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by Melody Huskey / Los Angeles Kings
Mark Yannetti
With the NHL Draft quickly approaching, sat down with the Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yannetti, as the Kings hockey operations department prepares for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Of the prospects at this year’s draft, who do you think is the most NHL ready?

Mark Yannetti:Well I think Victor Hedman [of the Swedish Elite League] and John Tavares [of the OHL] are both NHL ready right now.  They are pretty equal players in that respect. What is the main quality you look for first when evaluating a prospect?

Mark Yannetti:For me, I think that the hockey sense or intelligence of a player.  To me that is the most important one, that they can read the plays and see the game.  The way they sort what is happening when they don’t have the puck. Last year we took two defensemen in the first round- is there a focus this year on any one particular position?

Mark Yannetti:Obviously we would like to get some forward prospects, but at the end of the day I think you have to take the best player.  So if the best player is a defenseman, then you take a defenseman.  You never know what is going to happen; two years from now we could end up trading two of our prospect defenseman for forwards and then all of the sudden we have forwards and no defenseman.  I don’t think you can focus on position, I think you have to go with the best player.  If the best player is a goalie, then you take a goalie, if he is a defenseman then you take a defenseman and if the best player is a forward then you take a forward. You have used player tendencies as part of your scouting process- what is one tendency you look for in prospects?

Mark Yannetti:The hardest one is hockey sense, because it is not something you can teach.  It is not like you can go to school and read books, it is something that a guy is either born with or not. It very seldom gets better and at best you could try to simplify elements of a player to compensate for his lack of vision.  But at the end of the day there is no real fix for lack of hockey sense.  The best you could hope for is to simplify the game for him, so that it doesn’t become a problem. As a former college player, what is your opinion on whether guys should go to college if they have the chance after being drafted as opposed to playing in junior hockey?

Mark Yannetti:It depends on the player.  I think there are some players for whom it works, like Jack Johnson who went to college and it worked out pretty well for him.  He didn’t stay the full time- when he was ready he came out and played.  Some guys stay longer, some guys come out of the first year but it is really a matter of the individual player’s needs.  Some players stay a little bit too long sometimes and others do come out too early, but there is no blueprint or blanket statement that you can give on that.  College is one avenue for a player to take to develop themselves and junior hockey is another, but one is not innately better than the other.  Some kids are so immature physically that they might need three years to develop, so in that case they might be better off in college.  Other kids who are ahead of the game might be better off in juniors, or if they can go right to the AHL that is good too.  But I think that second scenario is more rare, because I think they do need time before going pro, whether that is in college hockey or junior hockey.

Mark Yannetti is in his third season with the Kings and second as Co-Director of Amateur Scouting. During the 2006-07 season, he served as a Pro Scout for the Kings before being named to his current position on June 5, 2007.

Prior to coming to Los Angeles, the native of Boxford, Massachusetts, served as an Amateur Scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In that role, he monitored prospects in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) as well as Hockey East (HE), the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC), the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), the United States Hockey League (USHL) and the U.S. National Development Team (USNTDP). The former defenseman also monitored U.S. High Schools and Tier 2 Hockey and, to a lesser degree, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

Yannetti worked as an Amateur Scout with the Maple Leafs starting in 2004. Before that he worked as a Pro Scout for the franchise from 2000-04, focusing his attention on both the NHL and the American Hockey League (AHL). In that role, Yannetti was primarily responsible for the Eastern Conference in both leagues while also having responsibilities in the Western Conference and the ECHL.

Yannetti worked as an Advance Scout for the Stanley Cup Playoffs from 1999-04, where he was solely responsible for the pre-scouting of potential Toronto playoff opponents. His scouting included systems breakdown and analysis, and assessment of player tendencies. In addition, he also assisted the Toronto coaching staff in the development of strategies to exploit opposing player and team weaknesses.

Yannetti became a Scout after six seasons of professional hockey, and he turned pro after earning Second Team All-America honors from the American Hockey Coaches Association following a standout senior season at Williams College in 1993-94. Yannetti played three seasons with the Ephs after beginning his collegiate career at Brown University in 1990-91.

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