Draft Watch ’09: Part Three – Chatting up the Expert
For much of the year, scouts from NHL clubs and private scouting agencies scour the globe for the next generational talent, the next franchise player, and the next late round steal. On Draft weekend, a year’s hard work is condensed into a single list of names, a few of whom teams hope will become the future building blocks for their franchise. In Part Three of the ’09 Draft Preview, the readers of MLHS are in for a special treat, as I recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of E.J. Mcguire, the Director of the NHL’s Central Scouting Services and perhaps the most well-recognized face of the scouting world, about the upcoming June Draft.
Q -Â Hi E.J., thanks for taking the time. Let’s dive right into this. In a few words, what is the role of the NHL Central Scouting Service?
A – Well Alex, the NHL Central Service serves as an early warning system for NHL teams as they prepare to make selections for the upcoming NHL Draft. There are 9 full-time scouts, 16 part-time scouts and 3 administrators in North America. There are also 9 full-time scouts and 2 administrators in Europe.
Q – Last year’s draft saw an unprecendented amount of players immediately making the jump to the NHL, 10 by my count, including Toronto’s own Luke Schenn. Should we expect something similar next season?
A – By virtue of the NHL Salary Cap, we’re starting to see a growing inclination for teams to bring those players in at an earlier age. That amount of talent on an entry-level contract is much more economically feasible than say, a veteran free agent to fill the same role. I think you’re going to see more of draftees making an immediate jump to the NHL as we go forward.
Q – How would this year’s draft class stack up against those of recent years in terms of top end talent and depth through the later rounds?
A – It’s very similar to those strong draft classes of recent years. It’s a very deep draft and very even. By very even, I mean that you’re not going to see a whole lot of dropoffs or plateaus, for example a distinct top 10 or top 15. I feel that this is one of those draft classes where you’re going to see a few 3rd and 4th round picks making a meaningful impact at the NHL level a few years down the line. Having multiple selections, particularly in those middle rounds is a big bonus.
Q – Since last season, much of the focus has been around the unquestionable Top 2 status of John Tavares and Victor Hedman. However, we’ve recently seen a few scouting services boldly project Duchene as a top 2 selection. Is the gap close enough that this may be the case on draft day?
A – Matt Duchene is an excellent player and will absolutely be a top 3 pick, but where he’s selected will very much be based on the need of that particular team. If a team is looking for a high end defenseman, they will lean towards Victor Hedman. If that team is looking for a dynamic scorer, they’d lean towards John Tavares. And if that team is looking for more of an all-around player who can make an immediate impact, then that’s the team that’s going to take Matt Duchene.
Q – One player who seems to have fallen out of that Top 3 discussion since the beginning of the year is Jared Cowen whose stock seems to have taken a hit since that devastating injury. Is the injury a long-term concern for NHL teams and if healthy, what can he offer an NHL team?
Well, Jared Cowen successfully went through the NHL Combine and took all the required tests and medical diagnostics. At this point, it’s in the hands of the GM’s and their respective medical staffs. From what I’ve heard, all reports indicate that he will be completely healthy by early next season. If his stock took a “hit”, it’s probably more because of unrealistic expectations from myself and other scouts after watching him excel last year when he won the Memorial Cup with the Spokane Chiefs as a 16-17 year old draft ineligble player.
Q – How will Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson’s game translate over to the tighter, more physical style of play in North America?
A – The World Junior Championship presents a very similar style of game to that of the NHL, albeit at a lower level, but serves as an excellent tool to evaluate both North American and European talents. He looked very comfortable, recording 7 points for Team Sweden during the tournament. I think that he will do just fine at the next level, especially as more of his peers start to appear in the NHL.
Q – Last June, we saw Windsor’s Josh Bailey, who was ranked 14th among North American Skaters, make a surprise jump into the top 10 when he went 9th overall to the New York Islanders. Are there any players whom you feel may sneak into the top 10 this year?
