NHL’s top prospects hit the street
By Meredith Qualls
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2012
Suspending the pressure of the NHL Draft, five top prospects spent Wednesday afternoon engaged in a game of street hockey on the Clemente Bridge against youth players from the Pittsburgh Ice inner-city league.
For prospects Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Mikhail Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk and Jacob Trouba, the event was one of many leading up to the draft.
“To play the top players against the young guys, it's a nice experience,” Galchenyuk said. “And it's great that they're here.”
The teams played to a 2-2 tie in a four-on-four street hockey game.
Street hockey balls bounced into the Allegheny River, as about 50 onlookers watched from the bridge. Nicholas Stephens scored the first goal for Pittsburgh Ice.
“Seriously, it's really hard to play against them,” Grigorenko said. “They were working hard, so for us it was really hard because they were everywhere. ... You have to be smart.”
The prospects agreed that the game was a satisfying experience, while Pittsburgh Ice players beamed afterward, talking about the premiere talent they got to see firsthand.
“I had a lot of fun, more than I've had on ice, on dek, on rollerblades,” said goalie Nathan Norkevicus, 13, of Beechview.
The goaltender said the prospects were hard to defend, even with the advantage of the miniature nets.
“It was really fun, and harder shots, which means I'm just going to be a better player when I grow up,” he said.
Pittsburgh Ice coach Al Stephens said the experience means a lot to his players, who live and breathe hockey.
“This is everything for them,” said Stephens, of Carnegie. “They work very hard. A lot of sweat, a lot of training, so it means everything to get to come out and be with the draft picks and to get down and play hockey.”
Meredith Qualls is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5637.
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