Friday night, best buddies Charlie Coyle and Kevin Hayes will sit side by side in the Staples Center, just as they did Wednesday morning on the flight to Los Angeles from Boston, awaiting their names to be taken off the draft board.
Nationally, the hockey landscape has its Taylor Hall-Tyler Seguin debate over who will go No. 1. Locally you have these two Boston-area pals, close friends since the age of 12, forever linked in seemingly everything.
The Weymouth-raised and Boston University-bound Coyle, 18, is the highest-ranked New Englander in the final NHL Central Scouting Service rankings (No. 24, just two spots ahead of Hayes), on the heels of a stellar season with the South Shore Kings of the EJHL. His coach, Scott Harlow, describes him as having an "NHL-ready body". He's the bigger and more physical of the two, able to both quarterback a power play unit and drive the half-walls.
The Boston College-bound Dorchester resident Hayes, 18, is known for his dangling ability and exceptional playmaking vision. (Said one NHL scout, "He's playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers"). Said Harlow, whose son played with Hayes this season at Noble & Greenough, "He sees the ice as good as anyone that I've seen at that age."
That's where the differences seemingly end. Both go about 6 foot 2, 200 pounds, and share the same interests off the ice. Both have been working out five days a week the last 10 weeks at the Foxboro Sports Center, toiling under strength coach Brian McDonough and looking to improve their biggest weaknesses (first-step explosion).
"Charlie's definitely more of a physical kid than I am," Hayes said. "Working out with him has made me want to work harder than him. For me to beat him at anything, even if he wasn't good, that's an accomplishment."
When either player needs advice from somebody who's been through the draft process, both look to distant relatives. Coyle has second cousin and local legend Tony Amonte, while Hayes looks to his uncle, former Bruins draftee and current B's scout Scott Fitzgerald.
When Coyle sat down with the Bruins brass two weeks ago for lunch at The Fours, there was a bit of a tingly feeling as he met boyhood idol and newly-anointed President Cam Neely.
"I tried not to let my jaw drop," Coyle laughed. "I had to tell myself to calm down and just shake his hand. It was unbelievable ... he kinda went further (on the handshake) and then I squeezed hard to try and match it."
"I was pretty nervous," he admits.
In spite of their worries, though, both have made pretty favorable impressions to the Bruins organization, with both their skill and attitude. "They're two really good kids, really good demeanor, and they're humble, too," said General Manager Peter Chiarelli.
Chiarelli's sentiment is shared league-wide. Says an NHL scout of Coyle: "He's probably got one of the best work ethics in the whole draft. I would call Charlie a complete player. He plays all three zones, and the more he gets coached, the bigger and stronger he gets, the better he gets. I really believe Charlie has a legitimate chance of playing in the league some day."
The same scout, who thinks both will go off the board Friday night, had equally glowing praise for Hayes: "He has natural gifts you just can't teach. His head and mind are on another level. He's got the best puck skill and imagination with the puck that I've seen in the area in 20 years. One of the best things about Kevin is his passion for the game.
"Midnight, you call him and ask if he wants to play some shinny, he'd be there. That's just love for the game. A lot of kids don't have that."
Here are five more local players likely to get the call this weekend.
Bill Arnold, C, U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program
6-0, 218 lbs
Final NHL Central Scouting Service rank: 36
The skinny: A former teammate of Coyle and Hayes at Nobles, Arnold is considered a solid two-way player with an accurate shot and tremendous lower-body strength that can drive opponents off the puck. Will suit up for Boston College in the fall.
Scout's take: "Someone's going to pick him up and get a steal. People want to poke at his physique, and I will unequivocally tell you that's (expletive). All the crap people are saying about his physique, and that he's fighting to maintain his weight&did he when he was younger? Yes. But he's matured. He gets it. I think he's a little pissed off, and wants to go to Boston College and prove them all wrong. Someone's getting a steal in this draft. I don't know where Billy's going -- he's not going in the first -- but I can tell you someone's getting a steal."
