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Pre-Draft conference call transcript with GM Don Sweeney on June 19th

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
BOSTON BRUINS CONFERENCE CALL

Friday, June 19, 2015

BOSTON BRUINS GENERAL MANAGER DON SWEENEY MEDIA AVAILABILITY AT 10 A.M.
On how busy he has been in the time leading up to the draft…
Thanks to everybody for being on this morning. It has been busy. A lot of conversations with all the teams, everybody sort of trying to get a real good solid view of the landscape ahead of each and every one of us heading into the draft. It’s a testament - I’ll give you a little context - it’s a testament to Steve Yzerman and Stan Bowman to be calling teams right after a win and a loss, so that says a lot about those guys in general, but it also speaks to the importance of this time of the year.

On if the Bruins are close to making any moves player transactions prior to the draft…
Well, we’ve had a lot of good talks on teams and I think everybody’s doing the same thing in terms of seeing what player movement may or may not be available and what draft positions are up for grabs or jockeying may exist. I think everybody is sort of in the same boat and taking inventory at this point in time. Not necessarily going to comment whether things are close or far away, but just have had a lot of conversations.

On how important it is to select a player with the 14th pick who could help in the near term, especially given what the team was able to do with David Pastrnak last season…
Well, I think it’s going to be paramount for all teams to continue to integrate younger players. Whenever you find a player of David’s caliber, and I guess he was a bit of a surprise for us seeing him jump into our AHL lineup and do so well, and continue to move through, played very well at World Juniors and come back and be able to make an impact in our NHL lineup was a huge - I don’t want to say completely unexpected, but I think it was a windfall for our group, he’s probably a year ahead of where we may have seen him, and I think any player that can step in, be it young, be it - you know, we’ve acquired players throughout this offseason, be it through college free agency, a player from Europe. Any time you can integrate a player on an entry-level deal, I think it has a real good impact on certainly your cap situation, but I think your team and your building philosophy going forward.

On if he thinks with the 14th puck, he could be able to find someone who could help this coming season…
Well, I think David’s a great indicator that anywhere in the draft and as deep as the draft is, I think you can find guys that will surprise you. And I think we feel very comfortable that there’s going to be a tremendous player at 14 and throughout the draft. I think the draft is deep and I think the first round is very exciting for everybody to be anticipating making choices.

On how seriously Joonas Kemppainen’s playoff stats should be taken and if there’s a realistic possibility that he could become immediately impactful than any selections in the draft…
Well I won’t be able to compare it to the draft quite yet, Mick. I think the fact that Joonas, as I spoke about to Amalie, that he’s an acquisition for us that could be very important, as well as our college free agent guys, as well as our guys coming up through. You know, somebody being able to punch themselves through, Joonas had a tremendous season, the second part of his season, the playoff stretch that he had, he rolled that right into the World Championship with Finland and played very well. I mean, he’s a little bit older in terms of an entry-level situation, so I think that plays into his advantage. He’s a big, strong player that has versatility to his game and you know, how quickly he makes the transition to the game over here will probably indicate whether he can jump into our lineup. So we’re excited to have him for Development Camp here in July to get him acclimated and go through a rookie camp process, so by the time he gets to training camp, hopefully he feels very comfortable to go out and do what he does. It was exciting for our guys throughout the entire year to be watching Joonas, to have a change to meet with him. All of our guys right across the board that had seen him throughout the course of the year and made the connection did a tremendous job for us to be able to sign this player.

On if it is premature to envision that when they were scouting Joonas Kemppainen, they planned for Carl Soderberg leaving and Kemppainen sliding in….
Well, I mean, obviously we’re trying to plan for every circumstance that may exist and Carl was a very important part of our team this year and in a perfect world, we would be able to retain Carl. It’s highly unlikely at this point in time that that will be happening, relative to our overall situation and I think that Joonas represents a player of similar nature, similar skill set. You know, he’s a big, strong player, he’s responsible, he’s 27 years old, so he’s been through the pro ranks and he’s ready for it. As you described, he’s got some heaviness to his game but you look at his offensive production was pretty darn good this year in particular, but really the past couple of years, he’s been very, very consistent and he rolled that right over into the World Championship where, again, he was both very reliable and accountable as a two-way player but also produced offensively, which is huge for us.

On if there’s any chance the Bruins would draft with an eye on a position, versus “best player” available, because of the lengthy development curve…
Well I mean overall, I think the philosophy in general, especially I think when you’re looking in the top 14 where we’re drafting, it’s probably going to come down to best player available. You know, that’s not always, because we may have things that transpire between now and then that alter that philosophy. I think in general, our scouts have worked and covered the mileage that they have to get the guys in the order that they want to draft them, not just how they see the board falling and that’s important. When we get down to the list as it stands, the likelihood is that you take that player that they believe is the best player available. Doesn’t mean it can’t change, as I said, between now and then, relative to some of the things that may happen, but overall, that would be the philosophy.

