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NHL Draft a Collective Effort

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
When a young player hears his name called and walks to the stage at the NHL Entry Draft, it marks the end of a process that often begins years before.


Aspiring NHL hopefuls dedicate enormous amounts of time to training, honing their skills and taking proper care of their bodies in anticipation of one day being drafted by an NHL club.

From a team’s perspective, the process is nearly as long when you consider all the factors and time that go into evaluating players prior to draft day.

During the scouting process, team personnel are generally focused on players who will be draft-eligible during the coming summer. However, they also keep tabs on many other underage prospects, meaning these players are oftentimes scouted for two or three years before draft day approaches.

In short, laying the groundwork for a successful draft is a sprawling procedure that includes lots of hard work, many frequent flier miles and the ability to work as a cohesive unit.

Because of that, it almost goes without saying that new Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman certainly isn’t preparing for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft alone.

“I’m very confident in the people I’m surrounded with. The wealth of hockey knowledge on our staff is second to none in my opinion,” Sherman when he was first introduced as Avalanche GM. “This draft is paramount for our franchise and we’re certain we will be adding an elite player.”

Avalanche vice president of hockey operations/assistant general manager Craig Billington agrees with Sherman, noting that the hockey intelligence utilized in such a large-scale effort comes from a variety of sources.

“We’re about using all the resources we have at our fingertips and our personnel to identify and come up with a list,” said Billington. “Rick Pracey is the gentlemen in charge of the draft and the amateur staff. He’s got a great support staff in Alan Hepple, Rick Lanz and others.

“There’s a grouping of those people that are the resources that we utilize. Having said that, we’re all involved to a certain degree. Ultimately, it’s a collective effort to come up with that consensus.”

That group Billington speaks of has been hard at work all year, undergoing a process that includes seeing players in action, making evaluations and talking to those around them, including their head coaches.

In the end, reports are compiled and final discussions on the players take place when the entire staff conducts its draft evaluation meetings approximately one month before the event. This discussion is led by Pracey, the Avalanche’s director of amateur scouting, but is essentially an open forum where the input of everyone present is both welcomed and encouraged when determining Colorado’s internal draft rankings.

“We make our lists and have our meetings and have constant communication and conversations throughout the year,” said Pracey. “It’s really a tremendous process in regards to how the whole thing works and narrowing it down to numbers that make sense.”

This year’s draft is considered strong at the top, with coveted prospects including John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene leading the pack. But beyond that, it’s seen as a draft that will produce many quality NHL players down the line.

The focus is clearly on the Avalanche picking third overall, but the club will also hold selections near the top of most subsequent rounds (excluding the fourth round, as the Avalanche traded that pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the deal that brought Adam Foote back to Colorado at the 2008 trade deadline).

For example, Colorado owns the No. 33 overall selection, which is nearly equivalent to a late first-round pick in terms of value. That draft spot gives the club an opportunity to add another desirable young player to its arsenal. The Avalanche also holds an additional second-round pick, which it acquired in a March 4 trade that sent defenseman Jordan Leopold to Calgary.

All told, Colorado owns three of the top 49 picks at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, slated for June 26-27 in Montreal.

“Rick has made it very clear that there is very good depth in this draft and we’ll have the opportunity to add some exciting young prospects to our organization,” said Billington. “We have all the confidence in the world in our amateur scouts and hockey staff in the identification process”
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