Combine a big part of the draft process
With a league-high 11 picks in the upcoming NHL entry draft, the Detroit Red Wings can’t afford to screw things up, so this week’s NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo was vitally important to their plans.
An army of the Red Wings’ hockey operations staff relocated to Toronto for the combine, looking to poke, prod and interrogate the top hopefuls for the 2018 draft.
“We interviewed a full allotment of players last year or close to it, so we filled every time slot from Monday morning to Friday afternoon (this year),” Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin told Mlive.com. Martin was joined in Toronto by GM Ken Holland, special assistant to the GM Kris Draper, director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright, chief amateur scout Jeff Finley and at least a couple of other members of the team’s scouting department.
Martin estimated that over 70 draft-eligible players will have met with them over the course of the four and a half days, around 16-17 players per day, with each meeting session running approximately 25 minutes in length.
“It’s a chance for us to see what makes them tick, sort of a job interview process,” Martin said. “It’s certainly a factor. It might cause us to shift the list a little bit in terms of what we’ve seen on the ice.
“We have group meetings with a handful of prospects at a time. This is outside of the interview process. We brought some of the prospects out to dinner last year. It’s a chance to get to know them in a little bit different setting. Last year, we went out with 10-12, this year probably 23-24. We feel pretty confident that in that mix of 24, we’re looking at two or three of those first four picks.
“By this point, when you get to May, we’ve been watching these players, in some cases 2-3 years and over the course of that time you’re meeting with coaches, trainers, teammates, billet families, strength coaches, people that have had contact with these players throughout their lives, even parents perhaps. You’re painting a picture. So this is not something that is put together over one season, it’s typically multiple seasons. At this point of the year, most of these players, if not all, we will have already interviewed once or more throughout the year.
“When we get into the combine, several of these players we’ve already interviewed multiple times. This is a little different format, eight or nine of us in a room. It’s a little bit more intense of a setting than just meeting a kid after a game in the basement of a rink. It doesn’t carry the day, but it’s one piece of the puzzle we’re putting together, and it can certainly affect a player’s status on our list in terms of moving up or down.”
When it came to measuring the physical prowess of each player, that’s when strength coach Mike Kadar stepped to the fore.
“Mike makes a pretty comprehensive assessment - body composition, body type - things that can be observed, and then there’s a whole bunch of (temetricals) that players undergo and that data is provided to the teams,” Martin explained.
“It’s a comprehensive review of a variety of factors. Most of these players have to get stronger, so they’re reading too much into how much they can lift or how many pull-ups they can do.
“Mike’s got the experience and the background to evaluate a player in terms of body type and how athletic they are. Those are important criteria that come out of that. How hard they work. You can get a gauge on a player’s work ethic and will when they’re in that type of situation and they’re under stress and duress and they’re gassed and how do they push through that? So there’s a lot of ancillary information one can take away from that.”
The Wings are suddenly in the market for an AHL head coach. Todd Nelson, who guided Grand Rapids to the 2016-17 Calder Cup title, left his job as coach of the Griffins after three seasons to accept a role as an assistant coach on the staff of Jim Montgomery, the new coach of the Dallas Stars.
“Short of winning another Calder Cup, what is there more than I can do here?” Nelson told Mlive.com. “Unless I wanted to stay here for, like, the rest of my life.
“I have to move on. There is a short window and right now I'm in it. I'm 49 years old and I'm using this as a platform and hopefully I have success with Dallas.”
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