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by Melody Huskey / Los Angeles Kings
Michael Futa
With the NHL Draft quickly approaching, sat down with the Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting Mike Futa, 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?

Michael Futa: Victor Hedman and John Tavares, probably. I think that they are physically more mature than the rest of the group and more battle-tested at higher levels. Hedman is already playing against men and playing his best hockey in the Swedish Elite League and John has played junior hockey for long enough that he is ready for his next challenge. At the World Junior’s last year I think we saw that they were physically ready for competing in the NHL. What is the main quality you look for first when evaluating a prospect?

Michael Futa: The two most important things are hockey sense and compete level and you can put different rankings on both of them. I tend to err on the side of compete, because even if they have got talent and ability and can see the game, you still see players that take the extra stride to out-compete their opponents. What are the biggest differences between the European players and North American players in this year’s draft class?

Michael Futa: I think sometimes in the past the top Europeans defined themselves by playing their best hockey at international levels, whereas the kids this year define themselves by playing their best hockey within their own league. In the past, there were almost “coming out parties” at the World Under 17 or Fargo Under 18, but this year the international players were at the top of their game in their own league. Some of the greatest Kings were drafted in late rounds – is there any way to tell when a guy is not yet at the top of his game?

Michael Futa: Whether you pick a guy with the second pick or in the second round, you feel that he has gone defining characteristics that make him a pro. Some, whether they are not physically developed for the next level or whether they have not begun to test themselves in the gym or anything along those lines, you have to look at both what they are going to be as well as what they are currently. The more NHL-ready qualities that they have, whether it be their level of compete or that they are natural goal-scorers, if they have some of those and you are able to get them in later rounds it is good. As long as what they need are teachable qualities and qualities that can develop in them, that is what separates the late round picks. Lack of polish and ability mean that it is really important to get kids that can compete because lazy kids, kids that can’t see the game are probably not going to work out. Of the North American junior leagues, more players were drafted from the OHL than the others in the last few years. Why do you think that is?

Michael Futa: Because I live in Ontario and I am a homer. No, I think it is just a hockey hotbed and has a lot to do with numbers. Personally I think that the CHL is a tremendous development league and in particular Ontario has done a really good job shooting for excellence. The quality of coaching is tremendous, although that is getting better across the board. Again, I think it is numbers, availability of rinks and Ontario seems to be the most close to being professional of the junior leagues. These kids are being refined very early on, whether it be through media training or nutrition, all of that. I think that gives the kids a little bit of a head start from the other leagues.

Michael Futa is in his second full season with the Kings as Co-Director of Amateur Scouting. He was named to his current position on June 5, 2007.

Futa came to the Kings after five successful seasons as General Manager of the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he was named OHL Executive of the Year in 2005. The Attack advanced to the post-season in all five seasons with Futa at the helm, and high profile players like Kings prospects Trevor Lewis (17th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft) and Wayne Simmonds (second round, 61st overall, 2007 NHL Entry Draft) played for Owen Sound during Futa’s tenure there. Futa has also served as Director of Team Ontario’s Under-17 program for three seasons, and his Under-17 team won the gold medal at the Canada Games in 2007. Prior to his time with the Attack, Futa served as both an Assistant Coach and Assistant General Manager with the Oshawa Generals (OHL) for two seasons (1999-01). The native of Toronto also served first as an Assistant Coach and then as a Head Coach of Toronto St. Michael’s Majors (OHL) from 1997-00. Prior to that, he served as Head Coach and General Manager of the St. Michael’s Buzzers (Provincial Junior “A”).

Before turning to the coaching ranks, Futa played four seasons of professional hockey in Europe (two seasons in Germany and two seasons in Denmark). The former left wing also captained his team at York University, where he was also honored as the student who best combined academics and athletics at the school during his senior season. Michael lives in Bowmanville, Ontario. He and his wife, Charlotte, have three daughters: Hunter and identical twins Carmen and Devon.

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