked about his impressions of the Colorado Avalanche’s morning practice as he walks to the team’s locker room. We suspected a little that his answer was going to look like this.

Sitting in the stands of the Ball Arena, the top prospect in the next draft and his cronies Cutter Gauthier, Matthew Savoie and Conor Geekie had a hard time hanging up their jaws when they saw Nathan MacKinnon hard at work, hours before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“You have to pass to Mac,” exclaimed Geekie as the No. 29 came downhill two-on-one during a drill. Moments later, the star forward received the puck and beat Darcy Kuemper with a perfect shot into the top corner.

“Wow. Unbelievable! “, launched Wright with a wide smile.

You will therefore have understood that the four attackers could no longer wait to meet MacKinnon – or Nate Dog, as Gauthier nicknamed him. At the door of the Avalanche locker room, the excitement gave way to feverishness in a snap of the fingers. Silence soon replaced jokes and arrows.

Especially when the one they were looking forward to greeted them as he walked down the hall to the team gym. The four hopefuls, who risk facing him in a few years, have once again become kids in awe of one of the most spectacular players in the NHL.

“But what does he do in the gym on a matchday?” wondered Savoie.

Good question. We imagine that’s the level of dedication it takes to rise to the top of the best league in the world. MacKinnon is in a bubble. Maybe that’s why he finally left the arena without biting a bit of a chat from the four guests of the day.

They even saw him leave in the distance with Gabriel Landeskog. A little disappointed, some have put forward the idea of ​​chasing him to his home, but the proposal was quickly abandoned.

“It’s a game day,” Wright said. The guys have their routine. If I was him, I wouldn’t have stopped to talk to you either (laughter). »

Fortunately, other Avalanche players have deviated from their routine. The defender Bowen Byram took a good five minutes to inquire about the course of the day of the young men, he who already knew Savoie and Wright.

It must be said that the 21-year-old defender knows very well that this day will remain etched in their memory for a long time. Three years ago almost to the day, it was he who was invited to St. Louis for the fourth game of the final between the Blues and the Boston Bruins. In particular, he had met Patrice Bergeron.

This time, he was the “star”. Time passes quickly though.

“I remember the crowd in St. Louis, it was crazy,” Byram said. We were sitting about ten rows from the penalty box, it was unreal. The speed of the game threw me off. »

The fullback has long discussed the WHL playoffs with Savoie and Geekie, in addition to inquiring about which teams were the cruelest during player review interviews. From what we could understand, he would not do an interview with the Detroit Red Wings.

Clearly familiar with the playoffs in the Canadian Hockey League, Byram also discussed the Memorial Cup tournament, noting that – notice to Canadiens fans – forward Jan Mysak was “pretty solid.”

the attacker Alex Newhook and veteran defender Jack Johnson – a former first overall pick – also took a few minutes to greet the four young men, a much appreciated gesture.

Requests and more requests

With less than a month to go before the draft, top prospects are pretty used to answering questions from the media. Since the end of their season, that’s pretty much all they have left to do. That, and playing golf, according to what we learned over the course of the discussions.

They did not release their sticks on Saturday, but they were served in terms of media requests. After their meeting with the Avalanche players, they participated in scrums in addition to making stops on the sets of TSN and NHL Network.

Add to that photo requests for Instagram, for official photographers, video shoots for TikTok and company. It’s nothing very forcing, but they haven’t been idle. They still had some time to watch the US Open.

Then they went to their seats to see the show – a first ever playoff game for Wright. Originally from the greater Toronto area, the opportunities were rather rare for him.

“It’s the ultimate goal to play in the final and win the Stanley Cup,” he concluded. It’s pretty special to be here and see these guys living their dream. To see them so close to the goal they’ve worked for all their lives. »


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