NHL Combine: Prospects well-prepared

NHL Combine: Prospects well-prepared
June 3, 2013, 6:15 pm
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TORONTO - Jeremy Roenick recalls in his autobiography 'J.R. My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey,' the weeks leading up to his being selected in the 1988 NHL Draft.

"When my agent, Neil Abbott, prepared me for my team interviews," Roenick writes, "it was as if he was providing me my Miranda rights. He told me that everything I say can and will be used against me. It was like receiving your attorney's instructions on how to testify in a trial."

Roenick notes in his book that his agent  predicted what questions would be asked, offered sample answers and "gave specific instructions on what I should avoid discussing."

Twenty-five years later, interviews between teams and prospects remain an integral part of the NHL Draft process and players today are arguably better prepared than ever before.

"The kids have changed over the years- they just continue to get better," Capitals' General Manager George McPhee told CSNWashington.com at last week's NHL Draft Combine from Toronto.

"They're better prepared, better dressed, better groomed, more intelligent, a better world view it seems with all of the things that these kids have grown up with- the internet, the international competitions. They're really well-rounded kids, smart kids, athletic kids, very impressive kids and very serious about this process."

McPhee estimates that the Capitals interviewed 71 draft-eligible prospects at last week's combine with interviews typically lasting between 15-20 minutes each.

There is not actually a sheet of ice at the annual NHL Draft Combine and the only place you'll find sticks, skates or goalie pads is at the sporting goods store down the street. Prospects are instead put through a vigorous fitness test in a convention center ballroom.

While most of the 153 prospects who attended the combine took part in the physical testing, the primary benefit of the six-day combine is the chance it offers teams to get to know the 17 and 18-year-old NHL hopefuls.

"What was neat about this year's process was that a lot of it wasn't scripted," McPhee said. "A lot of them just came in and had a conversation and that seems to be much more effective. You can tell when someone is going off of a script and repeating answers. But when you have a conversation with them and they're having a conversation back, you learn a little bit more."

The Capitals own eight picks for the June 30 NHL Draft, including the 23rd overall selection. McPhee and the Capitals scouting staff feel well prepared with less than four weeks to go until they make their picks in Newark, NJ.

"You want to get a good book on all of these players," said Capitals Director of Scouting Ross Mahoney, who noted that prospects today are "a lot more polished" than in years past.

"Maybe we do 71 interviews [at the combine], but there are going to be 210 [players] drafted, so you never know who may be there in the sixth or seventh round. Then in the future maybe these guys come up when you're deciding who to invite to a rookie camp or sign as a free agent and you go back to your notes from the interview. So you're gathering that bank of knowledge that may be useful three or four weeks from now at the draft, or maybe three or four years from now if he comes up in a trade or free agency."