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Prospects get endorsement deals before NHL contracts Add to ...

When the top five selections are made in the NHL entry draft on Friday, it may be the first time all five were locked up by the same company to endorsement deals.

Reebok-CCM Hockey will announce on Thursday it has landed the top five projected picks (depending on who is doing the projecting) - defenceman Adam Larsson and forward Gabriel Landeskog, both from Sweden, and Canadian forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau and Sean Couturier.

There is no guarantee all five players will have successful NHL careers, although history says all five probably will. But Glen Thornborough, vice-president of sports marketing for Reebok-CCM Hockey, says this is a good gamble for the company.

"It's definitely a risk worth taking," he said. "You go back through the draft and see the players in the top 10, a high percentage of these kids will play in the NHL.

"With the NHL [scouting]Combine and everything else, these players are coming in more mature at a younger age. That risk is mitigated greatly with the preparation these kids make."

The last time Reebok-CCM made a similar move, it did not turn out badly. They signed up what turned out to be the top three picks in the 2009 draft - John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene.

The five players will be using and endorsing either CCM's U+ Crazy Light skates or Reebok's 11K stick. Most of them were already using the equipment, Thornborough, said, and their input will be used to improve the products in the future.

"We can get them involved early in product development," he said. "Right now, they're flexible and open to give us lots of time to talk about product development."

Larsson, who grew up in Skelleftea, Sweden, idolizing Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom and wears his number, 5, likes the idea of getting paid for something he was already doing.

"I played with Reebok sticks since I was young," he said. "I always loved them so why change?"

The draft rankings have been in a state of flux for the past few months, so it is not certain just which of the five players will be the No. 1 pick overall. Nugent-Hopkins seems to be the consensus pick right now, with Landeskog and Larsson closely behind.

"I don't really have any indication of where I'm going," said Couturier, who was ranked No. 1 earlier last season but slipped in recent months. However, even if he falls out of the top five, Couturier, who played for Canada at the 2011 world junior championship, could still wind up in the NHL next season if he is taken by a team such as the Ottawa Senators, which has the sixth pick and desperately needs an offensive centre to take some of the load off Jason Spezza.

"I'm going to put all my effort into making [an NHL team]next fall," Couturier said. "I'll do whatever I can to stay up there.

"I'd describe myself as a two-way forward, reliable defensively, and offensively I can protect the puck, control the play and create space for teammates."

 

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