With the NHL Combine taking place this week and executives and scouts doing their psychoanalysis of draft-eligible prospects, Senators Director of Player Personnel, Pierre Dorion, joined the Team 1200’s Healthy Scratches to talk about the process. The following is a transcript of what he said in the interview. As always, my thoughts are in bold.
Q: How many interviews are you doing with prospects this year?
A: We’ll be doing fifty-five this year. So we’re going to try and cover as many players on our list as we can; starting today and just go through the process.
Q: Is that around what you usually do?
A: Yeah, it’s around what we usually do. I think last year, we did a few more. We knew before the draft, we knew we had two picks in the first round and wound up being three. And then we had three in the second that ended up being one and then we had one early third so we knew that we’d have quite a few picks. Last year we did a few more than we’re doing this year but I still feel, touching base on fifty-five guys, we eliminated a few that we know are going to go early on that we’ll have a range that we’ll be able to touch hopefully in the first three rounds.
Q: So if anybody falls to you who you can’t believe falls to you, you wouldn’t have interviewed him anyways because you can’t believe he fell to you?
A: Well we did interview today a Nail Yakupov but it was a three question interview, so it went pretty smoothly. He seemed to like Ottawa so I remember telling him, ‘If you get interviewed and (someone asks) what’s was your best interview, say Ottawa,’ and he said, ‘I will’.
Nail Yakupov? As in consensus first overall draft pick, Nail Yakupov? (Well, except those agenda-ridden shitstains who hackishly reflect on Columbus’ cumulative draft record and casually mention that their Russian-born early first rounders have failed to live up to their expectations. Because if we agree on anything, relative to Filatov and Zherdev picks, those Leclaire/Brule/Picard/Brassard/Voracek top ten selections were fucking A-1 gold.)
Anyways. The prospect porn indulging Hfboards.com users are going to have a field day with this; collectively losing their shit and orchestrating lopsided deal to bring the first overall selection to the nation’s capital.
‘Okay, to get the 1st overall pick, Murray will trade the 15th, future number one center Stephane Da Costa, Andre Petersson, and Patrick Wiercioch. Wait, I feel like I’m giving up too much here?’
Q: Do any players now show up to the combine out of shape?
A: No, pretty much everyone is in shape. What happens more and more now is that agents prepare these kids for these specific tests – like every agent knows what specific tests the prospects are going to do, so they prepare for how the tests are going to be done. So, the kids are really well prepared for this.
Q: Do find the maturity and awareness of these kids these days is greater because of their exposure to the media at such a younger age?
A: Yes, for sure. They’re so much more exposed to the media. They come in there knowing what to expect. You still get some kids that are nervous. We had a few kids today that were stumbling with their answers and their hands were sweaty. Some kids will still get nervous but they’re still so much prepared. Even five years ago you feel like they almost come in and they say, ‘Yes. Yes. No. I want to be a hockey player. I do this.’ And pretty much every team has similar sets of questions.
Q: Besides the physical elements, when they sit down face-to-face, what is it that impresses you the most about their answers?
A: I think it is the consistency in their answers. Most of the time, we know what type of people they are. We’ve done background research on most of these players, so we have a good idea about their approach to their game. As long as there is consistence with what we have heard in the past and what they’re telling us, I think that’s what really impresses me because that tells you that he’s an honest person and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to be a player. As long as there is consistency there… If someone comes in and gives us, I wouldn’t call it lying to us but tells us stuff that we haven’t heard in the past or our background checks don’t seem to match up with what they’re telling us, that’s when red flags start popping up.
When Patrick Kane showed up to his combine Q&As, he did so while wearing: sunglasses; a plastic bracelet to indicate that he paid cover at the door of whatever keg party he frequented the night before; and some not-so-witty t-shirt that he bought at Urban Outfitters. Naturally, it was this consistency that led the Hawks to select him with the first overall pick in 2007.
Q: Can a kid be too polished?
