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NHL DRAFT: Howson At The Combine

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The first brick on the path to the 2012 NHL Draft has been laid.

Last week, general managers, scouts, and advisers from all 30 teams gathered in suburban Toronto for the Scouting Combine – one of the best initial opportunities for clubs to get an up-close look at 105 of the top prospects heading into this year’s draft. There are several elements to the Combine, and those in the hockey world hold differing opinions on the degree of importance for each component.

Should a general manager put a lot of stock into a prospect’s first interview with the team? Does the fact that a certain player didn’t perform well in the Wingate/VO2 bike test impact his perception among scouts? These are questions that only a general manager can answer, so we decided to take the bull by the horns.

We caught up with Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson for a brief Q-and-A late last week as he was observing at the Combine with the Columbus contingent, which included directors of amateur scouting Tyler Wright and Paul Castron.

CBJ.COM: As a management team, what do you look for going into the Scouting Combine? Anything in particular, or is it mostly observation?

HOWSON: I think there are some things you look for going into the week, but it’s nothing too specific. The most important thing that these players do is on the ice, and that’s obvious. But this week helps give you great insight into their personality, a little bit into their character, and how they react in a more social setting. Those are important, too.

CBJ.COM: How did the interviews go?

HOWSON: The interviews are fairly general. They know where we stand and that we have a high pick this year, and a lot of them understand that they aren’t going to be considered there. But we do have several other picks, so those that maybe have a chance or a hope to picked high in the draft don’t say too much about it. The interviews are more getting to know the players and making sure they’re comfortable talking with us. Some of them have senses of humor or off-the-cuff answers that stand out to you. You’re really looking to get a sense of their personality and their character, and it’s a good first step.

CBJ.COM: Does the fact that the Blue Jackets have the No. 2 overall pick in this draft make every part of the process more important?

HOWSON: Well, every draft is really important. The fact that we have the second overall pick does make it even more important for us because it’s a chance to get what you hope is a player who will make a tremendous impact on your franchise. You have to make sure you get through the process, sort out the names and the players, and when you arrive in Pittsburgh on June 22, you’re ready to go. You have to be confident that you’re going to get one of your two top-rated players, and that’s the whole goal for us.

NOTE: As a reminder: you can follow the Jackets’ GM on Twitter @GMScottHowson, and follow and @BlueJacketsNHL for all your #CBJ coverage as the NHL Draft draws closer!


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