A – Well that’s tough to say. Our Central Scouting list comes out fairly early, and our focus is not about where those players will be selected on draft day, but rather how well those draftees project as NHL players 5 years from now. If we have a player ranked at #153 and he doesn’t play a single game in the NHL, but the player at #154 does, then shame on us. Because that would mean that we did not do our job.
Q – Ever since Brian Burke came on board as Toronto GM, the team’s fanbase has been excited about the prospect of building a meaner, tougher team in the mold of the Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan trio in Anaheim. Two players that are likely to be near the top of Burke’s draftboard are Vancouver’s Evander Kane and Brandon’s Brayden Schenn. How are these two players similar and how are they different?
A – Both Kane and Schenn are power forwards from Western Canada, who love to get their noses dirty around the net. Both are physical players with some nice scoring ability. Schenn is more of a natural centerman while Kane is… well come to think of it, both players could probably handle either the center or wing position at the next level. It’s tough to differentiate between the two because they’re really actually very similar players. If you want to talk about tough, power forwards then there’s also Zach Kassian, who we currently have ranked as the 10th best North American Skater. And you can’t forget about Scott Glennie either, a hard-nosed two-way player who was a teammate and linemate of Brayden Schenn for Brandon.
Q – E.J., thanks again for taking the time out of what I’m sure is an extremely tight schedule as you make final preparations for the Draft next week. Any parting words?
A – My pleasure Alex. Make sure you all tune in on Draft Night to witness history being made. Scouting is a tough job, an inexact science, but it is an immensely rewarding job. Once again, good luck with everything.
Always a pleasure,
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[...] key roles on a Stanley Cup Finalist team. As E.J. Mcguire alluded to in the previous chapter of Draft Watch ‘09, there will be plenty of potential impact players available beyond the first round of this [...]
@Josh – you and I are kind of on the same wave length here, with the odd tweak here and there. I don’t want Malone!!! I’m kind of thinking that the Isles take Taveras which means we could get Hedman – not a bad consolation prize. So Hedman, Schenn and one of Cowen, Kulikov or Kassian for basically the players you mentioned is great in my mind! Free agents would/could be signed to replace our d-men – and all of a sudden the Leafs future looks a whole lot brighter! The rebuilding of the Leafs will have officially began – big time!
how about this as a dream scenario. i cant see it happening but nice to think about, and they are trades that work for all teams involved. to TB: kaberle, white, 2nd rounder to TOR: #2 (Tavares) and a salary dump (trade i mentioned earlier) . to ATL or LA: kubina and rights to grabovski to TOR: #4/5 (and maybe a 3rd round pick?) both ATL and LA could use the vet Kubina on D to help the young guys and grabovski gives them a young dynamic forward with top 6 skills to make up for the lost 1st rounder. . this gives the leafs Tavares, Schenn/Kane, and Cowen/Kulikov as they keep the 7th pick, for kaberle, kubina, grabovski, white and a 2nd rounder. sounds like a good building block to me along with luke schenn. would make for an exciting draft thats for sure. especially if we can make decent picks in the saturday rounds!
@B Leaf June Sedins want truck load of dough: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/sedins-seek-12-year-deals-report/article1187214/ . I guess twin sisters might be connected mentally, somehow, to each other, but not to reality itself. Good luck Sedins, and keep shaving!
B Leaf – If you think Grabovski can be a significant player on a Stanley Cup team you don’t trade him. But does BB think that? You mention that you would trade Kaberle, Grabovski and our 7th pick (and takling back salary yet) for Taveres. I say “no way”! Much too high a price IMO. Hopefully the Leafs would then go plan B which might be trading up two or three notches by flip-flopping our pick and adding a 2nd rounder to do so. Then trade Kaberle for an additional 1st round choice, hopefully in the top 8-16. This way we woulds still be left with Kubina and Grabovski to either keep – or make additional moves. At #4-6, we would get Kane or Schenn, and with the second first round pick (8-16), hopefully Kassian, Ashton or Larson. If we absolutely can’t move up, then Kulikov or Cowen is still pretty decent at #7.
