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12 Things You Don't Know About The draft

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
A former director with the NHL, Eustace King is a managing partner of O2K, a sports management company he co-founded back in 2004 with partner Matthew Oates. O2K represents players such as the Oilers’ Raffi Torres, the Avalanche’s Chris Stewart, and free agent Kevin Weekes.

King will spend this weekend in Columbus alongside Swedish keeper Mark Owuya - the #2 ranked European goalie in the draft – and Bradley Malone, cousin of NHLer Ryan Malone.

#1 – Agents aren’t all chino-wearing fraternity brothers who stomp around the squash court every Wednesday night even though they’re heinously uncoordinated

“I had a scholarship and played at Miami University in Ohio in the CCHA. We actually won a CCHA championship that year because we had Brian Savage on our team and Kevyn Adams. I also ended up playing with Randy Robitaille and Danny Boyle - a couple of other guys who ended up in the NHL.” (King’s business partner, Matthew Oates, was drafted by the Rangers in 1992).

#2 – It’s not about selling the dream

“It’s our philosophy to go through the coaching staff or the player’s family first, because a lot of these young kids are impressionable and you don’t want to send the wrong message to a 17-year-old kid.”

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s poor etiquette (to recruit bantam or midget aged players directly), it’s just the philosophy of the individual agents. For us, we just feel like for a lot of young players, there are mitigating circumstances that need to be determined.”

#3 - …But it does happen

“Yes, It does happen. It’s an unfortunate situation when it does happen, but our biggest thing is to do it the right way and come in the front door and talk to the coach and the family first. I really think it’s up to the agent to sell his services to them before talking to the player.”

#4 – It’s all just a guessing game

“There are players that get drafted in the first round who never make the NHL. Yes, it can be a case of simple opportunity, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that there was a player who was drafted in a later round who worked twice as hard and was put in the right position to develop in that 16 to 22-year-old age span – that’s the difference.”

“I think a lot of young kids have the desire, but don’t have the road map… when you think about it, a lot of young players work hard, and do all the things they’re supposed to do, but they might not be working in the right area. We try to make sure the players are working in the areas they need to improve to make the next step.”

#5 – The brighter it shines, the better it is

“I guess it’s all perception, but most people would probably say CAA (Sidney Crosby, Sergei Fedorov, Jaromir Jagr) and Newport Sports (Iginla, Lidstrom, Pronger) are the dominant agencies, but it really comes down to what the player is looking for.”

“We’re extremely selective about who we go after. We don’t just want to go after a bunch of players and just kind of cast a large net. We want to be selective about the type of players we go after based on a set of criteria like their character their ability and their desire to compete at the highest level”

#6 – The Wonderlic works

“The NHL has a lot of different tests, but as far as drawing comparisons, I can’t really say that different leagues have similar tests [to the NFL’s Wonderlic]. I will say that the NHL has been very, very thorough. Over the past decade, a lot of information has been accumulated regarding the physical and psychological attributes of top players… I think they’ve been able to create a profile that will tell them what an elite athlete should look like. Based on that, they’ll be able to decide what makes a really good hockey player.”

#7 – Draft week is no time for promotions

“In football you see it kind of glamourized a lot where the agent is pushing or positioning the player to be drafted in a certain position. The perfect example is Matt Leinart. People were saying he was going to go first or second overall and he ended up going 10th. And that is a difficult situation that the agent put himself in because they were saying they were going to get their athlete in a certain position.”

“[Agents] do talk to teams. With all our players, we make sure the scouts have all the player profiles - you know: size, weight, shot, and the intangibles as well, like whether they were a significant rookie or a scoring leader on the team. Again, I really believe the NHL teams are very sophisticated, but we want to make sure we do all the homework that they might not have been able to do on their own.”

# 8 – Jerry Maguire wasn't all Hollywood

“Absolutely [there are unscrupulous agents]. I can’t really comment on what other guys do, but I can tell you what we do, and there’s a point of difference. I think you can draw an inference that there are some companies who don’t do it the same way. I don’t think the way we do it is 100% the right way, but we believe in being visible to the athlete, talking to the coach and family, and making sure they’re doing well in school.”

#9 - Poaching is illegal

“We believe that if a player is under contract with an agency, then he’s under contract with that agency, and therefore we don’t have discussions with those athletes. We might have a personal relationship with guy and say “hello” in passing, but until a player does announce that they’re looking for representation – like [Patrik] Elias did last summer – then we won’t engage in any business.”

#10 – Myth: If you can throw darts blindfolded, you can draft better than half the teams in professional sports

“Just like anything else, I think people have natural ability. Some have an ability to see natural talent and to recognize diamonds in the rough. A lot of it is recognizing a player, who if you put in the right position, will excel. Some teams just have personnel who have that extra little piece that enables them to determine which athlete is the one to select, and the combine and interview is the way they find out about those intangibles.”

#11 – The hardest part is letting go… or telling players to let go

“When a player gets to a crossroads, and maybe realizes that his dream of becoming a professional athlete might not come true, that’s a very difficult point. You try to put a person in a place where they will succeed, but when you get to a point where your career is coming to an end, it’s a difficult pill to swallow because what you dreamed about and worked hard for isn’t there. I think most people know, at least deep down inside, that it’s coming.”

#12 – Managing expectations is the second most difficult thing

“We first tell our athletes that it’s an honour to be drafted, but we also tell them that it’s also just a projection. I’ve seen kids who are projected to go in the first round who just sit there and wait. Last year I think was doing a story on a kid and he went in the sixth or seventh round, and almost didn’t get drafted. We manage expectations by telling our guys that “Hey, being drafted means you have potential, but you still have to go out and do it.”
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