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The Official Site of the Colorado Avalanche

Rick Pracey Previews The 2012 NHL Entry Draft

by - Official Site of the Colorado Avalanche / Colorado Avalanche
Rick Pracey, Colorado's Director of Amateur Scouting, held a conference call with members of the media on Monday, June 18.  Pracey previewed the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, to be held June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.  Below is a transcription of the call:

Pracey: The second-round pick that we have is at No. 41.  As a staff, we’re comfortable with our list and we’ve gone through our sets of meetings throughout the year and at the [NHL] combine.  We met again in May and we’ve gone through the NHL process of meeting players and have had our secondary meetings with players throughout North America and Europe as well.  We tried to get comfortable with the players that we could potentially be looking at, and at the 41 spot, we’re real excited of what may be available.

We do not have a first-round pick this year. The 11th spot was traded in the Varlamov trade. That’s an exciting thing for our organization - having a young goalie in place, and he was a former first-round pick himself back in 2006.  So for us, nothing but positive things going on and, as a staff, we feel really good about this coming weekend. 

Also, with that second-round pick, we feel comfortable with the players that we’ve picked in those areas in the past.  We know that Ryan O’Reilly was a second-round pick, Stefan Elliott was a second-round pick, Calvin Pickard was a second-round pick, and Cameron Gaunce was another pick that we are very hopeful for the future with our blue line.  I think with players that we’ve dealt with in that area, we have an expectation on ourselves to find a player that is going to give himself a chance to be an NHL player and be an impact on our roster in the future.

This draft is a complicated process, but I know we’re confident going into this weekend.

Is the draft more complicated when you don’t have a first-round pick?

I think it presents its challenges, but I think, just like anything else, we’re prepared for every situation.  So in terms of the job that we do there isn’t a whole lot that changes. We prepare as if we had the 11th overall pick.  We prepare in the event of any kind of changes through trades. There is also the reality of having to look at players and predict going forward what groupings of players may be available.  So when I talk about a complicated process, I think that I’ve always maintained that this type of work can be humbling, it can be rewarding, it can be a whole number of adjectives that describe it. 

But with our experience, I think in the last 10 or 11 years now, we have a core group of scouts.  We’ve been together. [Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting] Alan Hepple, Joni Lehto and some of our scouts from recent years are in their five, six and four years [with the organization].  So our staff has been together for a long time.  We know numbers and areas on our list when we are trying to predict what may be available.  It’s a complicated process, but at the same time we’re ready for the challenge.  And although we don’t have a first-round pick, I think you can go through the history of the draft to know what happens in the second round and what types of players are available.

So we’re not too worried about it.  But I’m also a firm believer in constructing your roster from various elements of your organization - our pro staff, signing free agents, and trades.  This is all a process and we’ve been through drafts when we haven’t had a top pick before.  I don’t think it really changes anything in terms of the way we do our job.  And again, you have to be prepared for everything that comes our way.  So we’ve been through the process.  We’ve looked at the top kids.   But for us, we’re at 41 and we think there’s going to be a player there.

You guys have found some players that have serious potential not only in the second round in recent times but even in later rounds. What goes into finding guys who can contribute right away, like Ryan O’Reilly? What is the evaluation process? How does the evaluation process change in the later rounds of the draft?
That’s a great question and it’s something that we discussed as a staff.  We have to remind ourselves and challenge ourselves to stick to our core beliefs and what we believe in throughout the past and through this term with our group.  These traits, in our mind, are the hockey sense and the instincts of a player, compete [level] of the player, and the skill. Those three traits in particular carry a tremendous amount of weight in our evaluation.  Certainly size and strength is important and speed and skating is important and there are other tremendous assets that players bring to the table. But the care to compete, the instinct, and the skill are things that we try to maintain through every round. 

We’re looking for hockey players.  We start at hockey players and move forward with that.  It’s certainly challenging to stay to those beliefs because there’s always something that comes up that intrigues you.  Sometimes there are positional needs; taking chances later at a certain type of player.  We’ve made many decisions throughout the years trying to hit on players in all areas of the draft.  That, to me, is something that our staff does a good job at; maintain our core values and have every player held to a certain evaluation that’s consistent.  Over the test of time we think it will prove the test.

We know that there will be guys in the second and third rounds that will be able to play in this league.  Is it a challenge for you guys to try to find those guys who you know are going to be there someday, and hope it’s with the Avalanche?
It’s funny because there are always players that, for whatever reason, staff and decision makers can talk themselves out of or talk themselves into.  I think that this organization, throughout the past and going into the future, is making decisions based on what we feel is important and trying to hold players accountable to that.  It’s something that does change.  We try different things and we look at different elements. The whole process changes from year-to-year and you learn things from year-to-year.  That’s part of the humbling process to this.  If you think you have it figured out then guess again.  Things change rapidly. 

With the draft itself, especially now that we’ve seen it go from nine rounds to seven rounds, we’ve seen the emphasis that teams have put on free agency in the amateur side and we’ve seen late-round picks become successful.  There’s so much that goes into it.  When you go through the interviewing process and you hit the stage of the evaluation, you’re reminded that they are 17, 18-year-old, 19-year-old kids that you’re dealing with.  So whether it’s growth, whether it’s strength, whether it’s maturity, there are so many things that come into play when making these decisions and you’ll only have partial information a lot of the time.  So it can be a very challenging and complicated line of work but something that I thoroughly enjoy and I think our staff does a good job at it.

Do you have an opinion on the rumors saying that first round of the draft is not a strong one?
I think it ties into the conversation that we previously had in the last couple of minutes here.  I do think it’s one of those situations where, maybe at 41, you’re sitting back and there’s a little bit of excitement saying ‘OK, well if they’re having so much trouble at the top trying to figure out this thing, what type of players might fall through?’

But at the same time, I think that when we’re looking at it, we see players that we like in all areas.  And I know that it’s very difficult at the top.  We’ve been in that situation the last couple years where we picked [third overall] and [second overall], so I can anticipate and appreciate what those organizations are going through right now in their process.  One thing I can comment on is that I think it’s a good year for defensemen if you’re reading or following some of the comments out there on the draft. I think you could see upwards or maybe even half of the first round being defensemen.  I think we could see some goaltenders go in the first round; there’s a potential there.  An interesting thing on the defensemen is that there are several different types of defensemen.  If teams were looking at adding a specific fit, I think that’s available to you.  There are options on the blue line.  It’s not just that there are several blue liners available.  I think that there are various types of players. 

I’ve also heard people talk in the comments about how it’s not a strong forward group.  I don’t know if I’d necessarily agree.  I can see the challenges of getting them in the right order but I do think that there are good players available.  There are players that are going to play regardless of whether people think it’s a deep draft or a high-end draft or whatever this year may bring to the table.  Some of these players are going to play and be good players in the league.  That’s just a challenge that [our organization] and the other 29 teams have; just trying to get the right ones.
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