BUFFALO - All year long, the Flames scouting staff has been studying.

Putting in the prep work for this week’s NHL Combine, and the promise that lies ahead at the NHL Draft in Las Vegas at the end of the month.

Calgary has been one of the busier teams this week at KeyBank Center, interviewing many of the 100 prospects invited here for the Combine, and for good reason.

With eight picks in the first four rounds of the Draft, there’s a chance that close to 10% of the players invited here could be pulling on a Flames sweater at the Sphere June 28-29.

For Director of Amateur Scouting Tod Button, the week is a chance to get everyone together for some final preparations, some final conversations with an eye on making the best pick possible when Calgary gets put on the clock.

“This is a big Draft for us,” Button said Wednesday, less than a month out from a first round that sees the Flames hold picks No. 9 and No. 28. “It’s a busy week because we have eight picks in the first four rounds, so the bulk of those players are here for us to get our final interview in.

“It’s exciting for us to talk to these kids and see them face-to-face, this is our third or fourth interview with most of these kids but not as a group like we’re doing now.”

The interviews are short - 20 minutes per session - but for Button and his staff, it’s an opportunity to sit down face-to-face with possible future Flames.

It’s also the culmination of a long winter’s worth of work by his area scouts - crucial work, too.

Because this week isn’t about having a slew of ‘nice to meet yous,’ it’s all about catching up, and continuing to learn.

“We start with the area scouts, they interview the players, then we go to some FaceTime interviews and then we get the process here, when you get to see the kids post-season, when they’re not as stressed about a game the next night,” Button said when asked of the season-long feeling-out process. “You try to make them comfortable and get a feel for the person, get their views on how they are as a player, and you only have 20 minutes with each kid so you have to do your homework before. The most important thing is making the kid comfortable and trying to get a true feel for his personality.”

But in this setting, Button is cognizant that time is of the essence - and that all the groundwork leading up to this week’s busy schedule helps shape the scope of the conversations his group holds with the NHL prospects.

“When you only have 20 minutes, you have to go in with pointed questions, questions that you want to make sure you get to because you can’t get to know the kid now, it’s too late,” he said. “You can see (the player’s) personality more, after the season’s over, but mostly it’s the area guys doing the homework and then us delving into the individual points.”

And as players come and go, walking laps around the suite level at KeyBank Center while chatting amongst themselves about how Meeting A went with Team B, more often than not, the door to suite 32 - occupied by the Flames - is closed.

“I’ve been here before where we’ve done 30 interviews and you don’t have as many picks,” Button said with a smile. “Here, we’ve got five full days, and I’d much rather be busy like this than not have guys to interview.”

"It’s exciting for us to talk to these kids"

After those five days comes the physical testing, which Button says is not all about what any given prospect can do now, but also about where they could potentially get to in four- or five-years’ time.

“I watch the NFL Combine, but those kids are 22, 23 years old for the most part, they’re at their peak physically for the most part,” he said. “These kids are 17 years old, we’re not looking to make final judgments here. For us, it’s the beginning for them, it’s ‘OK, this is where a kid is at right now physically, this is where he has to get to, to get to the NHL.’

“There’s a lot of parts (to) that, there’s kids that are more physically developed, you have kids that are born in ’05, an October birthday versus kids that are born in August (of 2006). You want to see the room for growth, but you also want to know how much they’ve trained. Under-developed kids who haven’t trained a lot, you can say ‘Hey, they’ve got a lot of room for growth.’ That’s a positive for us, it’s not a negative.

“Sometimes the kids think that’s a negative but it’s not, this kid has a lot of room for growth where if you see a guy who’s more mature physically, he doesn’t have a lot of room to grow, that all weighs into the overall evaluation.”

Most of that physical testing takes place Saturday, one final challenge for the prospects to close out the week.

But Button, General Manager Craig Conroy and the rest of the Flames hockey operations staff won’t be closing the book on their Draft prep just yet - not with the big event just a few weeks away.

The group is set to hold a few more final interviews - with players Button figures could land in the first round - before making the trip to the Desert for the NHL Draft.

“We’ll keep going, we’ll watch a lot of video, and then Conny, (President of Hockey Operations) Don Maloney, (Senior VP of Hockey Operations and Assistant General Manager) Dave Nonis, we’ve got a few more individual interviews to do and we’ll travel around a little bit to do that.

“I know the Draft’s going to be on us in like two weeks. It’s coming quick, but it’s exciting.”