Recently the NHL hosted its annual combine that brought more than 100 prospects from around the globe to Canada for a few days of poking and prodding by the 30 NHL member clubs.
The draft is the lifeline for long-term success by a franchise, and the combine provided one of the final looks at potential players before the big event later this month.
San Jose’s Director of Scouting Tim Burke and his crew were in place and took advantage of the NHL sponsored event.
“We like the ability to do the interviews,” said Burke. “I would say the best part is getting that many kids in the same setting. You get about 20 minutes with each.”
The scouts have seen the players throughout the season and know the hockey factor of the potential NHLers inside and out, but the combine allows a chance to look at another side. At the combine, teams try to figure out if a player is physically developed and has little room for growth, or if the talent has the room to put on another 20 pounds and become an even better player.
“There is always a risk,” said Burke. “Sometimes a guy is physically mature for his age. It can be like picking from 10 different kinds of ice cream.
Hockey scouting is an inexact science and much harder than the NFL Draft where the players are physically ready for the most part.
“Projecting where an 18-year-old is going to be in five years, it’s different with each guy,” said Burke. “In the end, you still go back to how he did as a player. In football, you can look at 30 linebackers and they all look like studs. But 10 can run faster. Maybe five aren’t as mature. In hockey, they are all different sizes.”
The interviews can help read in to one of the most important areas of a player, the intangibles.
“If you can get the physical part with the talent, and put that with the energy [then you have a player],” said Burke.
The 100 plus prospects on hand include those projected for the first round, where the Sharks don’t have a pick this year, but Burke doesn’t let where the picks are stop he and his staff from evaluating every possible player.
“You can really make a mistake going in worrying about where you are going to pick,” said Burke. “You can’t say you’re not picking high and not worry about those players because what if one slips [or there is a trade]. You can’t presume a guy will be in a certain place.”
Burke noted that the combine is just part of the process, but there is so much more into locating top talent.
“Only 104 kids were at the combine,” said Burke. “Joe Pavelski
was never near the combine. Sometimes it’s better they are not at the combine. At least half the players that will be drafted (more than 210 will be taken this year) were not at this combine. Sometimes a guy at the combine won’t get drafted at all.”
For Burke and his crew, their version of the playoffs are coming up soon and with current Sharks found in later rounds like Torrey Mitchell
(fourth round), Ryane Clowe
(sixth round), Pavelski (seventh round) and Evgeni Nabokov (ninth round), fans can count on more Sharks stars being found this year, no matter where the club is picking.