BUFFALO, NY - Throughout the winter months, NHL scouts jump between junior rinks, living out of suitcases and compiling information leading up to this month.
The NHL Scouting Combine is a big opportunity for the scouts to show their work to the club's brass and see it come to fruition ahead of the NHL Draft. These players, attending the combine, are the ones who have been scouted thoroughly.
This week, each team takes the opportunity to sit down with the athletes, confirm the scouting intel, or even gather more information before eventually seeing the names be whisked off the draft board later this month.
Ahead of this week, more than 200 games were scouted by the Oilers staff, initial interviews with the athletes and their coaches were performed, and information on the players has been gathered.
"Everything (the scouts have) done, it's a culmination at this point," said Oilers Director of Player Personnel Bob Green. "It makes the interviews go a lot easier when you've got information in front of you can talk to the kid about and call him on. You've got to make sure you appreciate those guys throughout the winter."
Video: COMBINE | Bob Green
With the scouting complete, the Oilers are taking full advantage of the opportunity this week presents. They have interviewed more than 80 draft-eligible prospects ahead of Saturday's fitness testing.
"You watch them play hockey for seven months, and then this gives you a chance to sit down with them face to face and get to know them a little bit better and fire a few questions at them. It's been a lot of fun," said Green.
When the Oilers sit down with the prospects they're looking to either confirm the information already gathered, or dive deeper into some questions they have for them - hockey or personal related. It can take a little time to see through the rehearsed answers provided to the prospects by their representation, but Green feels the players are mostly honest and genuine.
"At the beginning, you try to get a feel for the kid and to see what he's all about," said Green. "It kind of goes from there. You get a feel if you kind of what to go after him a little bit on some of the things he says.
"We've already had our area guys talk to these scouts at some point during the season so we've got that in front of us. We'll look at previous interviews we've had with the kid and build questioning around that. The kids are well-prepared but the kids, for the most part, are pretty genuine. I think, probably at the end of the week, because they've said the same thing so many times, it probably sounds more rehearsed than what it really is just out of pure repetition."
With the interviews done, what's next for the Oilers staff is the fitness testing here in Buffalo, which helps answer questions about stamina, fitness and compete level, and even whether the athlete is prone to injury.
Then comes the final tweaks to the draft board ahead of June 23-24, when the draft is hosted in Chicago. By the time the Oilers take off for the Windy City, the board should be set and the Oil's staff will be ready for whatever may come down the pipe.