Just because the Detroit Red Wings aren't making a pick in the first round of the NHL Draft for the second straight season, doesn't mean Director of Amateur Scouting Joe McDonnell can take the weekend off.
McDonnell and part of his scouting staff were front and center at the fitness-testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine this weekend at the Toronto International Centre. The objective is simple -- find a diamond in the rough in the later rounds.
"We don't have a first round pick this year, so we're picking No. 49 [overall]," McDonnell told NHL.com. "You still want to check the kids out but for us, most of the kids that are here and are high-end guys that had injuries, we're never going to get a shot at anyway. So there's no one particular guy we're looking at."
Finding those hidden gems hasn't been too much of a problem for the Red Wings in the past. After all, they discovered Tomas Holmstrom (257th overall in 1994), Pavel Datsyuk (171st '98), Henrik Zetterberg (210th in '99), Niklas Kronwall (29th in 2000), Jiri Hudler (58th in '02), Valtteri Filppula (95th in '02), Jonathan Ericsson (291st in '02), Johan Franzen (97th in '04) and Justin Abdelkader (42nd in '05) late in the draft.
McDonnell feels the top-end talent in this year's draft doesn't match that of 2011.
"I think it's a deep draft this year, but I don't believe the top-end is the quite the same," McDonnell said. "I couldn't tell you who is going to go No. 1. It's a tough call this year."
In fact, McDonnell feels several other prospects may have caught the preseason consensus to go first overall, Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting.
"It's not like [Yakupov] played poorly or anything, but he didn't have a great playoff," McDonnell said. "It's nothing he did, but what everybody else has done. They raised and elevated their level of play and they narrowed the gap up top, so its' a crapshoot. There are 10 solid players there and anyone could go No. 1."
While McDonnell may be uncertain at how the top 10 might look, he was pretty emphatic when asked about this year's talented crops of goaltenders.
"The goalie crops is probably the deepest that I've seen in quite a while," he said. "Maybe the top end consists of [Andrei] Vasilevski, [Malcom] Subban and [Oscar] Dansk. Maybe [Joonas] Korpisalo is also in the mix, and then another group of 10 keepers is just a notch below them. It's very deep."
When asked if the organization will have to load up on defenders following the retirement of veteran Nicklas Lidstrom, McDonnell smiled.
"We're hoping to get Lidstrom in the second round and have him step right in in September I'm sure," he said. "At least, that's what Kenny [Holland] is hoping for."
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