A: Bang on. A kid can leave the interview and we can think, ‘Can the kid think for himself? Does he have any of his own thoughts?’ For sure a kid can be too polished. Sometimes when they try too hard, it’s a bit like a job interview, when people go in and they try too hard, instead of making an impression in a positive manner, they’re making an impression in a negative manner.
Canadian kids are accused of being too polished. Mariusz Czerkawski was accused of being too Polish.
Q: The way the kids are coached, I kind of get why teams ask out of the box questions to get the prospects out of their comfort zone, so if they are coached, they have to give an answer to something that they didn’t see coming.
A: For sure. We’ve asked (out of the box questions) that of the kids. We’re pretty simple people here in Ottawa with Bryan and Tim Murray. We don’t go out too much outside the box. There are some things that we do our research on specific on - on specific kids where every kid we’ve probably different types of questions coming into the interview and we’re doing our research which you can’t really tell anyone (about) when (the kids are) coming into the interview. But as far as kids getting asked weird questions, there’s one, I’m not going to say the team, but the one team always seems to ask, ‘If you had a choice between a gun and a poem, which one would you take?’ So I don’t think we’ll ever go down that path to ask that question.
Posed to me, I’d pick the Haiku. Eric Gryba however...
Q: So the fitness evaluation comes at the end of the week, but which is more important to you: the fitness aspect or his mental makeup?
A: I think it’s a combination of both actually. I think with the fitness, you’re not one-on-one with the kid and we have both Chris Schwartz and Randy Lee come down and they watch certain kids and how they handle themselves and if they push themselves when they’re close to the limit. So it’s a broader gauge to evaluate and when you’re one-on-one you get 15 minutes and you try to get as much as you can out of the 15 minutes, especially compared to last year when he had the six kids in to Ottawa where we spent a day-and-a-half with them and then you really got to know what they were like in all the different situations that we put them in. So I think it’s a combination of both: you get to see how they react in physical situations and then you get to see how they act under maybe a bit of pressure when we ask them questions.
Q: How common is it to have follow up interviews with prospects this week?
A: Oh, I can’t speak for other teams but for us, we have to be diligent at how we approach this. We’re going to draft someone at (the) fifteen that we think is going to be a big part of our future. I already talked to guys today. There was one kid that we think might be in the mix that I definitely want to speak again to. So I think we’re going to have a few. Last year we obviously met the kids that we brought to Ottawa and had a follow up. The kid (who you mentioned in the original question) that we talked to was Mark McNeil who ended up going to Chicago. He’s a very good player. I remember phoning the agent after the initial call, and it’s Erik Karlsson agent so we have a pretty good relationship with him in Craig Oster, and I said, ‘Do you mind if the group could interview him again here because I felt that he was too coached?’ And then we had a little breakfast meeting and I felt a better personality came out.
Q: At this stage, how much can change this week because you’ve had your final meetings with the scouts and your lists are pretty much intact, right?
A: Yes, and we had great meetings with the whole group. Everyone butted in as far as speaking real passionately about the players they liked. Bryan and Tim were both in on the meetings and Randy (Lee) sat in also for hearing what we had to say about the first fifteen or so. We really feel comfortable. Sometimes we feel passionate about fourteen guys and I’m pretty confident that we’ll get one of those fourteen guys and I think we’ll go ahead and take the best player available. As far as changes, there may be a few tweaks here and there but I always tell people that it’s on the ice that matters the most. I think we’re getting to know them and if any red flags come up for any of these first fifteen guys or twenty-five first guys, well we might do a few tweaks but I can’t see us doing any big changes (to the list).
Q: Do you foresee any moves to trade up on the draft list?
A: I hope we don’t get into trouble but that’s why we just interviewed Nail Yakupov today. In case, with Bryan Murray, I’ve always said it, he’s come to me last second, ‘How about this pick in the draft?’ and I’m almost shocked, ‘Yep. We’re ready.’ So we’re ready in case there’s any movement but I’d rather let Bryan answer that (question). If we move, it’ll be a pleasant surprise but I foresee us picking (where we are).
Alright, everyone… calm down. Do yourselves a favor and go take a cold shower.