On if he buys into the notion that a team should select a player that could make the most immediate impact, versus a player ultimately making the greatest impact long term…
Well there’s always going to be a selfish component involved with improving your team. So I think that’s the natural reaction for all of us as members of the management group, to say, well, who can impact our team in relatively short term? I mean, obviously David Pastrnak jumped in and we didn’t necessarily think that, so sometimes there are surprises. But I think that’s the selfish component to the draft, is who can help our team now? When you get to a point where you feel like you have depth at every position, and some general managers might feel that way, they may change their philosophy and just say no, I’m going to take need in this situation, because I have the ability to be patient. And other times, you know, it’s a competitive business, performance related, that you want to be able to have players that can impact your lineup as soon as possible.

On whether he is comfortable with the No. 14 pick or whether there is a chance the Bruins could attempt to move higher or lower…
I think we are comfortable because we feel very good about the list in general. We know the type of player, and the quality of player, that will be there. We’ve had talks moving in both directions, to be honest with you, and I think every general manager is going to have talks to see what may or may not transpire. Again, there are players higher up on the list that maybe you’d really have your eye on, and there are players further down that you turn around and say, “Well, I have value — if I move this pick, there’s going to be a lot of value of people that want to move up.” And you might be able to ascertain something down below and I’m going to look at every option. I’m really not going to turn down anything. This situation I’m in now, I have to have my ears wide open.

On whether there is any one position in the upcoming draft that is particularly deep…
I think the top part of the draft, you’ve got several defensemen that fall into a category. Overall, obviously it starts with two of the elite players at the forward position, so people might say that tips the scale for the forwards — [on the] depth side of it — but there’s always goaltenders that will come into play. There’s different people out there from philosophies as to when you might take, but if goalie is the No. 1, people won’t pass that up either. So I think the draft this year has a lot of quality to it, and a lot of variance that people may look at not just the best player, but there could be a particular need at different spots in the draft. So it could get bounced around a little bit in that regard as to whether or not — if there is a run on D, at some point in time, somebody might feel nervous that they don’t get their guy, and they might step up. So that sometimes happens as well.

On Dougie Hamilton’s future and his progress over the last three years…
Obviously I’m not going to comment on contract negotiations — you guys are doing a good enough job of filling in the color there — but from Dougie [Hamilton]’s growth… Tremendous player. Had a real good year, a real breakout year offensively, and continues to round out his game both on and off the ice as a foundational type player. So we’re excited to have Dougie as part of our group.

On the possibility of Dougie Hamilton receiving offer sheets from other teams…
Well, generally speaking, the possibility exists. You have to be aware of it. Over time, there’s been certain players that bells and whistles go off, so you have to be, and we are — we understand it — and we’re moving forward with how we want to get this done. So it definitely exists, but they’re not taking that out of the CBA.

On Connor McDavid…
That’s an exciting player. Obviously, people talk about foundational-type players, cornerstone players, and he’s likely to be one of those. He deserves the credit that he gets, the accolades he gets, and think about the speed and skill he plays the game at — he’s going to be an exciting player.

On the depth of this draft…
Well, certainly, speaking about Connor McDavid — and it’s no slight on Jack Eichel, either, in terms of his skill set and ability to impact the game — so as far as your question about other players, I think we went through this…there was a lot talk about [Taylor] Hall and [Tyler] Seguin a long time ago, so it sort of has a similar flavor to it, but you know what? The person — the team and the person picking third — are very, very excited about the opportunity to select that next player going there as well. So there will be plenty of surprises below those two players that have certainly garnered and deserve all the attention that they’re getting. But there will be plenty of players that, in their own right, will make impacts in the National Hockey League. You can bet your dollar on that one.

On what David Pastrnak and Dougie Hamilton have taught him about how to draft effectively when seeking an impact player…
Well, if you look at certainly the two teams that made it to the Final, you talk about the skill set and the speed, the ability to play on both sides of the puck — you know, David [Pastrnak] this year was able to jump in at a very, very young age, and was not overwhelmed, had the confidence in himself offensively in particular to go out and play against men right away. He had been playing against men in Sweden for periods of time, and felt very comfortable. Everything you threw at him, he just continued to absorb and get better, and certainly without the puck. Dougie [Hamilton]’s in a very, very similar fashion. The younger players — the skilled younger players — seem to have the confidence in their abilities, which I love, and they’re willing to go to work on some of the things that all coaches believe they can teach. These players fall into the exact same category, and the beauty of it is, they bring skill sets to the table that are so exciting at the National Hockey League level, and that’s what you’re hoping for. You’re hoping for guys that have the passion, with skill, to be able to play and then be willing to the things on the other side of the puck. Be the same fashion of a player that’s trying to work his way up the lineup, but has intangible things — he wants to get better every day. But as far as Dougie and David go, to your question, it’s exciting as an organization to have players at that talent level to go out and be willing to do the things they can get better when they don’t have it because they have certain things that you may not be able to teach, too.

