Last updated: February 17. 2013 9:26AM - 5 Views

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Growing up in California, Beau Bennett didn't think his family would be able to see much of his hockey career once he turned pro.

He spent two years playing college hockey with the University of Denver and, after that, figured his pro career would take him to a hockey hotbed far from sunny California.

But in a twist of fate, Bennett's family was able to witness the moment that would launch him into the pro ranks in person when the 2010 NHL draft came to Los Angeles.

"My grandmother, aunt and my whole family were able to be a part of the process and be there with me," Bennett said. "If it was out of town, they wouldn't have been able to be there. But everything fell into place."

Including when Bennett was taken in the draft. With his family by his side, Bennett's name was called as the 20th overall pick in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 20-year-old forward is one of three first-round picks with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season – a designation that brings with it notoriety, but only temporarily.

Like Bennett, Simon Despres, 21, was able to attend the draft near his hometown of Laval, Quebec. Joined by his family, the young defenseman waited anxiously in the Bell Centre in Montreal for his name to be called in the 2009 draft.

"I was ranked pretty high, but I was slipping a bit because I had a bad end to my season," Despres said. "My family was so anxious for me."

They didn't stay anxious for long. Pittsburgh took Despres with the 30th pick in the first round, allowing him to join the organization co-owned by his boyhood idol, Mario Lemieux.

"With the draft being in Montreal it was a special feeling, and then to be taken by Pittsburgh, it was a proud moment I'll remember the rest of my life," Despres said.

Unlike Bennett and Despres, defenseman Joe Morrow's draft experience took him far from his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, to St. Paul, Minn. Still, Morrow's family and friends made the trip to see where he would be taken in 2011.

Morrow, 19, admits to battling a case of the nerves while he waited for his name to be called.

"I didn't know what round I'd go in. I just had to wait for my time and it was pretty nerve-wracking sitting in the stands waiting to hear your name," he said.

During interviews with NHL clubs before the draft, Pittsburgh told Morrow if he was around when their 23rd pick came up in the first round, they would take him.

The promise was in the back of Morrow's mind, but he wasn't counting on the promise since other teams made a similar commitment.

"I didn't really believe everything that was told to me in those moments when I was being interviews," Morrow said. "But Pittsburgh kept their word and it meant a lot to me."

So did what happened next.

Morrow walked to the stage after his name was called and was greeted by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, followed by Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma and other front office staff before being handed a Penguins jersey.

"It's a feeling that you can't describe when you get to walk up on that stage and put a jersey on," Morrow said. "It's something I'll never forget."

Still, being a first-round pick is something all three players had to get over once they began their pro careers. Sure, draft night was a memorable moment, but now the only thing that can set them apart is their play on the ice.

"It doesn't matter when you were drafted now," Despres said. "This is a performance sport. If you deliver, you play. If not, you're on the bench."

That's something Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes preaches to his rookie draft picks when they join his team.

"It's not about what round you were drafted in, it's about what you do," Hynes said. "First, we want them to be a high-character person, both on and off the ice. Second, they have to get better everyday and develop. A first-round pick is no different than any other player."

Now that Morrow is just days away from his first season as a pro, he said there may be an expectation that first-rounders are supposed to play well, but it's no different than the goals placed on each of his teammates.

"Guys taken in other rounds and those not drafted are expected to do well, too. The draft pick is just a number and doesn't really mean a lot now," he said. "There's no pecking order here."

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