You guys can speculate all you want, but Heatley wanting a trade will change the dynamics of the whole draft. Burke probably had a deal in place for Kaberle, and then the “Mad” magazine’s portrait requests a trade! Who would you rather have? A two time fifty goal guy, or a soft, almost, almost, top pairing d-man? There’s a reason BB came out against “Bucktooth” Heatley, and it aint for the way he requested a trade. It’s because it scuttled a trade, or two for him.
Paynter, I agree that Grabovski is a significant chip. I do think Grabovski can be a significant top 6 forward on a Stanley Cup team which is why I would be very hesitant to move him. If Tavares was there at the 2 spot and it meant dealing Kaberle, the seventh pick, and Grabovski, while taking back salary like Malone, I would have to really think hard but probably say what the hell and take a chance that Tavares will be great. Tavares could prove to be one of the most prolific scorers ever. Sedins want truck load of dough: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/sedins-seek-12-year-deals-report/article1187214/
@ B Leaf, I’d go with Kulikov because I was very very impressed with his play and development on Drummondville this past season, as I followed Dido’s progress. I think he has the potential to turn into an elite two-way player ala Brian Leetch. He or MSP would be the top player remaining on my board. I think Burke would probably go with MSP, because he’s really got that sky high potential to be an elite first line player someday. That and he’s got great size and speed.
Hey guys, I just wanted to throw something out there for discussion that I have been thinking about for a while. Am I the only person that thinks it would be in the Leafs best interest to keep their 7th pick rather than move up to 5th? Now I know a lot of you agree simply because you think the price will be too steep to move up just 2 spots, but I have another reason. Most people will agree that while the exact order of who will be taken in the top 7 is not yet determined we can conclude that the 7 players involved with these picks will be Tavares Hedman Duschene Kane MSP Schenn Cowan Now, if the Leafs stay with the 7th pick, and assuming that Tavares, Hedman, Duschene and Kane will make up the top 4, this would mean that the Leafs would be forced to take the player that is left, likely Schenn or Cowan, either would be a great fit! The thing that worries me with moving up to 5 is that BB will continue his love affair with B. Schenn and take him even with MSP or Kane still on the board. This makes me nervous because if you look at other teams message boards everyone seems to conclude that either of these 2 players are better than Schenn. Personally I would rather BB be forced to take the best possible player at 7, than to be given the 5th pick and botch it, any thoughts?
Some notes: Somehow I do not see Burke selecting MPS – I don’t know why, just my gut feeling – my feeling is if the other six are gone, he will take Kulikov or, go off the board and take Kassian Key player, other than Kaberle, in the Leafs acquiring a second (or third – I’m optimistic – two plus their own) first round pick is Grabovski! Would I ever like to be in the Leaf “war room” and find out their true feeling on him! If Burke thinks he can play top two lines to get the Stanley Cup he stays, if not he is shopped. My feeling is that he will be available! John Taveras? Victor Hedman? Matt Duchene? 1st overall? – I know the Leafs need a scorer – and I guess Taveras is THE MAN, but why do I think that Burke is drooling over Hedman? The Sedins want $63 million over 12 years – each – good luck and good-bye! Burke has a six-week window of opportunity to trade Kubina – will he surely not shop him for the highest bid – and not risk the possibility of losing him when his no-trade kicks back in August 15? Might Buffalo, Columbus or LA (if Jack Johnson leaves) be possibilities? Kubina for LA’s second rounder – and take Oliver Roy – if Gustavsson doesn’t sign? Just some idle thoughts! The excitement is building – hopefully us Leaf fans will NOT be disappointed!
I think any team at the 10-15 spot that has salary to dump burke could pull something off. Like I said alsom if you add in the 26th pick to another middle pick that’s enough for them to move up a decent amount
@Jordan and Roacho The fact of the matter is that Jordan’s trade scenario could work if Tlusty is involved instead of the non-existent 5-15 pick. Many scenario’s could work, in my mind, so Jordan’s not wrong to think up such a trade because Burke will get creative on draft day.
