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Wings' Yzerman, Draper preparing for draft

All teams in same boat as they rely on information they already have

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

Right now, no one knows when the NHL will hold its draft lottery, the draft, the rest of the regular season or the playoffs due to the season pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That does not mean that the league and the teams are not preparing for several different scenarios.

Before FOX Sports Detroit's broadcast of Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final, Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman appeared in a Facebook Live chat with Ken Daniels, Mickey Redmond and Darren Pang.

Tweet from @FOXSportsDet: ICYMI: Steve Yzerman and Darren Pang joined Mickey Redmond & Ken Daniels for a live Facebook chat ahead of our re-air of Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final:

Yzerman was asked about the possibility of holding the draft before the regular season and playoffs took place.

"Ultimately we'll decide what makes the most sense depending on what the ultimate conditions are," Yzerman said. "Obviously, the draft has never taken place prior to the end of the Stanley Cup or end of the season. We don't know when that's going to be. It was just suggested, possibly, we got all these things on the list, should we consider getting the draft out of the way early?

"My thought is why would you do that? Why would you need to do that? There's a lot of things that are affected. Obviously, the draft position hasn't been established. We don't know who's in the playoffs, who's out of the playoffs in some cases. So there's a lot of questions and ultimately, if it needs to be done prior to, we'll figure it out but at this time, my own opinion is I haven't heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season, if we do conclude the season."

One thing that is certainly going to be different this year is preparation for the draft, whenever that might be.

"We can only make a decision on the information we have," Yzerman said. "Had we gone through all the junior, college, European playoffs, the U18 tournament, which would have been held in Plymouth (Michigan), that's more information. Some guys will play really well, some guys won't play as well, and that'll affect your decision. But it looks like right now, we won't get to watch these kids anymore, so we only make our decisions based on the information we have."

Kris Draper, the Wings' director of amateur scouting, and his staff have been adjusting on the fly.

Appearing on the twice-weekly show, The Word on Woodward, Draper talked about where he was and what he was about to do when the pause began.

Video: The Word on Woodward Recap | 4/23

"Fortunately I was in North America. I was in the United States," Draper said. "I had just come back. I went and actually watched a New England prep school, their playoffs were underway and I went into Boston. But I had on the Monday before the shutdown happened, I was scheduled to fly back over to Europe so there was a trip planned. Myself, Jesse (Wallin) and Ryan Rezmierski were all heading over to Europe as all the European playoffs were about to start. We were just going to go over and our plan was to go through Germany and Sweden to go watch some players over there. Obviously it ended up being canceled but thankfully I was in the U.S. when it happened."

This is Draper's first season in that role, having served eight years as assistant to the general manager.

"When Ken (Holland) left, there were some changes with the staff," Draper said. "We brought in Jesse Wallin, one of my chief amateur scouts, who's obviously a Detroit Red Wing draft pick, he was working with the St. Louis Blues. We hired him after they won the Stanley Cup, which was great. Jesse, unbelievable hockey guy who's a great teammate, real good person and a tremendous worker so a big asset to our scouting staff. Then Ryan Rezmierski came over from the Nashville Predators. Between Hakan Andersson, who's the director of European amateur scouting, myself, Jesse Wallin, Ryan Rezmierski, we're now running our amateur staff."

These are unusual times for everyone, but particularly for hockey scouts making their final evaluations on draft-eligible prospects.

"We know how important the draft is," Draper said. "Right now, just taking advantage of technology, watching a lot of video on a lot of prospects. When you go out there and you watch the games, I would say now, just kind of self-checking everything that I feel that I watched right up until the shutdown of the amateur hockey season. It's kept me busy and we've had some great phone calls, constant communication with any of our staff, whether it's in Europe or over here in North America, just calling, talking to them, asking who they're watching, what they've seen and we're really just trying to keep everything as fresh as possible."

Draper and his scouts were all looking forward to the U18 Men's World Championship, which was supposed to be held in Plymouth, Mich., at USA Hockey Arena from April 16-26, but that event, like so many others, was canceled.

So the Red Wings and other teams moved to plan B.

"Obviously under the circumstances we knew that was going to happen," Draper said. "But you kind of look at where you would be right now and what you would be doing. But with everything going on in the world, we know that sports aren't going to be played so right now it's doing a lot of video.

"What I've done, I've reached out to all our scouts, basically players in their area, and I've asked them games that have really stuck out for you, for prospects in your area. Send me that, send me the game information and certainly I'll go back and watch it. That's really what we're doing."

Because there is no clarity on if there will even be a scouting combine, Draper said they are working on doing virtual interviews.

"Like I said, it's still constant communication, watching video, talking to prospects and certainly talking to all our scouts to make sure that we continue to keep things fresh and do whatever we can do right now and the bottom line is watching a lot of video and trying to have some conversations with these prospects," Draper said. "Because usually you rely on that throughout the season and then certainly into the combine but right now, we're not sure what's going to happen here, when things start up."

The scouting process begins early so Draper and the others have seen these players more than just this past abbreviated season.

"We've watched these players for sure the last couple years," Draper said. "Then watching them this year would have started with the Hlinka Gretzky (Cup), which would have started in Slovakia, in the first week of August, and then basically right through September up until things shut down. That's kind of where we go. Every time you go into Sweden, obviously Hakan Andersson, we have Thomas Carlsson there, you go in and they're going to guide you to the prospects that they like. You go into Finland and you're going to be with our Finnish scouts, you just kind of keep bouncing around all throughout Europe where it's going to be with our Europeans. Then the same thing in North America.

"Really it's constant communication is really what it is. These area scouts are there, they're watching, they know what we like to call the Red Wing DNA or what we're looking for in a prospect and then from there, we continue to watch as they progress. It's unique, it's a lot of watching, a lot of communication, and then from there, it's game reports, it's video, it's talks and that's really what we're doing right now even though there isn't any hockey."

Since nobody is playing anywhere in the world right now, no team has any advantage over any other.

"It goes for all teams," Yzerman said. "Fortunately, the guys have been watching all year long. Some kids you would have liked to have seen a couple more times but we have a good handle on them. We're all in the same boat. I'd like to think we're going to make good decisions and ultimately, it's a little bit of a crapshoot."

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