I know for me I am always interested in what these kids go through on their way to getting the big contract and playing in the big leagues. So, finally Aaron Portzline at The Columbus Disptch put something together.
NHL combine: Prospects well-done after steady grilling
Some do 20 interviews with team officials
Saturday, June 2, 2007 3:32 AM
By Aaron Portzline
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
TORONTO -- The 18-year-old hockey player walks into the room wearing the best suit he owns.
After shaking hands and exchanging hellos, the kid sits at the end of a long table, under bright lights and under the watchful eye of up to eight NHL scouts and front-office decision-makers.
Then the questions come, rapid-fire, for a 20-minute span that must seem like two hours to the kid.
"More like two days," one said.
Welcome to the National Hockey League's scouting combine, an annual event staged in the Park Plaza Hotel near the Toronto Airport, always a few weeks before the NHL entry draft.
"I feel like I need to take a shower," said defenseman Thomas Hickey, whose 11th and final interview Thursday was with the Blue Jackets.
Hickey is like the 100-plus other kids who were invited here by the NHL's central scouting service. The prospects will be put through a 90-minute workout in front of scouts at some point during the three days. But wrapped around the workout is a seemingly endless string of interviews.
Some prospects have more than 20 interviews; each player keeps a printed schedule in his suit pocket so he doesn't blow off an NHL team.
"It's a job interview," said defenseman Karl Alzner, who is expected to be one of the first 10 players taken later this month when the NHL entry draft is held in Nationwide Arena. "That's how I look at it. It's my first job interview.
"We're prepared (by our agents) pretty good for what they're going to ask. But each team tries to get you to reveal your true character, and they have different ways of doing that. They try to make you mad, make you laugh -- all kinds of things. They want to see how you respond."
The Blue Jackets allowed The Dispatch access to a handful of their interviews Thursday and yesterday.
The scouts sit around the table, their laptops drawn, a supply of Diet Coke on ice at the ready.
Don Boyd, the director of player personnel, sits closest to the players, and Paul Castron, the director of amateur scouting, is at the other end.
Between them are scouts Denis LeBlanc, Sam McMaster, John Williams, Brian Bates and Andrew Shaw. Jim Clark, the interim general manager, sits in on a few interviews.
Most of the interviews are conversational, even lighthearted and breezy. There is give and take.
But a few seemed more like a lawyer challenging a witness -- an interrogation of sorts -- as the scouts tried to get to the bottom of the player's shortcomings on and off the ice.
In some cases, players bring X-rays or other medical reports to prove that their injuries aren't career-threatening.
Standard questions include:
Who's your agent?
What's your family like?
What kind of style do you like to play?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
How soon do you think you can play in the NHL?
How often do you work out in the off-season?
Are you surprised to be invited to this?
But then, a few minutes in, the interview always takes a turn, one way or the other.
I watched you play a lot this season. You got any meanness in you?
A lot of your teammates don't like you at all. Nobody really has a good thing to say about you off the ice. Why is that?
Are you a member of the conservative party?
You said you want to go in the first round. Will you be disappointed if we draft you in the second?
Have you ever had any adversity in your life?
You don't have a very good shot. You didn't break many sticks this season, did you?
Your mom is a dog breeder? Does that mean the team that drafts you gets a bargain price?
Are you ever going to score?
The players seem to handle it pretty well.
"The strangest question I've been asked so far is whether or not I like drinking," Alzner said. "That was their way of asking if I was a big party guy or not."
"I was honest. It's not something I'm really into, but I told them that after a big game, yeah, I'll have a little booze."
The Blue Jackets will interview roughly 75 prospects this weekend.
Boyd, an NHL scout since 1989, has sat through maybe a thousand of these encounters.
"What does it reveal?" Boyd said. "It doesn't always reveal anything, but it gives you a chance -- even if it's only 20 minutes or so -- to sit with the kid and see what kind of attitude he possesses, what kind of body language he puts off.
"If you're torn between two kids and both are on the board on draft day, sometimes it can set one kid apart and it can set the other kid back a bit."
Williams, who has been a scout with the Blue Jackets since they joined the NHL in 2000, has a singular goal.
"There are some kids you go after pretty hard, just to see if their personality matches who they are on the ice," Williams said. "If you ask the right question, sometimes they'll reveal a different side. And that can be good or bad."
McMaster, a member of the Blue Jackets staff since 1999, asks the toughest questions at the table.
"These are big decisions you make on draft day," he said. "None of it is done to be mean to the kid. But we have to know as much about him as we can before we call his name out at the draft."