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Coyotes Sought ‘Cultural Enhancers’ at Combine

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE -- The Coyotes interviewed nearly 90 draft prospects over five days last week as part of the annual NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo.

John Chayka. Photo by Norm Hall.

General Manager John Chayka, Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt and Matt Brown, a sports psychologist the team hired for this event, were among those questioning the prospects during their 15-minute interviews.

In general, Chayka said the prospects impressed him by how polished they were in the interview setting and by how dedicated they are to making it to the NHL.

Each player was asked standard questions during his Q & A session, but each interview also was personalized to an extent. Chayka said the interview helps determine if the player will fit within the culture of the Coyotes.

“What we’re looking for is cultural enhancers,” Chayka said. “We have cultural values for our group that we want to continue to grow and cultivate. We want guys that can come in and help drive that culture. That doesn’t mean that we’re looking for all the same people because we all know that wouldn’t work. It’s about finding a good diversity, but within that diversity having some key pillars of our culture. That was our approach.”

The NHL invited 114 players to the 2016 NHL Scouting Combine. At the end of the week the players underwent physical testing in areas such as agility, upper-body strength, hand-grip strength and aerobic fitness.

Auston Matthews at the NHL Scouting Combine.

“The physical testing is just another piece to the puzzle,” Chayka said. “I’d be lying if I said it’s a key component to our decision making process, but it’s a nice supplemental data point on where that player is to date.”

The NHL Draft is June 24-25 in Buffalo. The Coyotes are slated to make eight picks. Only eight teams are positioned to make more.

Arizona received its eighth selection, a supplemental pick at No. 53 overall, on June 1 when the team opted not to sign junior hockey center Conner Bleackley, whose rights came to the Coyotes as part of the trade that sent forward Mikkel Boedker to the Colorado Avalanche late last season.

“Conner had an excellent Memorial Cup and was a good player for Red Deer and that is not lost on us, but we just have to maximize our assets and that’s the decision that we made,” Chayka said.

With only two and a half weeks before the Draft, the Coyotes will continue to prepare. While the player evaluations are complete, and the team’s draft list is in good shape, the draft, of course, is a fluid environment and the team must be ready for possible trade scenarios.

NOTE: Coyotes fans are invited to watch the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft with other fans at Gila River Arena on June 24. Click HERE for more info.

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