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One-on-One with: Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
With Training Camp wrapped up and the season just under way, caught up with Preds Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty to discuss the organization's prospects, the 2008 Entry Draft, and the early preparations for the '09 Draft. You're now a couple months removed from the draft in Ottawa. Can you assess the team's performance at the draft table.
Jeff Kealty: To be fair, I think that the end result, you really don’t fully get for four, five, six years, but we’re still really happy with what we did and what we’ve seen so far from the guys. (Colin) Wilson was really good at the US Junior Camp (this summer), (Chet) Pickard performed well at the Canadian Junior Camp. We think that both of those guys are going to be key members for their teams this season and in the World Juniors. (Roman) Josi has performed well so far, in all of the reports that we’ve received. In addition to that some of the other guys seem like they’ve gotten off to good starts in Europe with (Anders) Lindback, (Jani) Lajunen. We’re still pleased with everything we were able to accomplish and in addition to that with some of the moving around that we did we have 12 picks going into next year, which by all indications is going to be a great draft, too. Considering where the player was selected, who was Nashville's biggest "steal" from the draft?
JK: I think that getting Josi where we got him. We didn’t think he’d be available there, which is why we were so willing to move up to grab him. When we had gone back after the first day and he was still there – we had all expected him to be taken in the first round – and we certainly had him rated as a first round pick. Josi was just a first round to second round kind of thing, which happens each year, but we were happy to be able to get him. A lot of the guys we took later on, we think could be sleeper-type, under the radar guys who can develop quite well over time. Training Camp and the preseason games gave fans a chance to see several of the organization's top prospects, but who are the team's top prospects who were not at Camp?
JK: Pretty much all of the college guys that we have who haven’t turned pro yet. Wilson at Boston University, Ryan Thang and Ben Ryan at Notre Dame, who we’re happy with. Both Thang and Ryan had good years and showed up well at our conditioning camp this summer. We expect Thang to have a big year, score a lot of goals. We expect Ben Ryan to continue to develop his game. Blake Geoffrion had a breakout year last year and will be assuming more responsibility in a captain leadership role at Wisconsin. So we expect him to continue to move along. I’ve touched on Josi above - he wasn't at camp - we think he has a lot of potential, a lot of upside. He played an exhibition game against the NY Rangers a few weeks ago, which was a great developmental tool for him. He’s playing in an Elite League over there. Training Camp showed a lot of what he have coming up, but we still have a bunch of talented guys out there who we haven’t seen yet in a Training Camp. Chet Pickard was the only 2008 draftee in this year's Training Camp. How unusual is that?
JK: It varies from year to year. We took Wilson, we took Josi early on and then the college kids (Taylor) Stefishen and (Jeff) Foss and couple of Europeans. It’s a little bit of a different year. But at the same time there are a number of guys from ’07 who were in camp with (Jon) Blum and (Nick) Spaling and (Mark) Santorelli and (Jeremy) Smith and all of those guys, so it varies from year to year, but it’s our job to stay in contact with all of them and constantly monitor their development. The Preds have 12 selections in the 2009 Entry Draft. Is it different preparing for a draft with so many extra picks than it is one where you're looking at fewer selections?
JK: It’s great for our job and that’s what you want. We identified early that we thought ’09 was going to be a good year and having 12 picks certainly gives us a lot of flexibility to accomplish things going into the draft. But it doesn’t change our job, in that we need to know all the players. It makes you think a little bit differently at times - where you have some of the selections and if that matches up with the talent you're seeing. But even within that, you can always change things; make trades, move around within the rounds – much the way we did in this summer’s draft. So having the extra picks doesn’t change the coverage we give all these kids. The difference will come this spring once we set our draft board and start to talk strategy. As far as right now, covering this draft, there’s not much change. In general, what are strengths of the '09 draft class?
JK: I think there’s some real good depth in this draft. It’s very early and a lot of these guys, scouts are only just scratching the surface on, but just looking at it early on the depth stands out. There looks to be good depth through the first round into the second round and third round. Getting back to the previous question, I think that’s where there’s a benefit to having a lot of picks. If there’s good depth even into the third round and you have 12 picks, it enables you to maybe do something to get up and go after certain players you want. It’s kind of what Los Angeles did this summer when they entered Ottawa with all of those picks. The '08 draft was very strong with defensemen at the top of the draft. Is there a position that stands out in the '09 class?
JK: It seems like a lot of the top guys right off the bat are likely to be forwards in this class. There’s a long way to go to determine the actual specifics. Early on in the scouting, though, there looks to be a handful of top end forwards. Last year the top end European group was not a heralded as it had been in past drafts. Are there any countries which are stronger this year?
JK: Sweden is very highly touted this year, they should have a number of high end prospects. Canada is always good. I think the US program in general will be better this year. I don’t think there was a lot of depth last year with the US draft eligibles. This year there will be and I think that just strengthens the overall depth of this draft. There will be players for all of us to be tracking down from all areas and all countries. So we think ’09 will be a good draft year.

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