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Meet Bill Armstrong

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
Meet Bill Armstrong.

If the name sounds familiar, it should.

He's been an amateur scout for the Blues since 2004 and was promoted to Director of Amateur Scouting last summer after Jarmo Kekalainen left to become the General Manager of the Jokerit Hockey Club in Finland.

Armstrong has four years of playing experience for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL, where he won the Memorial Cup in 1990. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, also in 1990, and played nine years of professional hockey in the AHL and IHL.

He also has coaching experience with the Providence Bruins (AHL) and the Trenton Titans (ECHL).

As he prepares to run his first NHL Draft later this month, Armstrong took a few minutes to answer questions for

1. Do you think your experience as a professional hockey player and coach helps you be better prepared to judge potential NHL talent?

It’s funny how it works. You wonder where all those little things that you're doing in your life, whether it be an assistant coach, a head coach or a GM in Trenton, NJ...All those little things that come back into play. I use all those different tools and skills that I’ve learned from those different jobs around hockey to do this one. It’s a very challenging job and I’m excited about it and it’s been a great year.

2.You played a big role in drafting guys like David Perron and Jake Allen in recent years. What did you see in those players that caught your eye?

You'd like to take all the credit for it, but really it’s a team effort. We work together and one of the things that we always try to do is make sure that we work hard, get out in the field and find the best players. I think with guys like Larry Pleau and Doug Armstrong and recently Jarmo Kekalainen, they helped all the staff members to do good in their area and draft the right guys from their area.

3.Having been a scout with the Blues since 2004, explain how you felt when you were offered the Blues’ Director of Amateur Scouting position, one previously held by Jarmo Kekalainen?

It’s a great feeling to be offered that. That’s the job that I've wanted since I first got into scouting. You look far ahead and to get to that position, you have to do a lot of different things. Having that job offered to was very exciting. It’s just great.

4.Is it a big adjustment going from a scout to the boss?

I’ve got management experience. I think when you coach you learn to manage your staff and I’ve had my own personal business on the side where I’ve had 32 people working for me at times, so I think through all those things, you learn to manage people and to work with people. I think all those things I’ve done in life before I became the Director of Amateur Scouting has helped me. It’s been great. The people you work with at this job, whether it be Larry Pleau or (scouts) Ville Siren and Dan Ginnell, and also (Director of Player Personel) Dave Taylor and (General Manager) Doug Armstrong, they’re all great people to work with. It’s been a great transition from being a scout to director.

5.Describe what the last few months have been like preparing to run your first NHL Draft.

Well, it just comes down to everyone has all their work that they’ve done all year long. We’re just gathering all that information and putting it into a list and compiling it. Now we’re at the point where we are doing interviews, watching the Combine and seeing other aspects of the players. We’re using that information to build the best possible list for draft day. The last couple months, we’ve been fine tuning it and doing bios and character research on the players. It’s been great. It’s been a busy time, but it’s also been an exciting time.

6.You mentioned the Combine that was held recently. A lot of the hockey media has said this draft isn’t as strong as recent years, but good players seem to get selected every year. What is your opinion of the 2011 Draft Class?

I’ve been in a few drafts, and it’s funny, but I've heard before that they’re all weak drafts. To me, there’s weak players without question, but there are a lot of good players in this draft. It’s our job as a staff to go out and find them. Everyone says it’s a weak draft, but they’ll look back one day and say “Wow, that guy was there and that was a strong draft.” For us, we prepare to try and get the best players out of the draft, so it doesn’t really change year-to-year for us.

7.You guys do so much of your work behind the scenes, and your only time in the spotlight is at the draft table in June. How much time, if you had to estimate, would you say you spend traveling and scouting players?

In the season, we’re probably on the road 20-30 days per month, starting September all the way through April. It’s a grind, but it really is a job that you have to pace yourself at and be smart at. You have to work at your scheduling so you don’t burn yourself out. The most important thing is seeing the most important games. It’s not how many games you see, it’s the right games you have to go to. You have to pace yourself. It’s certainly a challenging job, but it’s interesting. It’s almost like being a marathon runner. Your endurance grows over the years and you get used to it.

8.What type of characteristics are you looking for in the possible draft pick?

Well there are a lot of different characteristics. I think hockey sense has always been the biggest one for the Blues. We try to draft kids with great hockey sense. If you look at Jaden Schwartz, you can see how he makes everyone around him better, and he’s been able to put up points at all different levels. We try to draft kids that are smart hockey players. That’s probably the biggest thing we look for as a staff.

9.What needs are you looking to fill at this year’s draft?

Well, that’s one of those things where we don’t really even address. We are focused right now on just building the best list possible. You can alter your list for needs of the team later, but we’re just putting the most talented players in the right order, and we’ll get down to that later on before the draft.

10.If you had the No. 1 overall pick like Edmonton does, who would you choose?

I wouldn’t tell you right now. You never know, we could have it. We always say in this draft that we don’t have a first-round pick, but we’ve prepared like we’ll be picking in the first round. We’re going to know who we want for picks 1 through 30, so we’ll prepare like we’re picking in the first round. Anything is possible.

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