By Chris SnowDirector of Hockey OperationsMONTREAL
-- The road, wound through rinks and family dinner tables in Prior Lake, Edina, Eden Prairie and those linguistically lovely farm towns that grow hockey players, the Moose Jaws, Red Deers and Victoriavilles, becoming less maintained in time-warped Omsk and Magnitogorsk and stopping countless times at countless points in between, has led here to a crowded table on a 200-by-85 foot swath of carpet at the base of the Bell Centre.
For our owner, our new GM, our new coach and the entire hockey operation, especially the 17 amateur scouts who over the last 10 months saw games in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Poland, and met personally with approximately 150 players, today is the seminal day of the year. In hockey, we like to refer to our teams as organ-eye-zations, a word that, while pronounced one of two ways, implies a singular meaning: a hockey club is bigger than a player. Hockey is all about team and depth, and tonight and tomorrow are the two best days of the year to add genuine depth.
A team's scouting operation generally divides along two lines: pro and amateur. Both groups are here, and GM Chuck Fletcher is working with both. The pro group is present to assess potential trades involving NHL, AHL or European pro players. The amateur group, along with our psychologist and one of our team doctors, has over the last few days spoken with or physically assessed potential picks one last time and agreed upon "The List," the way we rank the players eligible to be selected in Round 1 tonight and Rounds 2-7 tomorrow.
With The List made, the waiting begins, as 11 teams pick before us, unless we move up or down. Sometimes that movement occurs in advance, but, generally, teams begin moving as players are selected and as it becomes clearer who should be available. In addition to making a top-to-bottom list, our amateur group also draws lines within the list.
For example, the prevailing public perception is that there are three players at the top of this year's class. Accepting that perception, teams probably would pay a high price to move up to No. 1, 2 or 3 to select a player in that elite group. But teams probably would pay less of a price to move up to No. 4. So, a team making its list might "draw a line" following the third player. When deciding whether to move up or down, a general manager must know where his scouting operation ranks a player on the list, and where the scouts "draw the lines" within the list.
If a player high on a team's list remains available as that team's selection nears, the GM might be encouraged to move up. If a GM knows that his scouts value a handful of available players equally, he might be encouraged to move down, to pick up an addition pick, or multiple picks, while still selecting a player in that grouping.
When making a pick, a team has just three minutes to make its selection. Teams may exercise up to five timeouts of five minutes in length apiece (25 minutes total), or they may use those timeouts on a cumulative basis. However, in tonight's Round 1, if a team calls a timeout, it must make its selection. It cannot make a trade following a timeout. For Rounds 2-7, teams can use timeouts to make a deal.
It's fascinating, and it's high paced.
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