Like all teams, the Phoenix Coyotes had a script coming into this weekend in Columbus. Early on, teams try to anticipate where their players of interest may or may not go. In the following rounds, a delicate and interesting game of chess starts to take place.
The game is a collective effort and for this year, Coyotes Director of Amateur Scouting Keith Gretzky ran the draft for Phoenix for the first time. Along with new General Manager Don Maloney, head coach and brother Wayne, and the rest of the scouting staff, Keith worked the floor in search of those “best available" players. Some of players moved throughout the board, but in the end the Coyotes script played out pretty close to what they anticipated.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Gretzky after the draft about the team’s selections, moving through the draft strategically, and addressing team needs.
HF: Coming into the draft, when did the hunt for Kyle Turris start and what were you willing to do to get your man?
KG: We always knew he was a good player all year long. We always thought if we were in the top two, even if you lose the lottery and come in third, you’d still get a pretty good player. We didn’t have enough on our shelf to move up so we all decided it was best that who ever we got, we’d be pretty fortunate. It worked out that we ended up getting a guy we really wanted.
HF: Before Gary Bettman put Chicago on the clock, Mr. Maloney went over to the Blackhawks table, chatted for a minute or so and returned to the table. As he sat down in the middle of you and Wayne, you guys started to post pretty big smiles. Was Don trying to work something out or try to feel out Chicago GM Dave Tallon and his staff out as to their position on Turris?
KG: That was nothing. We didn’t talk to Chicago as far as I know. It was one of those days where we were lucky and landed the kid.
HF: Turris is off to college next fall, but down the road, where do you see him fitting in?
KG: He’s one kid that we knew had to go to college. It’s better for him and that’s where he’s decided to go. He’s going to get stronger and bigger and that is what we want. When he’s ready, we sit down and decide what the next step is from there.
HF: When we spoke before the draft, you identified a need to use the two first-round selections to obtain skilled forwards to help boost the offense down the road. As you got the 21st pick, you end up trading down and taking Nick Ross with the 30th pick you got in exchange from the Oilers. Did you make that move because you felt good about being able to pick up a skilled winger with the 32nd pick and Ross might not be around there or at the 36th spot?
KG: That was part of it. We really liked Ross but I thought he could get him a little lower. We traded down and got another pick in the second round. Then we took Swedish goalie Joel Gistedt.
HF: How important is it to be strategic and be able to accept deals where you able to pick up more assets?
KG: You always select the best available. In this case, we also needed to address some areas that needed to be filled and that’s why we made the moves.
KG: He’s an offensive player who can score goals. He’s got to work on his foot speed because he’s a big boy. He scored a lot of goals with [John] Tavares and that’s why we took him.
HF: A lot of people feel that his success had to do solely because he plays with Tavares. Did you see past that and why?
KG: Yes. You still have to score goals and he was able to do that. He ended up landing 47.
HF: With your fourth pick, you take Gistedt from Sweden. He had a good rookie campaign last season in the SEL. However, he’s a year older than most of the group this year. What made him attractive to the franchise?
KG: He had a good year and he’s proving himself in that league. We decided to go with a goalie that is proven and the fact that he was in the elite division.
KG: He’s a very skilled player who needs to learn to play every day. That’s the big thing and that’s probably why he slid this weekend. We took him because the skill is what we wanted.
HF: You stayed in Europe for your next pick when you took a two-way defenseman in Maxim Goncharov in the fifth round with the 123rd pick.
KG: We had him rated really high but the Russian factor [no player transfer agreement] went into it. He was a guy that we wanted and we were willing to take a chance on him.
HF: Did you have him on your radar early on or did your interest spike after his performance at the U18 tournament in Finland?
KG: We’ve had him all year long. He was actually a little hurt during that tournament. Now he’s healthy and back to form.
HF: You took Scott Darling from the Capital District Selects out of the EJHL. Did you pull the trigger on him to help address the need for goaltending?
KG: That was the thing. Our U.S. scout Steve Lyons really liked him. He’s got good size and a pretty good goalie.
HF: He’s not scheduled to attend the University of Maine until fall of 2008. It is probably in his best interest to step up his development. Saying as much, he was drafted by the Indiana Ice out of the USHL. Have you guys received any confirmation that he intends to take it to another level?
KG: There are a couple things he’s working on. We’re pretty sure he’ll confirm within a couple weeks.
HF: Don was quoted stating that it was important to address the goaltending situation without giving up draft picks or prospects within the system. How important is it to look at what you have, going out and getting what you need, and constantly evaluating the situation in order to put the team in the best possible light down the road?
KG: It’s very important. You can get fooled by having a very good goalie, yet not having a great overall team. We’re going to build the goalies with their players. That’s why we drafted a couple goalies. Hopefully it’s going to pan out and we’re going to get a lucky with one of them.
HF: How do you think the franchise stands heading out of Columbus today?
KG: We’re really happy. We needed some scoring and we needed some goaltending. We drafted players that address both those and since we rolled the dice, we’re hoping that it works out.
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