It’s all over but the shouting… and lobbying… and debating…. and the organizing… and…
Oh, who are we kidding, this is Christmas in the world of NHL scouting as teams gather their staffs for pre-draft meetings to put together their final draft board.
And it’s no different for the Flyers, who will spend the rest of this week doing just that – weighing the merits of potential draft picks against one another and deciding who they like where.
“We’ll work our list,” said Flyers Director of Hockey Operations Chris Pryor. “We have to go through this process every year, but it’s a good process to go through. We’ll hash it out among the group and try and piece our list together in such a way that we draft good players on June 30.”
It’s the final part of a year-long effort to identify the best draft eligible players in the world – from scouting league games, to tournaments to playoffs and eventually to the NHL combine – which ended last Saturday – teams put their draft list together much like a jigsaw puzzle.
And the combine, which was attended in Toronto by general manager Paul Holmgren, Pryor and most of the Flyers full-time scouts, was an opportunity to put the finishing touches on a year’s (and sometimes longer) worth of scouting.
“For the most part our guys have seen these players all year,” Pryor said. “You’re tying up loose ends at the Combine. Some of our guys may not have had a chance to meet these kids face-to-face maybe. You get a chance to see them on the ice and now you get a chance to talk to them and get a feel for their personality and get to ask some specific questions to ease your comfort level.
“You want to get to know the off ice personality – fill in some blanks that you have left over. It’s a good exercise to go through.”
Pryor said the Flyers interviewed about half of all of the invitees at the Combine last week between Tuesday and Thursday with Holmgren and Pryor sitting in on each interview.
Then, on Friday and Saturday, assistant strength and conditioning coach Ryan Podell got to watch the physical tests being conducted and was able to make unbiased notes about the prospects that he could then give back to the brass for further analysis.
“It’s good for Ryan to go up there without any preconceived notions because he doesn’t know any of these kids, and is able to see their strengths and weaknesses,” Pryor said. “It’s good because his expertise is in that testing area and he was able to solely focus on that for a couple days. We try to formulate a sheet on each player and check all the boxes on kids that you have interest in.”
And the Flyers, like most teams in the NHL, have a lot of players they are interested in potentially drafting.
While they won’t look at the group as a whole and compare it to another draft year, the Flyers do recognize that the depth in this draft is arguably one of the best in the last decade.
Which is why these interview sessions are important to an extent.
Some teams try to throw curve balls with certain questions at kids. Others try to put them through mind-bending tests to look for how they respond under pressure.
Not the Flyers. They might as well hold their interviews in a Starbucks, that’s how laid back they like to make it for the kids.
“We try to keep it casual,” Pryor said. “We want the kids to be casual. You’re going to ask each kid different questions based on what you already know or things you want to ask about their season. But we ry to be consistent from player to player.
“We are trying to formulate an opinion based on information you get from all the kids. It might be repetitious but your trying to be consistent and fair. For the most part the kids respond well. It’s just like having a cup of coffee and getting to know the kids you want to know more about the kids than when you came in. It can be intimidating to have a G.M. in the room but Holmgren puts them at ease and just sits back and lets the kids do the talking.”
And while the interviews are an important last stage in the scouting process, Pryor warned that the Flyers need to be careful not to put too much emphasis on an interview one way or another.
“We like the combine but the interview process is just a piece of the puzzle,” he said. “When you see a kid all year – say, 25 times as a group – you have to be a little careful to put too much stock in the combine positively or negatively – you got to be careful, even if it’s the last thing on your mind. You don’t want to be too critical of a kid because he’s shy or nervous.
“You have 30 teams, so let’s say a kid gets interviewed by 25 of them. Some teams have four or five guys present, some have 10. Some have GMs sitting in too and that’s intimidating as an adult never mind as a teenage boy. Some kids are mature at 18, but some haven’t even begun shaving yet.
“Every time you talk to a kid you learn something about him. But we’re cautious to weigh the interview too much. You are learning a little bit. You add some info into each kid’s database. But at the end of the day, you form a consensus among the group and pick some good players. Nevertheless, it’s not an exact science.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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