Dorion Speaks: Combine, Draft, Assorted Prospects

In what has become an annual tradition, the Senators Director of Player Personnel, Pierre Dorion made an appearance on the Team 1200 this past Monday to discuss the NHL Combine, impending NHL Draft and the development and play of many of Ottawa’s prospects this past season. As per the norm, you can listen to the interview here.

My comments will in bold.

On the combine process and players becoming more accustomed to what it entails…

“I think more kids are more prepared for the types of questions that most of the teams are going to ask. Most teams have the same amount of questions, but we try and go off the cuff a bit and ask a few things that will pertain to their answers to surprise them a bit. But obviously, a lot of these players train for combine exercise purposes and obviously, they prepare for the interviews for combine-type questions.”

For some of these junior players, it’s the most serious they have ever taken homework.

On what they’re trying to do by going off-beat with some of the questions…

“Well, maybe it’ll be a player whose work ethic was questionable and we’ll ask him why his work ethic isn’t really good. And we’ll give specific dates – on specific dates, ‘On this date and this date, we had this scouts here and he questioned why was that? What were you trying to do?’ Or, if it’s someone that’s a scorer that tells us that he’s scored and we’ve seen him 10 times, and he tells us we haven’t seen him score, ‘how come against these teams he didn’t score?’ – a little bit something along those lines.”

Looking back at the Senate Reform videos that the Senators aired via their website, in episode two of the series, the Senators showed a clip in which Mark McNeill – now of the Chicago Blackhawks organization – was being interviewed for the second time because the organization felt his answers were too rehearsed and canned.

On reading too much into the combine…

“It is (overrated). Sometimes people put too much stock into off-ice instead of on-ice performance and usually, I think it’s good to get to know the players and get to know them as individuals. Some of them are going to drop – they are going to be a part of this organization; whether it’s for three, five, ten or fifteen years. It’s good to know them, but I think at a certain point in time, it’s what you do on the ice that matters most. We’re drafting you for what you do on the ice, but we also have to get to know you as a human being. For some people, we want to know their motivation level and if they’ve gone through adversity in certain situations. But in general, (performance is) what matters throughout the course of the season. I think you take this information and you add it to your database and then you can put everything together to find out who will be the best prospect at the end of the day.”

Dorion’s pretty consistent with his message. The following quote was pulled from the previously linked to Senate Reform blog article:

“Some people get tied up too much in all these proceedings. It’s what’s on the ice that matters most – what you do on the ice; what we think you’re going to be on the ice – that’s the biggest component in us rating a player. If they don’t compete or if they don’t have that drive as a person and they don’t show it on the ice then most likely, they won’t succeed in the NHL.”

And Dorion’s final sentence makes Nikita Filatov a sad panda.

On the combine being a good way to sell the game…

“I think it’s a great way to sell the game. Anytime I think… the scouts are pretty much in the background and anytime we can talk about drafts and bringing scouts to the forefront, I think it’s great. Every draft we hear the next one is going to be the best one of all time – well, most of the time, it’s not the case but I think it sells the draft and I think there can be many storylines with a lot of prospects from this year’s draft.”

Relatively speaking, I don’t think this event generates a response in Canada that is anywhere close resembling to what the NFL combine does for football in the United States. In fairness, every event has to start somewhere and maybe it can get to a comparable level someday, but if it’s not that impactful in Canada yet, I can’t imagine it’s registering with the staunchest of hockey fans in the United States.

Dorion believes the event is overrated and rightfully so. Technology has advanced to a point in which they have readily available access to watch film from any particular game, and moreover, unlike football, these prospects have much larger sample sizes of games to evaluate and identify traits and skillsets. This body of work allows organization not to put too much emphasis on the results from the combine.

On how much changes after the combine and the effects of the results on the rankings…

“I can only speak for what the Ottawa Senators do and teams that I’ve been with in the past. You have to meet with them – I think what Randy Lee and Chris Schwarz do, as far as finding out how physically challenged or how much room physically (a player) can grow or mature is something that you have to take into account. I think you have to change some bit, but you have to be careful (as to) what your changes are all about.”

So far, so good. It’s tough to nitpick with Ottawa’s considerable draft record over these past five years.

On having a pretty good idea on where the organization is situated and which players will be around when they make their pick…

“Yeah, I think we’re picking seventeenth at the present time. You never know what could happen – we could move up or we could move down, we’ve done that in the past. I’ve been doing this for quite a long time now, almost 20 years in the NHL, I have a pretty good idea at seventeen, if you give us a range of five or six players, we have a good idea what we’re doing. But, we always have surprises. I think as you mentioned last year, we had Cody Ceci in our top five and we ended up having him at fifteen. Bryan and Tim (Murray) have told me from day one, prepare for any scenario – whether it’s picking one, which I think maybe is not realistic, or picking five or picking whatever, as a group of scouts, we’re always prepared for any scenario. Even though sometimes it doesn’t matter, sometimes we’ll argue… this year we argued on five or six on our list because you never know what can happen and we want to be prepared for it.”

