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Penguins happy to show off city to prospects

| Sunday, June 17, 2012, 11:22 p.m.

The NHL Draft is usually a bland event that sees its host city leave nothing resembling an indelible mark.

Starting this week, the Penguins are interested in bucking that trend.

The NHL's future stars are in town for the draft, which begins Friday at Consol Energy Center, and by the time it concludes Saturday afternoon, the host franchise hopes the Class of 2012 remembers Pittsburgh fondly.

“Our goal is to give this a Pittsburgh flavor,” Penguins vice president of communications Tom McMillan said. “Our city has so much to offer, and we think these kids will leave here remembering they were drafted in Pittsburgh.”

The NHL and Penguins are working together to make this a draft week unlike any other.

Instead of having the top 10 to 15 draft prospects have their media availability session Thursday in an upscale, downtown hotel — essentially the same upscale, downtown hotel that hosts this event every year — the prospects will be dining on the “Empress” of the Gateway Clipper Fleet.

And instead of having no nervous release later Thursday, with only 24 hours until the draft begins, the top prospects will take batting practice at PNC Park before the Pirates take on the Minnesota Twins.

Speaking of PNC Park, a special event will take place near the Pirates' home a day earlier. Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Mikhail Grigorenko and Alex Galchenyuk — four of the draft's top prospects — will spend Wednesday afternoon on the Clemente Bridge.

They will be playing in a dek hockey game with youngsters from the Pittsburgh Ice inner city program on a specially built dek hockey rink.

The game will take place at 3 p.m., and then the rink will be disassembled before the crowd for the Pirates-Twins game arrives.

Also on Wednesday, the four highly touted prospects will be guest instructors at the Penguins Youth Hockey Scrimmage Camp at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon.

On Friday, the top prospects in the draft will receive a private address about the world of professional sports from Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who is a Penguins' season-ticket holder.

There is also speculation that a few of the draft's top prospects will be escorted to Mt. Washington to replicate a classic 1984 Sports Illustrated photo of newly drafted Mario Lemieux standing above the city.

The Pittsburgh flavor McMillan speaks of quickly becomes evident in the team's plans.

“That's why we wanted to build the temporary dek hockey rink on the Clemente Bridge, hold the media luncheon on the Gateway Clipper Fleet, do batting practice at PNC Park,” he said. “It's also great to have both the Pirates and the Steelers involved in some way.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161, Ext. 1975.

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