McPhee hopes to find another draft gem

McPhee hopes to find another draft gem
June 27, 2013, 6:00 pm
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The Capitals hold the 23rd overall selection in Sunday’s NHL draft, which takes place at the Prudential Center in Newark and will be televised on NBC Sports Network starting at 3 p.m. and live coverage shifting to NHL Network beginning at 8 p.m.

This year will mark the first year since 2006 that all seven rounds of the draft will be held on one day. The Caps currently hold eight picks in the seven-round draft.

The following is a transcript of what Caps general manager George McPhee had to say about the draft.

On the depth of this year’s draft class:

Well, people view it in different ways. We certainly have our views on the draft and our scouts have done a lot of work, obviously, and we have a way we like to approach the draft and we’ll approach it that way.

On what the Caps have learned from picking late in the first round in recent years:

I think you learn something ever year when you’re preparing for the draft – what works, what doesn’t work – and each year we try to get better. We like to think the facts would show that we’ve drafted really well over the years and continue to get better. You’re not going to hit on every pick, obviously, but we’ve done really well and we want to continue to do well. I like the way we approach the draft. I like the analysis of our scouts. I like the way we break things down. There are a few new wrinkles that we’ve tried and I kind of like what it looks like. We’ll keep trying to improve. To answer your question, you do learn things. One of the first things you learn is, let’s focus in on that part of the draft. There’s no sense focusing in on other areas because you’re not picking there. Sometimes you get a feeling you might be able to move in certain directions, but if you don’t then you focus on that area.

On whether he looks to fill organizational needs or selects the best player available:

It’s both of those things and more. Sometimes you can get to a draft and say, boy, this is deep and we rated a couple guys who might be there, so we’re going to hang in and make a pick. There are other years, with the Troy Brouwer acquisition for example [in 2011], when we kept looking at it and the scouts kept saying it’s going to be a little lean there. You might get a guy that’ll play, but it’ll be a couple years down the road. We didn’t like where that [draft] was going and we had the opportunity to use that pick to get Brouwer and it turned out to be a heck of a move for us. He’s a guy we all like and I think he was fifth in the league last year for goals for a right winger [19]. I thought that was a pretty good move. It takes a good working relationship between the amateur scouts and pro scouts to sort of put that together and come up with that result.

On how preparations for the draft have changed over the years and some of the ‘wrinkles’ he mentioned:

Well, as with everything else, everybody seems to get better at it. Staffs are bigger around the league. Players are more scrutinized, more watched, than they’ve ever been before. You learn more things at the combine, better techniques. Clubs structure their staffs in different ways. Sometimes they hire people just to watch the first round. There are a lot of different ways to do it. I really like the way we’re doing it. I don’t really want to give away my ammunition on how we do that, but I like the way we’re doing it because we get real good results. When you’re getting near the back of that first round like [Mike] Green [29th] or [Marcus] Johansson [24th] or [Semyon] Varlamov [23rd] or [John] Carlson [27th], or [Evgeny] Kuznetsov [26th]. We drafted Johansson [in 2009] and one year later he’s in our lineup and playing well. That doesn’t happen very often at that position. That’s the thing you’re trying to find, someone who can make a difference and play for you.

On his interest in moving up in this draft:

Not necessarily. If there’s something there where we’re picking that we think will work for us we’ll do that, but I’m not really married to any position. We’ll get there and see what people want to do. Sometimes things can come up and you can move up. How far up you want to move is the question and what’s it going to take? We’ll see. I’m open to that if somebody wants to do it.

On determining which players to interview at the combine and before the draft:

Well, we interview as many people as we can. Our staff has interviewed a lot of people. I interviewed 71 when I got to the combine [earlier this month in Toronto] and we’ll have some more to interview when we get to the draft because I didn’t get everybody. Obviously, you want as much information as you can get on a player. You put it all together and you trust your instincts. But those interviews always help down the road, too. You might be making a trade two or three years from now that involves someone that you’ve interviewed. Some people really stand out in your mind in a good way or a bad way and help you decide whether you’d want them in the organization or not.

On what can stand out in an interview:

Most times they’re really, really good. And that’s one thing about the draft and these kids that’s become so impressive. These kids are bright, articulate, well-mannered, really good people. It makes you proud to be in the sport because you walk in the room, they’re well dressed, well groomed, well prepared, respectful. They sit there and look you in the eye. Out of 71 interviews you might get a couple where you think, ‘Geez, I’m not sure about that guy.’ The others, they’re really good people. And it’s changed a lot over the years. These kids are better educated, maybe the internet exposes them to so much more in this world. They play in all those international tournaments. They’re farther ahead in their lives at that age than maybe we were. It just seems year after year they’re better and better. It used to be they were well-coached when they went in there and gave scripted answers. I thought this year was different than previous years in that most of them just had conversations and the answers weren’t scripted. I think that’s a better way to do it.

On what the draft prospects are asked in those interviews:

You ask them all kinds of questions. Some teams employ sports psychologists and ask some bizarre questions. I don’t know what to do with that information when you get it. You just trust your instincts, talk to people and ask if they like this kid or not. But the questions go all over the place and sometimes the interviews go all over the place and that’s OK.