Introduction: In part 2 of the interview Dan Marr talks about a number of collegiate and European prospects. The selection of Daulton Leveille has been questioned by some people so I wanted to ask him how an organization handles scouting a talented player who plays in a lower tier league--and Marr has a pretty interesting answer. Another thing I should note is that tone of voice is impossible to transcribe and it seemed to me that Marr was particularly excited about the potential of John Albert who plays at Ohio State University right now. (Click here if you want to read Part 1 on the Thrashers junior prospects.)
BWA: In the college ranks, Alex Kangas had a bit of set back this year. Is this a case of Minnesota getting younger or just some struggles on his part?
DM: Well Minnesota was a young team last and they're still fairly young this year. So he may have played a bit over his head last year, but things catch up to you in your second year. Sometimes you can skip stuff along the way, but then it catches back up to you and it can be rather dramatic fall. He went from the penthouse to the outhouse, but he's a competitor and he worked his way out of it. He finished the year strong. From the end of January on he was back to being the guy that we know. It was just unfortunate that he got sick in the playoffs and he actually pulled himself and you never see anyone do that--but he knew he wasn't going to be helping his team [to stay in the game].
BWA: The Thrashers had two college rookies this year Vinny Saponari and Daulton Leveille. How were their rookie years in college?
Daulton Leveille had a good freshman year as far as we're concerned. He was the youngest player in the [CCHA] league. I hate to keep harping on the same thing, but he needs [to develop] more strength than most. We know that in four years he will--if he needs that long. We have a good history with Jimmy Slater and Colton Fretter working with the strength coach there. When they came to us both guys tested at the top of our conditioning measures. We know that it is good for hockey players.
We knew going in that he would play a lot at Michigan State--which he did. This was a big learning year for him to figure many things out. He had never been away from home before--it was a challenging year. I'll give him a lot of credit because he's mentally tough. There was a lot of adversity, a lot of things he had to change and adapt to and he never got down--he just applied himself and that's a good thing. He's still the player we drafted and he has a lot of potential. His speed is unbelievable and the scoring will come along--he gets tons of chances.
BWA: Is it fair to ask the question--what kind of player could he be at the NHL level--or is it too hard to tell?
DM: I don't like to make those comparisons, I'm not a big believer in labels and it can be unfair to the kid.
DM: Regarding Vinny [Saponari], the US program [USNDT] does a lot in terms of developing kids with respect to strength and conditioning. They teach kids a system--but sometimes in that system you're slotted into a role and it can be a limiting role. Now they're nothing the matter with that--because it's part of the program. Now we didn't see him staying in the same role that USA Hockey had him in. The BU program found other ways to use like on the Penalty Kill and they new he could play systems and that he was very responsible. He ended up getting more and more ice time as the season went on.
Vinny works, he knows how to battle, he knows how to get their first. He has a very strong game down low and ends up generating chances through his feet because he's willing to work and get to the puck first. I was really surprised when I ran into one of their coaches at BU and he was telling me they were pleasantly surprised at how much he brought to the team. The ice time that he got in the games I saw--well he played quite a bit--but it was great for them because they had a great ride and went all the way. They were a team of destiny this year. It was a great experience for a guy to have.
BWA: As a scout, is that an interesting conversation when it comes time to rank a guy like Daulton Leveille? You're got a late 1st round pick--should we use it on a relatively weak junior league against inferior competition--is that a tough call to evaluate a guy in that type of setting?
DM: To a degree. But he wasn't a secret. Everybody knew about him, he was very heavily scouted. Because of where I live I got to see him in a lot of games. I watched him in a number of playoff games. In that league he was the youngest player or second youngest player in his Junior B League. I would go watch him and in those small rinks he would take a beating from these older guys and still score some high light reel goals and some timely goals. So I wasn't so concerned about him being intimidated by older player because he had been doing that the entire time. The junior B leagues can by pretty rough and crude on these younger guys--and in the playoffs they were really going after him and it didn't phase him.
BWA: John Albert had a fine year at Ohio State. Were you pleased?
DB: Yes, he did. We have big expectations for him next year. He can be a real special player. They're another young team--it was unfortunate that they didn't go further in the playoffs--their sophomore class is tremendous--if they stick together they will be a really good junior class next year.
Johnny is an old fashioned hockey player. He has that knack for being in the right place at the right time. He knows what the situation calls for and he makes the plays. If it is the type of game where it is about speed and skill, if it is a game where you have to fight one-on-one battles to get through--he will grit it out. He's a little back of throw back--a natural--his hockey instincts are very natural.
BWA: Do you expect Albert and Leveille to stay in college for four years?
DM: We always tell our guys "take it one year at a time and if it makes sense then stay in school. Look at your situation." It is not our policy to go in and try and pull guys out of school. We want guys who are ready to contribute either in Chicago or Atlanta.The timing is a difficult decison to make but we try to err on the side of benefiting the player.
BWA: Lucenius had a pretty good World Juniors in terms of scoring. Did you get a chance to look at him in the regular season over in Europe?
DM: I watched him score his first league goal this season. Again, the hockey sense is one of his strongest features and I believe he was on the best centermen at winning faceoffs at World Juniors. He has to pick up his skating and he'll get a little stronger. A smart player who works and knows how to set up a chance.
BWA: Did you get a chance to look at Zubarev the Russian player in the KHL?
DM: No, but he's a competitive kid who plays a belligerent style. He doesn't want anyone to beat him one-on-one, he doesn't want anyone to get the better of him. He likes to get the last shot in--which gets him into penalty trouble--and the coaches don't like that. He's a bit of a free spirit out there. He'll take off with the puck. He cna play well at both bluelines and that's what I like about him.
BWA: Thank you for you time. I think you have a draft lottery to go watch now. [This interview was about 10 minutes before the Draft Order Drawing]