GLENDALE - The Coyotes, who own two first-round picks in the upcoming NHL Draft, interviewed more than 60 prospects this week at the annual NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, N.Y.
General Manager John Chayka, Assistant G.M. Steve Sullivan, Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt and members of the amateur scouting staff attended the Q&As, which lasted between 15 and 20 minutes each. Matt Brown, a sports psychologist working for the team, helped conduct them.
Chayka said the interviews were "casual conversations" with the prospects that enabled the team to collect personal information to go along with the scouting already done on the players. The chats, he said, provided insight into a player's character and work ethic, and gave the team a sense of what type of teammate he is and can become.
"We're just looking for an understanding of the player's values," Chayka said. "At the end of the day, you have to be careful that you're not basing your scouting off of these interviews. It's just one part of the decision-making process and certainly not the whole thing."
Barring a trade or trades, the Coyotes will pick seventh and 23rd overall at the draft, which will be staged on June 23-24 at the United Center in Chicago. Arizona also owns one pick in the second round, two picks in the third round, one pick in the fifth round and one pick in the seventh round.
"Our scouts have been studying all year for this and have put in a lot of long hours and a lot of hard work," Chayka said. "With our organization and where we're at, we've got to get it right. Our guys have done the work to do that."
The annual combine concluded on Saturday after the 104 prospects performed a variety of physical tests that included the standing long jump, the vertical jump, bench-press lifting, pull-ups, and the grueling Wingate bike test that measures explosiveness over a 30-second span. Chayka said while the physical tests are important, they, like the interviews, are just a piece to the puzzle when it comes to evaluating a prospect.
Center Joshua Norris of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program stood out at the fitness testing. He placed first in five of the tests, including peak power output on the Wingate bike test.
This year's draft will be challenging to accurately predict beyond the first few selections; centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier likely will go first and second, but not necessarily in that order. After that, there likely will be surprises.
"This draft class did not sort themselves out for the scouts this year," Central Scouting Director Dan Marr told NHL.com. "I think a lot of teams are going to be quite pleased because there's 31 different philosophies going into a draft. I wouldn't be surprised if you're going to hear somebody say, 'We got a guy we had ranked in our top 10,' all the way through the draft."
NOTE: Coyotes fans are invited to watch the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft with other fans at Ice Den Scottsdale on June 23. Click HERE for more info.