*disregards "maybe is not realistic" and assumes Senators are in the process of acquiring #1 overall*

On if the organization conducts mock drafts to anticipate what other teams might do…

“I think we just do our own homework. I think mock drafts are great for fans and I think it’s great to see what your respective team might get (at their draft spot) but until the draft happens and the first sixteen players are taken, I don’t think the Ottawa Senators are really worried about what other teams are going to do. We have got to be good at what we do. We do do our homework. We have an idea of what players are going to go where through enough of our contacts, so we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on, but we might have a surprise. From that point of view, we might just wait for the first sixteen and then make our selection.”

I loves me a good draft rumour. Tampa liking Nichushkin and Carolina liking Nurse about the only interesting ones I've seen so far.

On Bryan Murray reflecting on drafting for need and not the best player available…

“You have that on tape that Bryan said we drafted so well? I’m just kidding. I think the whole staff, we’ve done a really good job with our first (round) picks, our middle round picks and late round picks. The credit goes to the whole staff of doing such a good job. But I think Bryan is right, I think we’ve taken pretty much the best player. We’ve taken a lot of skill in the previous five drafts that we’ve been together. Everyone knows how much the cupboards were bare when both Bryan and Tim took over, so I think for us especially, we’ve had a lot of picks early. We think we’ve drafted a lot of good players – some have already contributed well. If you look at a Karlsson and Wiercioch as they’re coming up and playing from our first draft (class as a management/scouting group) and through our drafts, Zibanejad having the kind of impact he’s had as a 19 year old. And I think people who I think our fans will be pleasantly surprised with hopefully are guys like Noesen, Puempel and Ceci can really challenge for a spot on next year’s team. But I think that Bryan is bang on. Maybe we won’t take the sexy pick this year if it comes to that, but definitely, we will take someone who helps us win down the road.”

Will there be "sexy picks" availabe at #17 to pass on? I'm not sure.

Maybe they move back and pick up a missing second?

On the biggest surprise this season with their development and progress…

“Well, I think there’s a few; not that you want to talk about a lot of guys. But I think, obviously with the playoffs, you have to look at what Pageau did. Starting as a fourth line center in Binghamton, not sure if he was going to go to the East Coast (Hockey) League or junior, and the way he played against Montreal, I think really showed us that I think we have a quality prospect in Jean-Gabriel. I think you look at guys like Wiercioch and Gryba — with all of the injuries that we had on defence – they came up, played big minutes. As rookies, I think those two guys, not that we didn’t expect them to be NHLers, but to play those type of quality minutes, I think, shows you something. And a guy like Mika Zibanejad, I think the way he played in the last month of the year or last six weeks of the year where at times, even though at 19-years old, he looked like a man amongst boys. I take two games for example: I was there the game before the trade deadline, we were all in Boston and he was probably one of our best forwards going against one of the best teams in the NHL; and I think another game in Carolina, I think Paul (MacLean) did a good job matching him up –he was playing against either Staal and he seemed to respond well. So you see glimpses of that and you say, ‘Wow, these kids can really come to the forefront.’ And I’m sure I’m forgetting some right now and I feel bad about it, but I think those guys do. And another guy that seems to be forgotten in the whole shuffle is the play of Robin Lehner this year – allowing us to trade Ben Bishop away for a quality, younger, smaller player also is another kid who really played well.”

The two games that Dorion references:

April 2nd, 2013 @ Boston: Mika had 12:45 of ice-time. Amongst forwards, only Mike Hoffman and Jim O’Brien had less. He was on the ice for two goals against, although he did assist on Andre Benoit’s third period marker. From a possession standpoint, he finished the night with a -5 Corsi rating.

April 16th, 2013 vs Carolina: Mika scored the first goal of the game 17:22 into the first period; it was the only goal that he would be on the ice for that night. He finished the game with a +2 Corsi rating in 13:16 of ice-time.

Here are how his shift matchups looked that night versus the two Staal brothers (note – Mika is the green bar, Eric Staal is the 2nd bar, Jordan Staal the third bar) in each of the periods. 

The numbers across represent the game's minutes. The green bars indicate when Mika was on the ice and the blue bars correspond with when the Staals were on the ice. 

First period:

Second Period:

Third Period: