GLENDALE – Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney was impressed by how this year’s NHL Combine in Toronto was staged and by how most of the young prospects handled themselves during the interview process and physical testing.
“I thought it was the best year yet,” Maloney said. “It was very well run. The room where they did the physical testing was expanded so there was plenty of room for all of the staff and scouts and media to observe, and they changed some tests so that they were more relevant to hockey players.”
Now it’s time for Maloney and the team’s Hockey Operations staff to digest and process all the data gathered – from within the interview rooms and on the physical testing floor - and use it in the final preparations for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft looming on June 27-28 in Philadelphia. The Coyotes have eight picks in the draft, including the 12th overall and three of the first 58.
Maloney and his staff interviewed more than 70 of the 119 draft prospects who attended last week’s Combine. The interviews were scattered over a five-day period and each one lasted between 10 and 20 minutes.
Much like the public physical testing, the closed-door interviews are an important piece of the puzzle when evaluating a prospect.
“I’m not a psychologist by any means, but after doing this for a long time you can tell who is sincere and who has been well schooled,” Maloney said. “…I was impressed. These young players today can walk into a room with six or eight strangers and converse with them for 20 minutes as if there’s nothing to it and walk out as if they were the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There were very few players this year who didn’t have it down pat.”
Meanwhile, Maloney said it’s likely he will hire the team’s next assistant general manager before the draft. Should the hire be delayed beyond the draft, Maloney said that would not be problematic. He noted that former assistant general manager Brad Treliving was hired in July of 2007, about a month after that year’s draft.
“Everything that needs to be taken care of regarding this draft is being taken care of,” Maloney said. “We have a staff in place and I feel very good about the work they’ve put in. It’s not an area I’m concerned about at all. The draft is the least of my concerns. I like where we’re at.”
With less than a month to go before the start of the free-agent signing period, Maloney said things are pretty quiet for now.
“I’ve touched base with most of the agents to get a sense of where they’re at,” Maloney said. “But I have a meeting with our ownership at the end of this week that’s going to give me a better idea about what our budget is going to look like for next year, and at that point then we’ll see how many, if any, will be returning prior to July 1."
The following players are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1:
Paul Bissonnette, Thomas Greiss, Jeff Halpern, Tim Kennedy, Andy Miele, Derek Morris, David Moss, Radim Vrbata and Brandon Yip.
The following players are set to become restricted free agents on July 1:
Mathieu Brodeur, Brandon McMillan, Jordan Szwarz, Justin Weller and Ethan Werek.
Maloney would much prefer being a participant in the upcoming Stanley Cup Final rather than an observer, but he’ll be watching the matchup between Los Angeles and New York closely and with a logical rooting interest.
“I really hope the Rangers can win it,” Maloney said. “Obviously (Rangers President/GM) Glen Sather is a good friend and he’s taken some lumps along the way so I’d love for him to win a Cup in New York. That would be awesome.”
Maloney, of course, spent 10 years as a member of the Rangers’ front office before joining the Coyotes in 2007, and he played for the Rangers for 11 seasons.
“A lot of the players have come and gone but I know all the staff and the training staff and the scouting staff,” Maloney said. “I hope they do well.”
He added, “Beating LA will be tough. They don’t have any holes. They have a superstar on the blue line with Drew Doughty and they have great depth everywhere else and great coaching. But when you start looking closely at what the Rangers have done and how they’re playing right now, it’s pretty impressive. I wouldn’t write them off.”