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MacGregor, Tambellini stress importance of Combine

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
"It's like a job interview," remarked Oilers Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor.

With the 2011 Scouting Combine underway in Toronto, all 30 NHL clubs are on location to hold another round of spring meetings, in addition to having the formal opportunity to speak with dozens of willing, eager-to-impress prospects.

Edmonton's executive representation is strong, but MacGregor and General Manager Steve Tambellini are both leading the way as prospects continue to knock on the team's hotel room door. As Tambellini explains, the opportunity to speak with them all provides a unique chance to learn more about these players as people.

"This is where you get a chance to actually meet some of the people that you've been watching throughout the year. As a manager, you never really get to see them and talk to them until this point. It's a real nice way to learn about their personality and just a little bit more in-depth of what they do away from the game.

"There are so many different areas that are interesting about the make-up of a player that gets to this level."

MacGregor adds that the opportunity (and responsibility) goes both ways.

"It's important for the players themselves, in allowing teams to get to know them," he said. "From our own perspective, we'll focus in on the higher-end players or players we suspect will go in the higher end. It's another meeting and another opportunity to gather information."

With 30 clubs and over 100 prospects making the trip to this annual event, MacGregor fully embraces the opportunity but admits it can be a hectic few days. That's also a two-way street, with the prospects nervously awaiting their turn in the hotel hallway, cracking their knuckles and pacing about.

"It's pretty much bang-bang-bang with very little down time in between. It's intense for us and very difficult for the players, with the pressure they feel and nervous energy they have."

"They're on a pretty strict schedule," Tambellini added. "Not only do you have 35 people, but [the prospects] also have a list of 25 teams that they have to speak to.

"You can see sometimes as the day wears on, there's some fatigue in answering some of the questions that are, by that point, maybe a little redundant to them. You can see the intensity in these young guys. Once you pass the superficial type of questioning, then you can really get a sense about what these kids are about."

Edmonton's game plan is to key on 70-80 players, with a select few getting the opportunity to return to the Oilers' command room for a follow-up interview later on. Even so, Tambellini agrees that on-ice performance is most essential to the prospect process.

"Your actual on-ice assessment can be swayed a little from an interview, but not too much. The background checks are extensive. But it's impressive when you see a young guy come in here with confidence and his ability to articulate what he's all about and what's important to him."

In recent years, the Oilers have been able to acquire top-end talent with rookie superstars Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle stealing the show this past season. But with room to grow and positions to climb in the NHL's Western Conference standings, the process continues with increased importance being placed on the player development side.

That includes procuring another young star this June with the top selection, but also making sure the rest of the team's nine picks are properly executed to ensure a strong crop for next season and beyond.

"It's a significant amount of picks in an extremely important time for the organization," Tambellini said. "These are the few years where we need to acquire the top-end, elite talent."

Author: Ryan Dittrick |
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