Every year before the puck drops on the NHL season, fans are given a unique glimpse into hockey’s immediate future at the NHLPA Rookie Showcase. The event brings dozens of the NHL’s top prospective and rookie players to Toronto for a two-day experience that allows our trading card partners - Panini and Upper Deck – to gather photography and signatures that will be used in creating upcoming memorabilia items.
Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin (two of the top three 2013 NHL Entry Draft picks) are just two of the many potential-packed players attending for the event’s fifth installment.
For Day One, the players were split into groups and filtered through a series of sessions led by each partner at the event. Upper Deck and Panini had the players sign hundreds of helmets, sticks, jerseys, and pages that will be used for upcoming trading cards and other memorabilia items.
EA Sports also had a room set up in which the players got to try out the unreleased NHL 14 video game. When they could be dragged away from playing, the players also posed for three-dimensional headshots that will be used for the 2015 edition of the game.
We here at the NHLPA spent the day interviewing the players about growing up playing hockey, their accomplishments to date, and what the future may hold for them now that they’ve been drafted.
In the late afternoon, the players gathered for an NHL 14 mini tournament to see who would take home bragging rights for being the best at the game. It came down to Nathan MacKinnon, Brendan Gallagher, Tom Wilson, and Malcolm Subban. Tom Wilson proved his gaming skills by fearlessly dominating the entire group to take home the tournament win.
The day ended with a dinner and tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame, where the players could walk through the exhibits of hockey’s past and help visualize carving out a spot for themselves in the game’s history.
Day Two begins early tomorrow at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto where the players will be photographed for one of the first times in their NHL team uniforms, will take to the ice to pose for upcoming trading cards, and will play a game of pickup hockey to show off their skills.
Stay tuned to @NHLPA for all the latest #RookieShowcase photos and videos.