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The Man Who Drafts The Leafs Future

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

As it has since 2007, the responsibility for choosing the raw material the Leafs will use to build their future falls on the shoulders of Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison.'s Mike Ulmer spoke to Morrison at the NHL’s scouting combine.

Mike Ulmer: Second-round draft choices seem to be the new hot commodity in deals and in trades for rental players. Do you think the second choice, the one after the obvious pick, is the most important one in the draft?
Dave Morrison: Honestly, I have gone into drafts thinking every pick is really important but the thing about the second round is that when you finish the first round, everyone goes back to their hotel room and they look at the list and they say to themselves “holy smokes, I can’t believe that guy got through the first round.” Teams snap those players up and you have that time to operate as if it’s another first-rounder on Day Two.

Mike Ulmer: Are the 20th and 40th players closer than ever?
Dave Morrison:  I think it depends on the year but I think this year they’re close.  It’s one of those years where there is a very large group of players after the first few.

Mike Ulmer: So the fifth round isn’t as important as the first pick?
Dave Morrison: Yes it is. I think in a lot of ways, it depends on where you pick in the first round. Sometimes your first pick is your easiest pick to make. In the fifth-round, now you are really digging to find the player. That’s where you really have to do your homework and project and use all the things you have learned up to this point.

Mike Ulmer: The Red Wings drafted Henrik Zetterberg 210th in 1999 and Pavel Datsyuk 171st in 1998. Those are legendary picks. How did Detroit’s ability to draft franchise players deep in the draft change the expectations on scouting staffs?

Dave Morrison: It just shows they did an astute job but it’s the old story, the Detroit guys, who are great guys, they will tell you they picked guys ahead of them. They hoped they would be that good but they went in hoping these guys would develop. If they had known for sure they would have taken them earlier. I don’t know if it changed the landscape so much as reminded people that it’s possible. I would feel good too that we had Carl Gunnarsson and Anton Stralman who were able to turn into a pick  and Viktor Stalberg who we got in the late rounds.

Mike Ulmer: But why are the late round finds always Europeans?
Dave Morrison: In the old agreement you could draft a Euro and you had their rights forever. You could take a player who hadn’t matured and needed four or five years. You would take a chance on those guys. Sometimes these older players are taken in the later rounds or they even go through the draft once or twice. They are playing in Sweden or the Czech league and they are a little closer to being what they are going to be. It might be a little safer than if you take a 17-year-old.

Mike Ulmer: If you look at one of the subtle changes of the game, I think you see fewer guys scoring off the rush but more offence when guys spin off towards the net from the corner the way a Sidney Crosby does.

That is a commodity that is becoming more important. It is also pretty singular talent. How attuned do scouts have to be in the changes of the game to say, ‘I value that more than I did five years ago?’

Dave Morrison: You have to be. You have to pay attention to the trends, what is working, what is not working. Obviously the goaltending has improved. The defencemen have gotten bigger. Everything always improves so you have to be able to adapt and have the right kind of players to help your team win.

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