By Adam Brady
|Madden is in his fourth season as the Ducks Director of Amateur Scouting.
In the days leading up to Friday and Saturday’s NHL Draft, the importance of Martin Madden’s job with the Ducks is more intense than ever. Madden is in his fourth year as Anaheim’s Director of Amateur Scouting, a role that has him evaluating players in North America and Europe throughout the year and working with the Ducks’ other scouts in producing a prospects list in preparation for the Draft.
Just before heading to Pittsburgh for a Draft in which the Ducks hold the sixth overall pick, Madden spoke about what goes into the preparation as well as the organization’s philosophy when it comes to selecting prospects.
What is the process for you and your scouts leading up to the Draft?
The last major scouting assignments are CHL playoffs and the World Under-18 Championships. Half of us went to Europe to cover the Under-18s in mid-April and the rest stayed back and covered the USHL and CHL playoffs. Then we take the three weeks before we have our meetings at the end of May in Toronto and our scouts work on their lists. They talk to coaches, talk to the players, do their research, follow up on any info they got during the year and prepare their regional lists and overall lists for our meetings that we have during the [NHL Scouting] Combine week.
Then we go to the Combine to meet with the players. We get results from the physical tests and then we’re back in meetings and finishing up our lists. After that I send follow-up questions to everybody and we narrow it down to a number of players per round that we’d like to get and think we have a chance to get. We’ll address some of the changes that have occurred after that follow-up once we’re in Pittsburgh, but the main portion of the work – I’d say 98 percent – has been done and there are just a few little adjustments done once we get together Thursday morning at the draft site.
You see these prospects play and get a good idea of their skills, but how much stock do you put into their character when you’re interviewing them?
Our scouts spend more time with the players, and do research on their backgrounds, so they get a better idea during that time than we do when we do interviews during the Combine. We do put a lot of stock in the person as well as the player, but 15-minute interviews at the Combine are just a way to put a face to the player and get a sense of his personality. Much of the work on learning the kid’s character is done before that.
|"If we were in that position, we would have picked him much earlier than that and would have been really happy doing it," said Madden (second from right) of drafting Fowler in 2010. "We were getting anxious just a few picks earlier, thinking he wouldn’t drop to us. It was all smiles when Cam dropped to 12. We were thrilled." |
The people who are closest to them during the season – the coaches, the support staff of the team – are the best guidelines to get a true sense of the kid’s character. When it comes down to it, we’re still judging hockey players. If most bosses had a chance to watch employees work 10 to 15 times during the year before deciding who they are going to choose for a certain position, I think they would go that route over just doing an hour interview with candidates. That’s what we’re able to do during the season, watch kids play hockey and see their strengths and flaws skill-wise, as well as character-wise.
What is your feeling when it comes to the crop of players in this year’s Draft?
There are a lot of good defensemen and centers in this year’s Draft, and I’d say the first 20 guys make for a really good first round. Beyond that, it’s probably not quite as strong as the last three drafts from our perspective. Others might disagree. But when we project what might be there in the third round, I don’t think we’re projecting the same as we have in the recent past. The good players are more consensus in that respect, and the chance that a guy we absolutely love drops to the third round is not as high this year as it was in the last three years, for sure.
What is the organizational focus on when the Ducks’ pick comes up? Is it based on need position-wise, or is it a matter of taking the best talent available?
We’re going to take the best player. It doesn’t mean our organizational depth doesn’t affect our pick, especially when we judge the talent level to be the same between a few prospects. But as a general rule, we try to maximize the value of the pick, whether it means picking at that spot, trading up or trading down or adding more picks by dealing that pick. The philosophy is trying to maximize the value of that particular pick any way we can.
A great example of maximizing that value came in 2010, when the Ducks took Cam Fowler at 12th overall, below where many projected him to be selected.
In that particular situation, he was a consensus player for us as a staff. If we were in that position, we would have picked him much earlier than that and would have been really happy doing it. We were getting anxious just a few picks earlier, thinking he wouldn’t drop to us. There were one or two other guys we valued highly in that draft as well, but it was all smiles when Cam dropped to 12. We were thrilled.
|"The most exhausting is the week of meetings in May when you look at every possible scenario and you try to weigh everybody’s opinion and make a sensible list that addresses everybody’s concerns and everybody’s passions. Once that week is past, it’s a lot easier." |
In the days leading up to the Draft, the average fan probably imagines a conference room filled with giant piles of takeout and soda. Is that pretty accurate?
[Laughs] That happens during the meetings in May. Before the Draft, guys are a little more calm. It’s like the quiet before the storm. There is not real nervousness, but I’ve found anything that needs to be said has been said this morning, at least with this group. Now we’re just waiting for our pick to come.
Take a look back at the pre-draft meeting in 2010 in which Ducks scouts expressed their fondness for Fowler
What is more exhausting and hectic, the days leading up to the Draft or the Draft itself?
The most exhausting is the week of meetings in May when you look at every possible scenario and you try to weigh everybody’s opinion and make a sensible list that addresses everybody’s concerns and everybody’s passions. Once that week is past, it’s a lot easier. When we’re at the table on the Draft floor, we’re focused not only on our list but also what other teams are doing. We’re deciding whether we want to trade up or down, whether we might want to trade for additional picks.
I would say the four or five picks before our pick when we’re in the middle of a round is the most nerve-wracking. We’ve gone through many different scenarios of what can happen and we get a good sense of who will be there when we pick, but it’s still nerve-wracking when there is one guy who you don’t think is going to be there and he drops a little, and you hope he slips all the way down to our pick. That’s the most anxious part of the draft for me.
Any fan who has done a fantasy hockey draft or football draft can relate to that.
[Laughs] I guess so. At least with the fantasy draft, you can see how well you did the following season. You know what you’re getting right away.
The Ducks have the sixth pick this year. Is it easier to draft that high in the first round, or lower in the round?
It’s easier in that we can better project who might be there for us, but the stakes are that much higher because the pick is higher profile. The player who will be taken there will have more pressure to prove his draft status. That comes with the territory if you’re going to get drafted high. You have pressure to make it and pressure to make it sooner. I don’t think that’s the way we look at it as an organization, but in speaking with kids over the years, many look at it that way.
What is the most gratifying thing for you in your job, seeing someone you’ve drafted succeed at the NHL level?
Absolutely. That’s what we’re on the road for throughout the season, to make the team better. Since we’re talking about 18-year-olds, they’re all mid-term projects. To see the kids continue to improve the way we projected they would, to see them grow as people and go through the different roadblocks on the way to their dreams and goals, that’s our reward.