Honus Wagner they are not, but the top prospects at this year’s NHL Entry Draft took their best cuts at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Today after lunch and a short boat ride – where the members of the media were able to interview the prospects – several players took batting practice against Jeff Banister, Pirates bench coach.
Nail Yakupov, the number one rated North American skater by Central Scouting, did his best “Shoeless” Joe Jackson impression by ditching the footwear in the batters box. However, going barefoot didn’t help him on the base path. After making solid contact, the Russian-born sniper took off running…for second base. Apparently Yakupov didn’t watch the Twins all that often growing up in Nizhnekamska, Russia.
The most apt with the bat was defenseman Jacob Trouba. He should warning track power, one hopping the wall in the deepest part of the ballpark. You can tell the kid is competitive because he was disappointed that he didn’t hit one out.
Although many of the prospects have had little to no experience with a bat and ball, it’s easy to see how athletic the top prospects are. After getting their timing down, all of them were getting solid wood on the ball, even if their swings were ugly as than the Elephant Man. Check back with our Wild.com Draft Central page because Wild TV will have a video of the prospects taking BP.
The boat ride to PNC Park was a time for the media to speak with some of the top prospects. Defenseman Morgan Reilly talked about coming back from an ACL injury and how seeing his career nearly come to an end has given him an appreciation for the game. Russian-born Mikhail Grigorenko spoke about his decision to come to North America and how excited he was to just get a new stick from the Quebec Remparts, his junior team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Getting a glimpse into the personalities of these young athletes is as interesting as watching them on the ice.
The star of the day was Yakupov. He turned the tables on the media, grabbing a microphone and interviewing forward Alex Galchenyuk. Unfortunately the gaggle media surrounding the pair prevented the Lighthouse from eavesdropping in on the conversation, but I’m sure you can find it online somewhere.
On the eve of the biggest day of their young hockey careers, most of the players were at ease, despite having to answer questions in the blistering heat, and have come to the conclusion that where they are drafted is out of their control. They are just trying to enjoy the ride, and the Lighthouse is happy to passenger on the ship.
Wild.com will have a photo gallery of the day’s events posted later today, but if you follow @MNWild on twitter, you might’ve had a sampling of the proceedings.
The Lighthouse also had a chance to talk with Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher today. Fletcher said the chatter between general managers is down, comparative to other years, but that doesn’t mean there is a bucket of water being poured on all the draft day fireworks. After meeting with a few more players, he said the Wild has finalized its draft board and are confident with their order. No word on whether their performance on the baseball field had any impact on their status in the Wild’s draft order.