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by Matt Rosen / Arizona Coyotes
The 2007 National Hockey League Entry Draft is just days away and the Phoenix Coyotes own the number three overall pick.  The Coyotes' scouts have been hard at work preparing for their selections on June 22nd and 23rd in Columbus, Oho.  Tom Kurvers, the Coyotes' Director of Player Personnel and his staff have spent months gathering information on the top amateur players in the world.’s Matt Rosen had a chance to pick the brain of one of the men assisting new General Manager Don Maloney in the upcoming draft.  What does having four first round picks over the last two years mean to the future of the Phoenix Coyotes?

Tom Kurvers:  With our aim at challenging for the Stanley Cup, it puts at least four young players with a higher profile in our stable of prospects and we think this gives us a better chance to build from within, which seems to be the model that works in the new NHL. Can we expect any surprises in the 2007 draft?

Tom Kurvers: I don’t think there are surprises.  In the first round, there is a lot of talk about a select few players and their order wont be precisely what anyone predicts but the general group of names will probably be quite accurate.  When you get to #21, where our second first round pick is, most drafts have a wide range of flavor for different kinds of players. Each team has certain needs and different assessments have been made.  We may surprise someone we may not select with our pick at 21 and we may be surprised by someone else’s pick anywhere along the way in the first round after the top ten guys. Are there any players in the draft that you think may be ready to play next season?

Tom Kurvers: There are a few but not a lot of players you will see playing in the NHL next year.  There are a couple that because they are more ready, they may have moved themselves up on the list for certain teams and they may jump ahead of a player who may have longer range and higher potential.  But the player that’s ready, for certain teams, might make them more valuable. Is this years draft deep or somewhat thin on talent?

Tom Kurvers: It seems everyone is talking about 2008 as being one of the big drafts that come along occasionally.  In that way, it may knock down the current draft, but good players are going to come out of this draft as they do every year and this draft will have All-Star players and Hall-of-Famers. If you go off the percentages, there will be real good players and great players in this draft. Are the Coyotes open to trading their third overall pick?

Tom Kurvers: You never say never.  Someone could make an offer that you can’t refuse. But it took a lot of PAIN for us to be in a position to pick number three and you don’t just send that high pick out the door.  You don’t want to be in this position very often. It would take quite an offer. In preparing for the draft, do you assess the teams’ immediate needs or do you look more “down the road”?

Tom Kurvers: You talk about current needs, you talk about where your prospect list has strengths or weaknesses; you talk about how quickly a player can get into the NHL and help your team.  You talk about size, composition of players, where they are from, what their backgrounds are.  You want to have a balance.  Some teams win with certain flavors some teams win with different flavors.  We’ll continue to follow the vision that was put forth middle of last season and stay consistent and true to that and be patient, we think it’s a proven way to build a successful team.  Have you met with Don Maloney, the Coyotes new GM?

Tom Kurvers: We had a chance to sit down and he shares the vision that was put forth last season, and he’s been there. He has the experience with that type of change of direction with the Rangers dating back three or four years when they changed their identity from an older team to try and build from within and build a youthful hungry energetic team.  He brings experience in what we are trying to accomplish here in Phoenix.  The NHL combine took place a few weeks ago, were there any players whose stocks rose or fell after having met with you?

Tom Kurvers: Yes, there was and we expected that to happen but not dramatically.  I think that’s the value of the interview process at the combine.  It isn’t to find players, it’s to perhaps back away from players or certain kinds of players. It’s a sense of feel.  All those young men are aspiring hockey players and the reason we are all in the game is we like being around hockey and like hockey players.  There aren’t that many guys that you would just draw a line through.  Occasionally something really throws you for a loop but not very often. These are good young men.  1998 was the last time the Coyotes chose a goaltender in the first round (Patrick DesRouchers), would the Coyotes be adverse on the idea of drafting a netminder with their first pick?

Tom Kurvers: If we feel the goaltender we have is rated the highest when it’s our turn to pick, then we certainly would select a goaltender.  The list we have includes goaltenders and that’s in an overall combined list and it’s clearly a need in the organization so we pay attention to it but it has to fit at the picks that we have. What is the goal of the 2007 Draft for the Coyotes?

Tom Kurvers: We like our picks that we’ve had over the last few years, (Martin Hanzal, Peter Mueller, Chris Summers, Keith Yandle, Kevin Porter.)  We have a good stable of younger players that we are banking on for the future, we want to add more players that fit into that group. Quality players, quality people and guys that are committed to being with our team. Peter Mueller and Chris Summers (University of Michigan) were asked to participate in the National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY this summer by USA hockey, is that something the Coyotes would like Mueller to play in?

Tom Kurvers: Absolutely.  That’s a good high level hockey environment.  There’s no certainty of where he’s going be playing next year. So we want him to participate. He’d be a core player for the US team in the World Junior Championships.  We would encourage him to go and I am sure he’s looking forward to being there.
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