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Preds Assistant GM Paul Fenton Previews the 2009 Draft

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
Coming out of the NHL Draft Combine, chatted with Preds Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton about the 2009 Draft Class, the combine results, and how the Preds Draft Board is shaping up. The NHL Draft Combine is the last major event before the draft. How much fluctuation in your evaluations goes on after the Combine? (Note: The NHL’s Draft Combine took place May 25 -30 in Toronto with players running through a variety of physical tests to measure strength and conditioning. Draft Combine Preview | Results)
Paul Fenton: It depends on what you’re talking about with fluctuations. As far as the first round, we have our order pretty well set and unless there are any red flags, the combine won’t really change that. This year there weren’t any red flags that made us reconsider anyone in our first round. After the first round, we’re still working out our lists and orders, so some of the interviews were helpful there. Was their anyone who really surprised you at this year’s combine?
Fenton: As far as the workouts, no one put up results that really surprised us. No one put up Colin Wilson-type numbers from last year. Last year our Strength Coach David Good came back from the Combine raving about Colin and his poise; talked about how unusually good his results were for a kid that age. It really served as a great endorsement of a player who we were already high on.

When you talk about the interviews, I don’t know if “surprise” is the right word, but there definitely were some pleasantries. We see a lot of players who are schooled by their agents or coaches as to what to say; how to approach the interviews. It makes it harder to get a true read on the player’s personality. This year, though, we had a couple of players who were really refreshing. They were honest in their self evaluations and came across as very genuine. Those are the kids that are attractive; maybe help your opinion of them. But 99% of the time, in the interviews the kids come across the same way they play … it just reassures us that what we saw was in deed correct. How does this year’s draft class stack up to the past 4-5 years?
Fenton: I’ll be in a better position to answer that after we wrap up the draft, but right now we really like the talent through the fourth or fifth round on our list. That’s deeper than normal for us at this point of the process. We’re still really having a hard time with the order from the second through fourth/fifth round on our list. But that makes us feel stronger about having all those picks this year (ed note: The Predators enter draft week with 12 picks in this year's draft including the No. 11 overall pick in the first round and two picks in both the second and third rounds). Last year the first round was really attractive and having those two first round picks was helpful. After the first round the pool probably wasn’t as deep as it is this year. What are the strengths to this year’s draft class?
Fenton: The depth to the draft is very good. That’s probably the biggest strength to this year’s class. The defense is very strong, especially in the first two rounds. There are an awful lot of defensemen that have been rated and scrutinized very heavily in this year’s draft (ed note: There are 10 defensemen ranked among Central Scouting's Top-30 North American Skaters and an additional five defensemen rankned among Central Scouting's Top-10 European Skaters). I’m not sure the goalies are as strong as in past years, but you should be able to get real good defensemen and forwards through the first two rounds.
Many draft pundits have commented on the strength of the Swedish players eligible in this year’s draft, like Victor Hedman. Is this the strongest crop of European draft eligibles in the past few years?
Fenton: I wouldn’t necessarily say strongest crop of Europeans, but the Swedish talent level is by far the highest talent level that I’ve seen (ed note: The top eight skaters in the Central Scouting European rankings are from Sweden). They’ve done a great job restructuring their youth program and you see it with kids that are available in this year’s draft. They’ve really developed some solid skilled players for this year. I give the Swedes an awful lot of credit; they’re the envy of Europe right now with the way they are developing young players. To put this year’s draft in perspective, where would Colin Wilson rank on your draft board if he was eligible this year?
Fenton: This year we think there is a top three and then a group trying to slot in behind them (ed note: Victor Hedman and John Tavares are the consensus No. 1 and No. 2 picks -- in either order -- by most scouting services, with Matt Duchene earning recognition as the consesus No. 3 pick). If Colin Wilson from last year were in this year’s draft he’d be in that group trying to slot in after the top-three. You mentioned the depth of defensemen in this year’s draft, where would Roman Josi rank on your draft board if he was eligible this year?
Fenton: Last year we had Roman ranked in the first round, which was why we moved up in the second round from No. 46 to No. 38  to get him. I think he’d be very similarly ranked on our draft board for this year; a first round caliber talent. And look at how his season played out – as an 18-year old he was a top-four defenseman on his club playing against men and showed well enough to earn a spot on the Swiss World Championship Team. We were very happy to be able to draft him last year and we’re still just as pleased with the way he’s progressing.

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