The last week has been dominated by talk of of NHL roster players with the Pavel Kubina trade and the signing of Nik Antropov. However, prospects will be back on the front burner next week at the 2009 Thrashers Prospect and Development Camp. If you missed watching hockey come on out to the Duluth Ice Form. The rink is open free of charge for all events and the schedule includes several 4 on 4 hockey scrimmages--where the players can show off a bit. Star prospect Evander Kane is expected to attend.
Because the NHL Draft and the start of NHL Free Agency were separated by just a few days time has been in short supply. I was able to talk to the first six Thrasher draft picks in Montreal and I will be posting their comments over the next few days as we head into Prospect Camp. The Thrashers had a great draft according to the independent Red Line Report scouting service and you can watch all nine of the team's picks as they will be in attendance next week.
To kick off our Prospect Camp coverage, today I present the post-draft interview with Dan Marr the Thrashers Director of Scouting. Marr scouts many players himself and has the difficult responsibility of creating the master draft list which merges all of the lists of the area scouts. Marr is a serious guy, but right after the draft he was clearly extremely happy to see Atlanta land Evander Kane.
[Editorial note: I have re-ordered the questions so that they go from 1st round picks on down. ]
BWA: Any near misses? Were there any developments that broke your heart?
DM: Well I might have cried if we didn’t get Evander (smiling, laughs). I turned the ringer down on Don’s phone.
BWA: Did you really turned it down ? (surprised)
DM: I tried, he caught me.
BWA: Obvious you can read the NHL standings and so you knew that the team would have a high pick. At what point did you really identify Evander as your guy?
DM: February 23rd.
BWA: What happened at that game?
DM: It wasn’t a game. I spent three hours with him after a practice. I’d see him play enough times already.
BWA: Was there anything specific about that interview that won you over?
DM: No, not really. It showed that he was a humble person—he doesn’t have any Hollywood in him. He’s well grounded. He knows right from wrong. He’s been raised well and has a good dose of common sense.
BWA: In the second round you landed two highly rated players. Were you crossing your fingers that you would get both of them? When you were picking at #34 did you have a discussion about who to go with?
DM: We had them both in our first round. We were hoping to get both and it worked out that way. They each bring different things to the table. [With the 1st round pick ] we just got a 48 goal scorer in Evander, Carl brings a different aspect. We wanted some size along the wall--a guy that goes strong to the net and has some size on him--a real power forward. He already plays a North American game--he’ll stay in Europe and work on his skills there—not that his skills are lacking--but that is a good place for him to develop.
As for Morin, he can take the puck from the corner to the net like a Bobby Ryan. He’s still maturing physically, he’ll get stronger. He skating has continued to improve and next year he’s headed to a strong program in Kitchner where he will get lots of games and lots of practice time. They have a good track record of developing players.So both are on a good path of development and we look forward to them filling some roles in the future.
(more after the jump)
BWA: What can you tell us about Ben Chariot?
DM: We think he’s under rated. He plays in a Geulph where the players must play strictly within the system. There are no "green lights" that allow you the freedom to do want want with the puck. But he has great feet. He’s big and strong and tough. Nobody is going to gain an edge on him—in a one-on-one battle he would give Zach Bogosian a rough time.
BWA: It seems that this draft you added a number of players who bring some toughness...was that a priority?
DM: You’re always looking for some players who play with a bit of an edge. You want guys with that grittiness and that compete factor. Sometimes they’re just not there when it is your turn to pick, this year they were more of those type of players in this draft and they were near the top of our list when it was our turn to pick.
BWA: As a Scouting Director were you excited about trading down in the 4th round to pick up some extra picks?
DM: Well it gives you more opportunities and it gives you more depth...(sounding a bit disappointed) but we missed out on a player, but we still got two guys that we like. You’re always rolling the dice.
BWA: So THIS is the guy that broke your heart?
DM: No, it didn’t break my heart, but there were a couple of favorites that we didn’t get to take. You can ask any member of our staff and it is the same thing—everybody has a favorite that got away.
[Who was the 4th round pick who got away? I looked over the guys taken in between the Thrashers original #95th pick and their selection at #117th spot. There a number of interesting names in that space: Jordan Szwarz, Toni Rajala, Sami Vatanen, Alexander Avtsin, Henrik Bjorklund.]
BWA: In rounds six and seven you took two guys Budnick and Koper—Red Line had them as 2nd rounders—were you surprised to find them at that spot?
DM: So did we. As the draft moves along you have to adjust your tactics depending on who is taken previously, who is left and what you have in your system. Budnick has a nice set of hands, he can score and he’s strong on the wing. He’s going to get stronger with time and he could stand to improve his skating. Koper is one of these high character players like Jarome Iginla where you can put him on the ice with the game on the line. He's a solid two-way player. He’s not going to put up big numbers but he can play along side the guys who do put up the big numbers and feed them the puck. He's a high character player who doesn't mind doing the dirty work.
BWA: Was this draft typical or atypical for you to have a players you rated so highly available so late?
DM: We had Spencer Machacek in the first round and we got him in the third round. So it is not uncommon, it does happen because you have 30 different philosophies in play and 30 different strategies and they all rank these players differently.
BWA: It seemed that perhaps you went for more home runs in the goal scoring department in this draft. Was there any shift in strategy or was it more a case of the luck of the draw?
DM: Well our first three picks were three very good players. We think we addressed some needs by adding guys with size and guys who can score. Currently in our system we have Daulton Leveille and Angelo Esposito and they bring some speed--so we balanced things out a bit with guys who bring more size and who are strong on the puck.
BWA: Do you stick strictly to your list? Is there ever a point when you debate at the table over who to take next?
DM: There are more arguments in the 6th and 7th round than there are in the 2nd and 3rd round. The area scouts all know these players better than anyone else and there is always someone that they’re surprised is still there and they lobby for them. But you want that, you want your scouts to step up for their guys.
BWA: This was the first draft with Rick Dudley at the table. How did he fit into the organization?
DM: Well Rick is the consummate professional. When he was hired, he asked to sit down with me. We sat for three hours and went through our list together. And actually we have similar philosophies and strategies in play. Of course there were a few guys we liked that he didn’t really care for and there were other guys we had in spots and he was glad to see that we ranked were we did. We didn’t have to re-vamp the list going into the draft...there wasn’t that much variance.
BWA: Last question, every team that walks out should be excited about their picks. How does this one compare to other drafts?
DM: It is the same at every draft, but getting Evander was a real high.
BWA: Thanks for your time.