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Flames, with 3 top picks, see depth at Combine

by Mike G. Morreale
TORONTO -- John Weisbrod, the assistant general manager of player personnel for the Calgary Flames, has a good feeling about the 2013 NHL Draft.

Weisbrod should know. Prior to joining the Flames in 2011-12, the native of Syosset, N.Y., was director of pro and collegiate scouting for the Boston Bruins for five seasons. He's privy to what it takes to build a Stanley Cup champion because he helped do it with the Bruins in 2011.

Flames know importance of 2013 Draft

TORONTO -- Calgary Flames assistant general manager of player personnel John Weisbrod never has put a lot of stock in the physical testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine.

What intrigues him most is having an opportunity to sit down and speak with the top draft-eligible prospects during the interviewing phase of the six-day event.

"I don't know if it's a scientific process, but we obviously just try and ask questions … some easy and some challenging," Weisbrod told "Hopefully, we can unearth a little bit of what makes this kid tick and what he's all about. We want to know about his character and his sincerity."

Weisbrod knows that despite their age, a majority of the blue-chip prospects attending the Combine have been well-schooled on how to respond to particular questions. Weisbrod's job, then, is to somehow break through that façade.

"You want to try and get to the more natural essence of the kid," he said. "Personally, I find that very useful and valuable. It's one thing to watch a guy on the ice and see what he does when he plays, but you can also add another layer to that when you look into someone's eyes while sitting across the table from him and get to know him, even if it's just for 20 minutes or a half-hour."

Prior to joining the Flames in 2011-12, Weisbrod spent five seasons with the Boston Bruins as director of pro and collegiate scouting. In 2005-06, he was a pro scout in the New England region for the Dallas Stars. It hasn't surprised him to see more and more young players entering the NHL and having an immediate impact.

"The physical and mental preparation and the seriousness and standards of the junior leagues and colleges have been great in preparing these kids," Weisbrod said. "Guys turning pro aren't nearly as raw or unfinished as they were in years past … at least the high-end guys.

"I think it really started when [Jeff] Skinner jumped into the NHL lineup (with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010-11). I think that opened some people's eyes to the fact that at least, for the high-end players, it is possible. That wasn't always the case, so that makes things even more interesting come draft day now."

-- Mike G. Morreale
He knows having three first-round picks in this year's draft offers a tremendous opportunity for the Flames to continue laying the foundation for a potential perennial contender. The Flames have their pick, No. 6 in the draft, as well as first-round picks from the St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins in trades involving Jay Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla, respectively.

"I think the upper parts of this draft are really strong," Weisbrod told "It's tough to compare [drafts] year to year, but some are deeper than others in terms of some really good players available in the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds -- I would sort of describe this year's draft as similar to that.

"I think it's a really strong draft all the way into the third round. So from our standpoint, it makes me excited about having three picks in the first round because there are a lot of high-potential players in this pool."

He's also excited about the number of the prospects already in the Calgary system, including forward Sven Baertschi and defenseman Christopher Breen, each of whom are on the cusp of earning NHL roster spots out of training camp next season. Weisbrod is optimistic that forwards Kenny Agostino, John Gaudreau, Markus Granlund and Mark Jankowski, defensemen Patrick Sieloff, John Ramage and Tyler Wotherspoon, and goalie Jon Gillies will continue to develop, mature and gain valuable experience prior to turning professional.

Weisbrod said he believes the strength of this year's draft might be at forward.

"You obviously have the premier players at every position," Weisbrod said. "Seth Jones is a horse on the back end, and as far as goaltending goes, Zach Fucale is really strong. But I believe the strongest position is probably up front, particularly down the middle, with some really good centers all throughout the top of the draft.

"I don't think about it too much from a positional standpoint though, but just from an aptitude and talent standpoint. I think it's pretty well spread out."

Flames general manager Jay Feaster might be open to any draft-day scenario, which includes possibly trading his first-round choices for additional assets.

"But we like the way things sit right now," Weisbrod said. "We like the idea of picking three times, but we've got a lot of things to address with our team.

"We're in a little bit of a retooling mode after some of the trades that got us picks, and we have holes in the lineup, so there's going to be a lot of constructive discussion between now and the draft about potential trades for actual players or moving picks around. I think it's certainly a possibility for us that our draft number and picks might not look the same on the day of the draft as they do today, but those are things we'll dig in on between now and then."

Unlike most drafts, the teams at the top in 2013 may have the luxury of filling a need instead of selecting the best available player. Weisbrod said he feels that all depends on the draft philosophy of a particular organization.

"I try and look at things more big picture rather than immediate need, but certainly when you get later in the first round and then to the other rounds at the very top, I guess you're more justified in drafting for need because you have four or five guys that could conceivably jump in and play right away," he said. "Then it's sort of a tie-goes-to-the-runner mentality. All things considered equal, you might as well draft at a position in which you have need."

Weisbrod is quick to point out that thinking might come back to haunt a franchise for years.

"Once you get to the later rounds, drafting out of need becomes dangerous because you're talking about longer-term development projects and the immediate needs of your team from what the needs are going to be in two to three years," Weisbrod said.


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