Picking a GM’s brain on the draft process
In about six weeks, the Bruins will select either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall with the No. 2 pick in the NHL draft, a pick that no doubt will have a profound impact on the franchise for the remainder of the decade, perhaps longer.
The Oilers, selecting No. 1 overall, ultimately will make the call, unless Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli gets creative and puts together a trade package with Edmonton that moves the Bruins into the top slot or guarantees that they get the forward they prefer (Hall?) at No. 2.
Word out of Alberta was that the 11 Oilers scouts are voting 6-5 in favor of making Hall, the hard-nosed winger, the top pick. If so, that would leave the Bruins with Seguin, a center, which might dictate that he breaks into the NHL along the wall, or require a repositioning of Boston’s current stable of centers.
Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi, who has guided the Kings through an impressive revival in just three years, was in a similar 1-2 situation leading up to the 2008 draft. Tampa had the first selection, LA the second. But there was a significant difference between that draft and what Chiarelli faces: The 1-2 slots weren’t as clearly defined.
“[Steven] Stamkos ended up going No. 1, and we followed with [Drew] Doughty,’’ recalled Lombardi. “But look at some of the others in the mix at the time. [Alex] Pietrangelo, some thought for quite a while that he was the best player in the entire draft. [Zach] Bogosian, a man-child. I mean, he was just off the charts — way off the charts — at the combine. And [Nikita] Filatov, a guy with a skill package that would make you think he could be another [Teemu] Selanne.
“You can look at how it’s played out, with Stamkos catching fire this year and Doughty turning into a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate, and figure it was a slam-dunk. But it was more complicated.’’
The combine that year, recalled Lombardi, actually had the potential to cloud his opinion of Doughty.
“Bogosian got on the bike, and he blew it away,’’ recalled Lombardi. “I mean, the whole room stopped to watch. So here you’ve got a kid, and people are thinking this might be the next Scott Stevens — and that just might be the case — and here’s Drew at the combine, struggling to do push-ups and he’s maybe 30 pounds overweight.’’
Nonetheless, Lombardi and his scouts put their bet on the pudgy 18-year-old who averaged 62 points in his last two years of junior hockey. In the end, it wasn’t the workouts at the combine or the numbers the kid posted with the OHL’s Guelph Storm.
So, what was it?
“You know, the slam-dunk ended up the trip to the kid’s house,’’ recalled Lombardi, who spent 13 years, seven as GM, in the Sharks front office. “Just solid, solid parents. You could tell in a second, these were people who lived for their son, but not through their son.
“They got the message through loud and clear: ‘Get out there and be confident, Drew, but always remember, it’s not about you.’ I walked out of that house and I told out scouts, ‘OK, we got our guy.’ ’’
Of note, too, said Lombardi, was Doughty reaching for the stock line, “I’ve always wanted to be an LA King.’’
“You hear that and you think, ‘Yeah, right, and if I were with the Flyers, or the Blackhawks, the kid would be telling me the same thing with those teams plugged in,’ ’’ Lombardi said. “But here’s this kid from Guelph, Ontario, and he’s got Kelly Hrudey and Wayne Gretzky sweaters hanging up on his wall. Pretty impressive.
“And then — and I loved this — he had two of his Team Canada sweaters hanging up the wall. One of them was his World Juniors sweater. A kid’s going to have those on the wall, right? But here’s the thing. They’re hanging on the wall, but they’ve got the Team Canada logo facing out. Most kids, you figure they’ll have them flipped around, so their name is showing. Uh-uh. Team first.’’
Lombardi said the key is getting scouts in for looks at the player in the season(s) leading up to the draft, and getting to know the player as a person, including his family life.
“This isn’t like cramming for an exam in college,’’ he said. “If you’re cramming, I’d say you’re too late.
“The true person, the true player, comes out over time. It’s all about investing time, the time it takes to watch him, and the time it takes to learn what kind of person he is — not the stuff that comes out in an interview on a day when the kid talks to 10-15 teams, answers the same questions, gives the same answers over and over.’’
“He’s hungry right now,’’ an admiring Joe Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News. “He always seems to be on the puck.’’
“Pretty inspirational,’’ added coach Todd McLellan.
Pavelski, who turns 26 July 11, is on target to be a restricted free agent July 1. Which brings us to an interesting comparison.
Last summer, both Pavelski and Phil Kessel wrapped up their third NHL seasons. The numbers:
Kessel: 226 games, 66-60—126.
Pavelski: 208 games, 58-69—127.
Kessel, Boston fans might recall, ended up getting dealt as a restricted free agent to Toronto, where he agreed to a five-year pact worth an average $5.4 million.
Now it’s Pavelski’s turn. Through four seasons, he has 178 points, compared with Kessel’s 181. But the sweetener is that Pavelski, headed into weekend play, had 9 goals and 15 points in 10 playoff games.
No telling what agent Dan Plante is going to demand for Pavelski, but he realistically can point to Kessel’s deal as the base. If the Sharks win the Cup, and Pavelski remains hot, he could demand Kessel-plus cash.
The good news for the Sharks is that they have only some $36 million committed to 2010-11 payroll.
Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.