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Scouting Combine offers a chance for Treliving, Button and Flames to meet with 74 prospects and narrow draft list

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

BUFFALO - It's the culmination of a year's work.

Or years' work, in some cases.

The interview portion of the 2019 NHL Scouting Combine came to a close Friday and for General Manager Brad Treliving and the Flames, they're leaving Buffalo with a clearer sense of their draft-day plan.

"We're putting the finishing touches on the scouting year," Treliving said shortly after the final meeting wrapped up at the KeyBank Center, home of the Sabres. "You get some time (roughly 20 minutes with each other) in the interview process, and then there are some that we spend some time on, individually, away from the arena, in the evening.

"It's always good to get to dive into their personality, spend some time with them, put a face to name and try to tie everything together, so it's been a productive week.


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Treliving, Director of Amateur Scouting Tod Button and the Flames initiated the process on Monday, interviewing 74 of the 103 prospects on hand, naturally omitting some of the top selections like Jack Hughes and Bowen Byram, due to a later appearance in the draft order.

(Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko - the projected second-overall pick - is not in attendance this week, choosing to stay home and celebrate the gold medal he won less than a week ago at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.)

Each team was given a 20- or 40-minute window to speak with each player, formally, upon request.

Matt Brown - the Flames' Mental Performance Coach - took charge of the questioning, focusing more on the player's personal life than his on-ice performance.

And above all, comfort was key. The Flames had no interest in lobbing any hardballs or off-the-wall-type queries that have, traditionally, made waves at this event.

"It's a job interview for them, right?" Button said. "You want them to feel at ease and you don't want them to feel nervous. The testing, you've got all these eyes and cameras on you, so they're naturally going to be nervous.

"But for us, the one thing I try to convey to agents and players and parents, is that this is a starting point for them. This isn't the end of their journey - this is the beginning. So, how they test, it's significant, but it's insignificant in terms of the overall evaluation.

"If you test poorly, you know you've got a lot of room to grow and you've got a lot of work to do, but you can be specific as to what that work is now going forward.

"That's what we use it for."


Video: "It opens up a wider range of players"


The Flames currently have five picks in this year's draft, including the 26th overall selection and four others in Rounds 3, 4, 5 and 7, making this year's task a unique one.

The wider swath of talent to keep tabs on makes the draft possibilities both endless and intriguing, but it also opens up all kinds of opportunity to potentially trade up (or down), if the conditions turn favourable.

"At 26, it does open up possibilities, so your depth of knowledge needs to be a little bit greater," Treliving offered. "It makes things interesting and opens up some options for us.

"Part of the week here is also the conversations you're having with other teams. Everyone's here, so you're always spending time with other teams, getting a sense of where they're at and what they want to do in a move-up or move-down scenario.

"You take that information back and we'll spend the next three weeks until we get to Vancouver to sort through the discussions we've had and the information we've garnered, and have a plan going into the draft."


Video: "This isn't the end of their journey."


Should the Flames - who haven't picked in the first round since 2017 when Juuso Valimaki was taken 16th overall - keep their top bullet, they're confident they'll get a player that will be a difference-maker in the organization for years to come.

Button is the team's top talent evaluator and has decades of experience mining much of the roster that won the Pacific this year. While he doesn't anticipate a tonne of "movement" to happen as a result of the Combine, the opportunity to get an up-close look at the draft class has him excited for what's to come.

"We've done the homework," he said. "We're still only 95% done, but there's still lots of video to go through and then we'll go back and finish our list at the draft."

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