Toon town prospects
Three Saskatoon-based players will showcase their talents for NHL scouts

Cory Wolfe
The StarPhoenix

January 12, 2005

Saskatoon will have three of a kind working in front of a full house at next week's Top Prospects Game in Vancouver.
Three Saskatoon-stamped players -- Wacey Rabbit, Devin Setoguchi and Chris Durand -- have been invited to the 10th annual hockey showcase at Pacific Coliseum on Jan. 19.
Rabbit and Setoguchi, both forwards with the Saskatoon Blades, will compete for the team of NHL goalie-turned-broadcaster John Davidson. Durand, a native Saskatonian who plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds, will oppose them as a member of Don Cherry's team.
The rosters are determined based on votes from the 30 NHL teams and the Central Scouting Service.
The news came as welcome relief to Rabbit, who spent the past several days stressing about Monday's Western Hockey League trade deadline. Several teams sought Rabbit's services but Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken wouldn't surrender his slick star.
"Now that the deadline is gone," said Rabbit, "I'm excited to represent the Blades, myself and my First Nations back at home."
Rabbit will have his own cheering section as busloads of supporters from the Blood Reserve in Alberta are planning to make the trip. Students from both the elementary and junior high schools are Vancouver-bound along with teachers, the band council and the new chief.
They'll get a sneak peak at Rabbit tonight when the Blades begin an Alberta road swing in Calgary.
"When we're coming through they'll get to see me and then they'll come and see me again in Vancouver," said Rabbit, who is ranked 13th among WHL skaters by Central Scouting. "This swing is a big thing going into the Prospects Game, so I want to be on top."
Setoguchi had butterflies when he received the news Tuesday, but that was mostly due to a nagging case of the flu that caused him to miss Sunday's game against Prince Albert.
"The (Top Prospects) game is a week away," said Setoguchi, who expects to be in the Blades' lineup tonight despite not practising this week. "I'm getting better as the week goes on here. I should be fully recovered."
Like Rabbit, Setoguchi is profoundly proud of his heritage.
"There are not too many Japanese Canadian guys who have played in the NHL," said Setoguchi, who hails from Taber, Alta. "That's motivation to make it there and be one of the very few that have made it."
The Blades will have two representatives in the game for the second straight year. Defenceman Mike Green and centre Joe Barnes played in the 2004 game in London, Ont.
"I kind of wanted to go against (Setoguchi)," Rabbit remarked with a smile. "But at the same time, if we're on the same line we'll get to help each other out and gel because we've played together.
"To share this with someone that is such a good friend -- and I'm with him every day -- is great."
Rabbit and Setoguchi will also call Sidney Crosby a teammate.
"I'm excited to play with Sidney Crosby," Setoguchi said of the probable No. 1 pick. "Even to just be in a game with that guy is pretty unbelievable."
Rabbit has enjoyed such an experience already. He was Crosby's wingman on the Canadian entry that finished fourth at the 2003 Junior World Cup in the Czech Republic.
On the other side, Durand is keen to meet his coach.
"Playing for Don Cherry, it's going to be one awesome game," Durand said Tuesday afternoon just before boarding the bus for a game against the Tri-City Americans.
Durand will play alongside Vancouver Giants forward Gilbert Brule, the top-ranked player in the WHL. While the organizing committee bills the Top Prospects Game as a showdown between Brule and Crosby, the Saskatoon connections have their own ideas about what will shake down.
"They're obviously the two top prospects at the game but we're going to go there and showcase our talents and let (the scouts) know that they have to watch us just as closely as they watch them," said Setoguchi, who is ranked second among WHL skaters.
"Those guys are great players and that's why they have that kind of attention," added Durand, the fifth-ranked WHL skater.
"But to go under the radar is not my style. I'll go out and play my game and hope that the recognition will come that way."
BLADE BITS: The Top Prospects Game will be broadcast live on Rogers Sportsnet and RDS. The event will also feature a skills competition on Jan. 18 . . . The Blades will encounter world junior champions at every stop this week: Calgary forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd tonight; Red Deer defenceman Dion Phaneuf, forward Colin Fraser and head coach Brent Sutter on Friday; Lethbridge defenceman Brent Seabrook on Saturday; and Kootenay goaltender Jeff Glass and forward Nigel Dawes on Sunday . . . Like Setoguchi, Blades winger Aaron Bader and injured defenceman Joel Eisenkirch are battling the flu.