LOS ANGELES (AP) — When the Edmonton Oilers finally make the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft on Friday night, the most suspenseful mystery in Hollywood this week finally will be solved.
Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin are the clear-cut top prospects when the draft takes place in Los Angeles for the first time, but nobody knows who is No. 1 in the Oilers' minds.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Hall said with a shrug Wednesday.
Recent NHL drafts have contained relatively few surprises at the top: The Islanders eagerly grabbed John Tavares with the top pick last year, and Tampa Bay snatched up Steven Stamkos in 2008.
The situation is much murkier before the 30 NHL clubs settle into Staples Center for two days of choosing from a draft class that serendipitously includes two top prospects born and trained in southern California: forwards Emerson Etem and Beau Bennett.
But scouts and fans have spent months parsing the differences between Hall, the back-to-back Memorial Cup tournament MVP in just two OHL seasons, and Seguin, the league MVP.
Both are high-scoring forwards from Ontario who spent the past two seasons about 30 miles apart, playing on opposite sides of the Detroit River and the U.S.-Canada border. They faced each other in this spring's playoffs, with Hall's Windsor Spitfires sending home Seguin's Plymouth Whalers.
The hard-hitting Hall might have a slight edge over the smooth-skating Seguin in the minds of a small majority of scouts, but the Oilers will score big with either player — and so will the Boston Bruins, who pick second.
"It's part of the ride, just one step closer to the dream," Seguin said. "I was prepared to go through all of this from the start, and we know that the draft is just the beginning."
The Bruins are thought to covet Hall, who is represented by the son of Boston great Bobby Orr — not that the Hall of Fame defenseman's longtime presence in Hall's camp means anything. Hall claims he doesn't care whether he ends up with the rebuilding Oilers or the playoff-tested Bruins.
"They're very different situations, but they're both very good in their own way," Hall said.
Orr believes Edmonton will take Hall, but wouldn't be surprised if the Bruins offer a consideration to the Oilers to allow Hall to slip to Boston. The Oilers are known to be listening to offers, but Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and Edmonton counterpart Steve Tambellini aren't talking.
The recent success of No. 1 picks also indicates Edmonton and Boston will expect big things immediately. Stamkos shared the Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby this season in just his second NHL campaign, and Patrick Kane — the No. 1 pick by the Blackhawks in 2007 — just raised the Stanley Cup.
And neither top prospect will get the benefit of playing under the lesser media glare of a nontraditional hockey market. Seguin and Hall will be either in Edmonton, where the Oilers are the biggest show in town, or in Boston, where even superstar Joe Thornton eventually drew the Original Six fans' dislike before the former No. 1 pick was traded to San Jose.
That's just fine with both prospects, who intend to be in NHL uniforms this fall.
"I don't want to be back in juniors, as much as Windsor has been great to me," Hall said. "I think it's time for me to get to the next level."
Once the top two picks are off the board, Florida will kick off the rest of the draft with a choice from a fairly deep pool of physical forwards and offensive-minded defensemen. The 2010 draft is thin on top-end goaltending talent and European influence, but a record number of American prospects could be chosen in Friday's first round.
The rest of the draft happens Saturday.
While Hall and Seguin have few doubters, other top prospects have spent the last few weeks answering concerns about their NHL readiness, skill development and health. WHL forward Brett Connolly played just 16 games for Prince George last season while nursing a series of hip injuries, and rumors about his fitness have run rampant in draft circles, frustrating the rangy goal-scorer who might have been in the No. 1 pick discussion if healthy.
"It's annoying after a while, but I understand it and I think I showed everybody pretty well that it's in the past," Connolly said. "Hopefully a team will see that, and an opportunity will present itself to play at the next level."
Defensemen Erik Gudbranson, Brandon Gormley and Cam Fowler could be the next three picks after Hall and Seguin, all three appealing to many personnel departments with their NHL-ready skills. Fowler, Hall's teammate in Windsor, idolizes recently retired Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer and hopes to answer critics who doubt his physical readiness for the NHL grind.
"Not many teammates can say they went 1 and 3, 4, 5, whatever," Fowler said. "Now that it's finally here, it's taken on a new level of excitement. We get to do all these fun things, and I have to pinch myself sometimes to remind me it's really happening."
The top prospects spent a fun-filled week in southern California, including a Hollywood tour, batting practice at Angel Stadium and even the red-carpet premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," the third installment in the vampire film series.
And no matter what happens Friday, Hall already has his first L.A. weekend planned out.
"On Saturday, I'm going to Disneyland," he said.