On whether there could be players similar to David Pastrnak and Dougie Hamilton in this draft…
Well, sometimes those have to be unearthed a little bit. You generally have coaches that will sing the praises of particular players — when they play them in different situations… These players are young. They’re not finished products by any stretch of the imagination, and you go into the [NHL] Combine, you ask questions about character, the scouts will do background work on people’s character and such, and that’s generally a lot of times where, as I said, intangible pieces will start to show itself. But a lot of times, you have players that have a great skill set. They’ve been highly-regarded offensive players at their levels all the way up. But then they get to a certain level and it’s not necessarily translating anymore. They’re willing to do all the things that sometimes other players aren’t, and they get themselves right back in the good graces, and they find themselves having long careers in the National Hockey League. That’s the beauty of young players, and coaches are very, very excited about players that are willing to do that. They might — a player gets cast in a certain way early on, but he might not be that same player at the National Hockey League level.

On how you see the depth of the Bruins’ prospect group…
Well I think that everybody’s always going to look for—you know Torey Krug and Kevan Miller, you know we have guys that we’re going to continue to try and not just outside—I shouldn’t say just rely on the draft. I think we feel good about obviously [David] Pastrnak, Ryan Donato had a fabulous year and went out to the USHL, obviously Danton Heinen did, [Anders] Bjork stepped in too. I can run down every guy, [Linus] Arnesson came over this year and played in Providence toward the end of the year, Anton Blidh is now coming over and playing. Malcolm [Subban]’s development, Matt Grzelcyk’s development, Seth Griffith who we took—you know I think we’ve got a pretty wide birth. Our goaltending situation we feel very good about with Malcolm and Zane [McIntyre] and Tuukka [Rask]. We can allow those guys to develop at the right coarse and give them the opportunity they deserve. So we feel very good about really our players in general and the depth and we’ve seen progress. We just signed Tommy Cross and Tyler Randell, guys that are important to our organization. Yes I do. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop. The merry-go-round certainly doesn’t stop. You enter the draft thinking, ‘well lets continue this’, but we entered college free agency and adding some players that we felt like these guys have a chance to be National Hockey League players to come and compete. That’s what we want. We want guys that have that will combined with the skill sets that they bring to the table.

On considering adding picks at this draft or moving back…  
I think, Mike, it’s definitely important in my role now to be all ears in terms of being in direct consult with our scouts as to where they think the absolute—there’s always value and quality throughout the draft but there might be certain points that they feel there are players that can tip the scales a little in one direction, be it if you have to move up or have to move down. I have to be aware of those. When opportunity presents itself with current players or picks that we can improve our club, I’m going to do that. That is absolutely what I want to continue to do. Do we feel good about some of the progress of Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow? Sure, but we want to make sure we’re opening every door possible to find the guys that are going to get us to the next level.

On some insight into how this draft is different for you with your new role…
Well the approach and preparation side, you spend a lot more time on the phone actually having these conversations as opposed to in my previous situation where things would get run by you. You’re now taking information that you’re gathering and presenting it in different fashions to people so you get their expertise and blending it together to make what you think is the best decision for the organization. So that is very different for me. Do I feel good that I have institutional knowledge of where our players are at and what we think we can do to improve our group? Yeah I think that’s a big benefit for me having been a part of this organization for the past nine years.

On the learning curve with the new position and has anybody, externally or internally, helped you with it…
Yeah I’ve been very fortunate. Every general manager that I’ve had the opportunity to speak with, I’ve spoken to them all now, have been very, very good. They’ve offered advice on a bunch of different levels so that’s been helpful. Obviously I’ve had the chance to sit internally with our guys, John Ferguson is a former General Manager and a wealth of knowledge, I have a good relationship with our current staff. I even sat down with Harry [Sinden] yesterday. I think I have people, resources in place that will be able to help me. Obviously they’re not the one punching the dials to make the calls and that’s been stuff that I’ve felt comfortable doing. Obviously you’re going through it for the first time in terms of at this level. I’ve talked and made trades at different times or been in on trade situations, but again you’re making the call and you’re sort of asking and answering, but I think the general managers have been very very helpful in that regard to say ‘look this is stuff that’s stays between us’ when you go to talk about players because it is. It’s not just moving pieces along a chess board, it’s real people and you have to understand the privacy involved is paramount in this job.

On which GM’s have helped you along the way…
Again in general to be perfectly honest I think they’ve all been very very good and maybe they’re playing nice in the sandbox and with my first salvo in terms of looking to see how I’ll react but overall I think they’ve been very vey helpful, every one of them. Doesn’t mean they’re not trying to improve their own team I’ll tell you that.

On where you stand with Adam McQuiad and Matt Bartkowski…
Well Peter [Chiarelli] had told Greg Campbell and Dan Paille that they weren’t. I have not changed that. I have not completely conveyed to—I have spoken to both Carl [Soderberg] and Matt [Bartkowski]’s representatives and I’ve also spoken to Adam [McQuaid’s] in terms of what our intentions are but obviously it’s coming down to the wire in terms of their abilities to interview elsewhere. But I have been in communication with them, yes.

On expecting not being able to extend anything before free agency…
I’ve had several talks with teams that may or may not present the opportunity to be able to bring one of those players back. I guarantee at this point in time that all three of them won’t be back.

On how the contract situation with Dougie Hamilton holding up other things…
We’re not in free agency period at this time so I don’t think its holding things up at all. I think it’s, as I said I won’t comment on the actual negotiations side of it, but I don’t think its holding things up in any regard.
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