In the hiring process known as the NHL Entry Draft, the job interview can be weighted as heavily as the resume.
As Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier and Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine explain, the 15 minutes teams are allocated to speak with prospects at the NHL Combine each year have become increasingly important in narrowing down the list of potential picks.
“You enter the draft knowing that in all likelihood, in a good draft, there are 60 players that are going to [make it to the NHL] of 210-plus players… so you are really trying to identify those [individuals],” Regier said.
The interviews, totaling around 85 separate meetings per day at the combine, may provide the best form of insight.
“I think it’s the level of maturity that you get to see more than anything else in the interviews and also the level of intelligence a little bit,” Devine said. “You find out a little bit more about their background… those kinds of things.
“The list doesn’t change a lot but there are some knockout interviews. That is probably how we came to draft a guy like Mike Weber
. He knocked us out in his interview and we moved him up some spots.”
The 20-year-old blueliner, taken 57th overall by the Sabres in 2006, has since collected 14 points (1+13) in his rookie season with the AHL Rochester Americans, finishing second on the team in rookie scoring. Weber’s discipline earned him an NHL debut in two separate stints with the Sabres totaling 16 games and he is considered one the organization’s top prospects on the rise.
“You can’t do it with everybody because you don’t have enough time, but with your top picks you have to [dig deep],” Devine said. “In a case like Mike Weber
, I knew the general manager [in the Ontario Hockey League] and he said [Weber’s] work ethic is off the charts. Then you talk to his teammates; ‘oh man this guy never leaves the workout room, we’ve got to tell him to stop working out…’”
Background information is not the only detail to be ascertained. Regier believes there are certain intangibles that are also revealed in the process- such as a player’s resolve.
“We have the conditioning camp coming up next week. One of the first things I say to the kids there for the first year… ‘you have five years to make it to the NHL from the time you are drafted,’” Regier said. “It’s very hard, it’s very strenuous. A lot of times it feels dark… and there is not always a lot of hope.
“The thing that keeps kids going, and ultimately I think one of the biggest attributes they have to have, is one of perseverance. Their ability to persevere more than anything else comes from their love of playing the game. That’s what Kevin in the interview process wants to find out. How much do you really love playing this game? Because it is going to extract a toll. It is going to make you question whether this is really really what you want to do. And it’s up against the guys that are getting better everyday.”
To discern if a player has what it takes to persist, Devine warns the right questions have to be asked.
“We used to have one guy that was around and he used to ask, ‘do you want to play in the NHL?’ Every time he would do that I would roll my eyes like I wonder what this answer is going to be?” Devine said. “We cut that question out.”
At times it is also the answers that can put limitations on seeing a prospect’s personality. When a player is coached by their agent it results in stock answers.
For the most part, however, Devine says the on-ice personality tends to translate in the meeting- with some personas more evident than others.
“Surprisingly the interviews are a lot like the way they play on the ice,” Devine said. “There is a kid in Sweden, named Mattias Tedenby. He is just a little guy that can fly around the room. When he came into the interview that’s exactly what he did. He grabbed a handful of candy, ate all our candy and left. That’s the same type of player he is on the ice.”
The Sabres hope to find that consistency June 20-21 by drafting several players whose interviews lives up to their resumes.
For the prospects entering the 2008 Draft, these first impressions really are everything.