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Fresh faces gather for picture day, with rookie cards another step toward NHL

TORONTO - During his peak years as a collector, between the ages of eight and 13, Brayden Schenn earned a fresh pack of NHL trading cards every time he registered a hat trick in minor hockey.

His mother bought them from a local convenience store as a reward, and she ended up buying more than a few for Brayden and his older brother, Luke. Brayden was always on the lookout for a Pavel Bure, while Luke hunted for the newest Peter Forsberg card.

"I haven't touched them in probably five years," Brayden said with a smile Wednesday. "There's a lot of good cards, actually."

The kid brother was reminiscing inside a west Toronto arena, just across the ice from where he would be posing for the first of what he hopes will be many NHL cards. Schenn—whose brother is entering his third season with the Toronto Maple Leafs—was one of 23 prospects gathered for the NHLPA rookie showcase, a day filled with media interviews and photo shoots.

Schenn, selected fifth overall by the Los Angeles Kings in last year's NHL entry draft, was orbiting the spotlight with other hot prospects such as Taylor Hall (Edmonton), Tyler Seguin (Boston), Erik Gudbranson (Florida), Nazem Kadri (Toronto) and a host of players hoping to jump into the big league this fall.

"I guess it might feel a little closer," Schenn said. "But at the same time, you've still got to crack the roster. I've still got a lot of work ahead of me. All of these guys here are trying to make the same jump."

Gudbranson, selected third overall behind Hall and Seguin earlier this year, was an avid card collector. The six-foot-four defenceman said he had at least a page filled with Paul Kariya cards.

"I wouldn't have thought in my wildest dreams, three or four years ago, that I'd be standing here getting a rookie card made," Gudbranson said. "It's almost like a dream come true to have little kids wanting to buy your card. And this is just a starting process."

Many players began the day with a 45-minute media session, followed by a rotation through a series of stations set up by two trading card companies. Once in uniform, prospects were photographed on the ice and off, with a video component thrown in for good measure.

It was the second straight day of activity, following a video game hockey tournament organized by the NHLPA on Tuesday.

"It's good that all of us prospects are here and kind of getting the feel of the pro life right before we go into camp," Dallas Stars prospect Scott Glennie said. "It's really good of the NHLPA to bring us down here and do this for us."

Other players, such as Hall and Seguin, have spent more time in the spotlight. Seguin was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game a week after he was drafted by the Bruins, and has been the subject of intense scrutiny for more than a year.

He finished in a tie with Hall for the Ontario Hockey League's regular season scoring crown last season with 106 points. Seguin entered the draft as the top-ranked player by NHL Central Scouting, but was picked second after Hall led the Windsor Spitfires to a second straight Memorial Cup title.

"I really don't look at it as pressure," Seguin said of his Boston debut. "I'm expecting to go into camp and gain the opportunity. And when I go, I want to earn my spot. I look at it as more like fun and opportunity than pressure."

Moments before changing into a crisp new Bruins jersey, the 18-year-old forward admitted that he had never been much of a card collector.

"I think I have a couple of Wayne Gretzky ones," Seguin said with a smile. "I've got some Pokemon cards, but I guess that's not hockey."

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