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DRAFT: Head of NHL Central Scouting Reflects on Day of Draft

NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr spoke about the importance of finding draft gems late and what it takes to scout an effective player

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

VANCOUVER, BC - Dan Marr's work is done and he'll be one of the least stressed but keenly interested observers in Vancouver this weekend. 

The head of the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau and his staff compiled their rankings and now can sit back and watch as the NHL's 31 teams go through the process of selecting the 2019 NHL Draft class.

Marr said just like anyone he will be especially interested in the first round. 

"It will be fun, it always is," he said. 

But a recurring theme in speaking with Marr is that scouting is more an art than science. During his time scouting for the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs, Marr helped take players such as Tomas Kaberle, Toby Enstrom, Zach Redmond, Derek MacKenzie and Paul Postma in the late rounds as accurately assessing abstract variables about a player that turned out good for both him and the club. 

"They all came to camp as (late picks) but they sure as heck didn't look like that when they got there," said Marr, of that group of five who have combined for almost 3,000 NHL games between them. None were taken higher than the fifth round. Kaberle was selected in the eighth round before the Draft was reduced to seven.

There are so many variables that must be factored in beyond a player's apparent ability at 18 years old. Accurate evaluation at that age is important but so is preparing prospects to become good pros once you draft them and make them members of your organization.

"You want to draft well but develop better," said Marr. "You have to prepare a player (you draft) to be prepared for that opportunity when it comes along. For a coach, that means putting the player on the ice and for the player, that means recognizing that it's his opportunity to take advantage. 

"It requires the player to be ready in all aspects to be effective."

Video: DRAFT | 1-on-1 with Dan Marr

Every season Marr's team helps conduct the annual scouting combine; an increasingly important event that helps teams get one last up-close look at prospects beyond their play on the ice. In addition to fitness testing and the like, teams conduct interviews and get to know players. To that end, the Devils conducted some 60 interviews at the most recent combine in Buffalo last month. 

Marr rhymed off the names of a few players whose stock increased by the way they conducted themselves in Buffalo. That uptick won't necessarily be reflected on the season-ending rankings but NHL clubs have taken note. 

"It gives you a different perspective," said Marr, of the combine, "you see some guys there and you know that they are likely to go higher than what you thought, and some will go lower than you originally thought."

Pre-draft chatter is always dominated by who will be selected at the top. Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko have continued that tendency this year. Beyond that, the first round offers teams the biggest opportunity to add a player that can play an important role. The decade or so that the NHL has conducted the first round on the opening Friday of Draft weekend has made for quality viewing and draft parties in team's home markets. 

The real work for teams takes place Saturday. Rounds two through seven take place then and names fly off the board fast and furious. The Devils not only pick first, they have an eye-popping nine selections slated for Saturday, assuming a trade doesn't take place. Included in that Draft bounty are six selections in the second, third and at the top of the fourth round. 

"The top three rounds are where most of the players (are selected) who make it to the NHL. That is not to say there aren't players from lower rounds. But New Jersey has an opportunity to really stock the cupboards."

Pointing out the possibilities of trades to add an NHL-ready player in exchange for one or some of those selections, Marr said that the Devils are in an enviable position. 

"They can address a need now, while addressing their needs for the future. I'm pretty sure that the Devils scouting staff is pretty happy with their General Manager right now."

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