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“What you don’t hear about is all the players that came over [to] North America that didn’t get drafted very high or drafted at all or didn’t make it. They far outnumber those that do make it,” Marr said. “It doesn’t matter what draft or how you view things: The National Hockey League is a tough league to get to and play in and only the very best make it. It’s a place for the very best players to accelerate their development, but for the rest of the guys it might not necessarily be the best move.”

It looks like coming to North America at a young age was the right move for Caps prospect Stan Galiev, who starred for Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He left Russia at age 16 to play in the USHL, too, and Mahoney said those four years and the chance to play in two Memorial Cup tournaments greatly helped his development.

Galiev exemplifies what time and patience can do for prospects, and though it’s not the “fast track,” the 20-year-old wing turns pro this fall and isn’t far from his NHL dream.

A few more European players will take another step toward that during the first round of the draft Friday night, widening the path for more to follow. But it’s far from the only way for the best in the world to get to this point.

“If you’re good enough, you’re going to make it whatever way that you take,” Mahoney said. “We know that players take different highways to arrive at the same spot.”