Connor Brickley, LW, Des Moines (USHL)
6-0, 185 lbs
Final CSS rank: 58
The skinny: Brickley is a second cousin of former Bruin and current NESN Bruins announcer Andy Brickley. Despite being a bit undersized, developed a reputation in the USHL for initiating contact and laying big hits. Committed to the University of Vermont for the fall of 2011.
Scout's take: "I can tell you this. His compete level, and his ability to take guys off the puck physically, is going to give him a legitimate chance to play in the league someday. He's a physical two-way player willing to pay the price, and he's not fake about it. If you want him to answer the bell, he'll do it. He's different, he's not going to wow you with skill, but you wouldn't engage guys like Connor Brickley. You don't want to play against him, because if your head's down, it's lights out."
Mike Pereira, LW, Avon Old Farms
West Haven, Conn.
5-11, 170 lbs
Final CSS Rank: 63
The skinny: The high-flying Pereira displayed a level of speed not often seen around these parts, and it paid off on the stat sheet this season (28-36-64 totals, in 29 games) in leading Avon to its eighth New England prep title. Will play for UMass in the fall.
Scout's take: "His speed alone is going to give him a chance. He ran big numbers at Avon, his separation speed was second to none. With his speed, the way he gets on guys and causes turnovers, that's going to give him a chance. He lacks size, but that speed is a gift. You can't teach that. He can outright fly. You give him an inch, you might as well put the white flag up. Just on speed I think he'll go mid-rounds, just my own opinion. Guys who have that kind of speed are finding success in the league nowadays."
Tom O'Regan, C/LW, St. Sebastian's
6-2, 195 lbs
Final CSS Rank: 129
The skinny: Son of former Pittsburgh Penguin Tom O'Regan, he was the Arrows' leading scorer (21-21-42 in 28 games) and impressed scouts with his skating ability, particularly on the rush. Will play with Omaha of the USHL next season before following his father's footsteps at Harvard University.
Scout's take: "He's figured it out a little bit. I'd describe Tommy as a skill guy, good hands, he skates well. I'd like to see him get his compete level up higher, like his father, but I think that will come. I think someone's going to take a chance on him. Going to Omaha next year, that's going to make his game better. His destiny is in his own hands."
Chris Wagner, C, South Shore (EJHL)
5-11, 190 lbs
Final CSS rank: 136.
The skinny: Tied the EJHL's single-season scoring record with 34-49-83 totals in 44 games, and took home league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors as a result. Teamed with Coyle to lead the Kings all the way to the EJHL Finals. Known for his tremendous work ethic and stick-handling in traffic. Will suit up for Colgate University in the fall.
Scout's take: "He's sorta come out of nowhere, but he did it on his pure work ethic. Everyone was telling him he wasn't going to be a Division 1 player, and he just basically put the cotton in his ears and said 'I think I am'. Off the ice, he really paid the price in the weight room, and he got results in the EJHL. I'd describe him as a two-way player. Not the highest of skill players, but he's another kid that's willing to go into the dirty areas, the ugly areas, to score some goals, and with that he'll create some more room for himself. I think someone will take a shot on him."
Other locals to watch, in order of CSS rank:
110. Garnet Hathaway, C, Philips Andover, 6-1, 180 lbs. Kennebunk, Maine
112. Brian Ward, C, Governor's Academy, 6-1, 191 lbs. Haverhill, Mass.
117. Cody Ferreiro, F, Governor's Academy, 5-11, 190 lbs. Essex, Mass.
125. Luke Curadi, D, Penticton (BCHL), 6-5, 255 lbs. Cheshire, Conn.
140. Logan Roe, D, Kent School, 6-3, 200 lbs.
148. Jacob Rutt, D, N.H. Jr. Monarchs, 6-2, 195 lbs. Scarborough, Maine
153. Derek Deblois, LW, Cedar Rapids (USHL), 5-11, 175 lbs. Narragansett, R.I.
155. Brandon McNally, LW, Belmont Hill, 6-1, 186 lbs. Saugus, Mass.
206. Michael Reardon, D, Noble & Greenough, 6-0, 171 lbs. Norwood, Mass.
208. Mike Seward, LW, Winchester HS, 6-1, 190 lbs. Winchester, Mass.
Brendan Hall covers high school sports for ESPNBoston.com.