I would guess he would pick MPS because he was rated high, and I think only dropped because he wont be avalible next year to play. Burke says he will draft the best avalible player and Im sure thats MPS
Alex, If the draft goes Tavares, Hedman, Duchene, Kane, Schenn, and then Cowan, who do you pick with the number 7 spot? You have MSP, Kassian, Kadri, and Kulikov as your primary choices. Personally I like Kulikov of that group because he is a pretty sure bet and would compliment Schenn for years to come. I like the fact he came to the CHL to improve his game and forge his career. I think he is highly motivated and comes from a winning program. The Leafs have Dido to confirm his character. Kulikov seems to have the mind and skills to excell. Who would you pick and why? Who do you think Burke picks, and why?
That’s why Burke has to find a way to get another pick. That’s the hard part. Might involve taking more salary, or maybe the Islanders 26th pick involved to get that pick higher. I don’t knoe for sure but Burke said he knows he would have to give a lot away, and wants to make everyone happy so I just think that’s a good outline of what COULD happen
@Jordan: That three way trade should definitely make everyone happy…the Isles get Hedman and and mid-first rounder (note really sure where that one comes from though), TBay gets Kaberle drops some bad salary to move down 5 spaces and still gets a possible blue chipper and Toronto gets Tavares.
Call me crazy but I would take Malone for Tavares. So what he is on a big contract, Tavares will turn this Franchise around. Its worth it. I also think there would be a three way deal. Not sure but something like: Toronto gets the 1st pick NYI get the second and a 5-15 pick TB gets 7th, Kaberle and a salary dump of some sort Might be a lot to give but Burke said when he’s sure about a guy he goes after them
and if it is 6 years on malones contract i wouldnt have any interest in that either. maybe if he was 2 or 3 years younger. with the cap going down thats sketchy though for that long
i’d be totally fine with kaberle, white and one of the leafs 2nds. and i dont think its so sure of a bet that the isles take tavares. tavares is what would help them for promotional purposes but they have more need at defence. they have some decent young forwards coming up (okposo, bailey, petrov, joensuu) but pretty much nothing on defence. considering how hedman isnt really a step down from taking tavares, i could see them end up taking him to fill their biggest need.
Josh – like I said before, Malone has a contract through 2016 at $4.5 million a season. Terrible contract which we don’t want! In any deal, I certainly don’t want to include DiDomenico – he should be a Leaf for a long time pending a full recovery. It’s almost a given that the Isles will take Taveras – they need him for promotional purposes to save the franchise, can’t see that changing – unless a bone is thrown their way! A big bone! If a deal should come to pass, (which I believe it will) I think a 2nd rounder will be involved.
(got cut off) …for 6 more years. i dont get it. if its only four more i’d take him as the salary dump if it means getting tavares. malone is an effective player that would be good for the leafs. works hard, scores goals, responsible, and is good in the room apparently. and im sure after 3 years (not all that long) if we dont want him we can trade him with one year left on his contract. . and i do agree that a top pairing of schenn and hedman is something to drool over. i just dont see it as something that is remotely possible. and i cant see burke taking duchene over tavares if hes able to move up to #2
@paynter graham i dont think kaberle, d mitchell, and a 2nd is too much. thats less than kaberle, white, and a 2nd in my opinion, though im not a big fan of white. i suggested that the third piece didnt necessarily have to be a 2nd rounder, id be willing to give dido, mitchell, or a handful of others as the third piece. would love to give stajan and keep the prospects. . as for your question of hedman or duchene i dont think its one that is too important. i dont see TB trading the pick if hedman is still on the board. no way they pass on a guy who has as much potential as him when theyre in desperate need of a big time puck moving dman. . in terms of malone, can somebody answer how long he is actually signed for or what the deal with his contract is? is there an opt out? some cap sites have him for four more years, others have him
A salary dump plus J BO would be pretty expensive, and it would probably cost something like White and an Okay prospect. Also it would have to be a pretty big dump.