- Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins is in Toronto this week for the NHL Scouting Combine and has sat in on several interviews with the top prospects.
“It’s been interesting to sit in on them,” Eakins told the Oilers TV Panel on Friday. “A lot of these young men are very impressive, especially the guys that are up at the top of the ratings. The guys that are rated high, their interviews have been excellent, they all look like fine young men and I’m sure that their character in the interviews is translating onto the ice.”
There aren’t many head coaches involved in the process, in fact Eakins says, “I seem to run into everybody here and I haven’t run into very many head coaches.”
Eakins compliments Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish
for valuing his opinion and wanting him involved with the process. The two share the same vision for the direction of the organization.
“I think we’re all on the same page. I think that we’re led by Craig. Craig and I have a great vision for our organization going forward and our scouts are a huge part of that. They know exactly what we’re looking for and we trust these guys with their evaluations.”
As for just what the Oilers are looking for, Eakins was blunt in his description saying, “we’re looking for everything.”
The head coach mentioned the team having holes in the lineup and possibly looking to add a centre, a big winger and a defenceman this off-season.
“That’s where you really have to, at least for me, really trust our scouts and I firmly trust Craig to make the right decision where we’re picking,” he said.
Eakins is involved with the player interviews at the Combine as kind of a fresh voice. The scouting department has watched these prospects play over and over again. The point of the interviews is to get to know the player as a person and draw conclusions from that, adding it to the already gathered information. Not having scouted the prospects, Eakins goes into the interviews with a clean slate.
“I love the way our room has been set up. I’ve never seen any of them play and it’s great because sometimes your view of the interview, if you’ve seen them play, goes back to what kind of player they are. I’m able to sit there and solely base my thoughts on their interview. If I thought the kid was honest, if he’s coming across like he has good character, for me it has nothing to do with how they play in these interview and I think that’s important to have somebody in there to really evaluate the interview.”
Body language is one thing that Eakins has been focused in on in the interview room.
“I end up looking a lot at their body language and seeing if they’re reeling from a question, if I think they’re giving me the truth on a question. I like to ask them if they believe they’re drivers in the game, if they’re driving the bus. There’s a lot of good players in the NHL who aren’t drivers. They’re excellent players but we need drivers on the team.
“The other thing I like to ask them about is the media scrutiny. It’s one thing to be drafted to a U.S. team, it’s another one to play in a Canadian market. I think it’s quite easy to sit there and say you’ll be fine with it but for me it’s a number of questions but I’m looking at their body language with their answers lots of times.”
With the third overall pick in the NHL Draft, the Oilers are predicted in the media and public to take any one of the so-called ‘Fantastic Four.’ That list includes centres Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl, as well as defenceman Aaron Ekblad. However, Eakins says it is very possible for players on the outside of those four to earn serious consideration.
“There are all kinds of things that are possible at the draft and that’s the thing, I think you as an organization that you go into the draft with a certain plan,” Eakins said. “And sometimes the plans change depending on who is picked ahead, maybe a team has approached you for a trade, maybe the guy that you like is still there and another team wants to pop up to grab somebody.
“There’s so many scenarios that happen on that draft floor and leading up to the draft. I do know that the phones, the activity around the league has picked up. Not only on the trade front but on the pick front and it will really ramp up going into that week of the draft and that’s the exciting thing about the draft and that’s why they pay Craig the big bucks is to field all those phone calls and I’m certainly glad I’m not doing that.”