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Silver Nuggets: Pierre Dorion on the draft, goaltenders

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In a deep draft, will the Senators be able to find another late-round gem like Mark Stone?
In a deep draft, will the Senators be able to find another late-round gem like Mark Stone?
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Assistant General Manager Pierre Dorion joined Steve Lloyd and Todd White over on TSN 1200 this morning to talk about the draft combine and pro scout meetings. Like Bryan Murray's interview(s) yesterday, Dorion had some interesting things to say. You can listen to the full audio here but I've compiled my notes below. It's not a full transcript, and I'm sure that Nichols will have one out eventually, but just quick reaction thoughts (bulleted) to some points that Dorion made. Anything said by anyone verbatim will be put into quotation marks, but anything else is me paraphrasing.

Q: How do you like sitting at 18th overall?

"We're fine with 18th because we made the playoffs. We would've preferred to be picking 27th to 30th because it would've meant that we won a few rounds" (laughs)

Dorion also touched upon how the Senators aren't taking a goalie in the first round, which is obvious given their draft history. "We're comfortable with our pick and think that we can get a top-six forward or a top-four defenseman - likely someone who can play 2-3 years down the road"

  • It's a pretty standard answer for Dorion, but acts to confirm that the Senators are always in "best player available" mode when it comes to the draft. Unless there's a really significant gap in your system and you're picking a player in the top-five that are similar in talent level and can make an immediate impact, it's almost always better to draft the best player available. After all, most prospects don't make the team until 2-4 years after, so drafting a player based on a current team need is usually not the right move.

Q: Is there a fear of college prospects because there's potential for them to become free agents (like Justin Schultz, Kevin Hayes, and now Mike Reilly)?

"It's something that we've approached (thought about?), but with early picks, we always let them know if they'd be okay with coming out after their second or third year; most players don't benefit from playing in their senior year. I mean, some guys do need the four years [but often not top picks]."

To answer the question directly, Dorion noted that they ultimately think they can sign any player, but often have to give in on a few things when signing them to an entry-level deal [likely salary, benefits, bonuses].

On Mike Reilly directly, Dorion was hesitant to comment because the Blue Jackets prospect is still under contract until June 15th or 16th. "Schedule me for an interview on June 16th and we'll talk."

  • Another reassuring answer from Dorion. I was never skeptical, but I'm sure some budget-worriers may have had the thought that expensive signing bonuses to college free agents may put the Sens at a disadvantage if the BPA at their pick was a college player.
  • On Reilly specifically, Ottawa wasn't one of the teams mentioned when Bob McKenzie outlined 9 teams who are interviewing Reilly here.

Q: Take us through the draft combine. What's your process like?

"The interview process helps us get to know the player; like a job interview. We're interviewing 63 prospects, but not the T5-6 because there's no chance we're going to get them and those teams likely aren't trading their picks."

On things that the Sens staff usually ask players, in case you were curious: their hockey history, what they see themselves as in the NHL, how long they think they'll need to make it.

"Often we use interviews to "check out" red flags on the ice in person. Things like attitude, if we have an issue with their work ethic or compete. If their selfish, we'll ask them about it directly and not grill the player, but just to get a better idea of what they really are"

  • Out of curiosity, I wonder how Ottawa's 63 interviews rank compared to other teams. Anyone remember if they interviewed more in 2011, a draft which was extremely important for Ottawa's future?
  • From a psychological standpoint, I just hope that Dorion and co. are aware of their cognitive biases when interviewing players and don't go in there with certain expectations. Some common cognitive biases that impair sound decision making are outlined here.

Q: Four years ago in the Zibanejad draft, we saw in the Senate Reform videos that you grilled [eventual Chicago prospect] Mark McNeill, and asked for a second interview to talk to him again in a relaxed way instead of getting coached answers. Is it hard to get the "real person" out of an interview?

"Some of the guys are so well coached that's it's hard to get the real person. They're coached well in both the physical part + and the interview questions. We try to be as casual as we can be, and ask more "relevant" [personalized] questions for the player to answer"

  • The McNeill segment was my favourite part of the old Senate Reform videos. Honestly, I don't blame the player for trying their best to be prepared for standard interview questions - it's very much like what all of us do heading into job interviews. What would be interesting is if there was a potential to do group interviews with players. I personally find that they're amazing ways to see who stands out from the pack in terms of their leadership ability, and by putting players into specific social situations, you get to judge their decision making on the fly.

Q: Do you think TB/CHI will change how people draft this year?

"Draft often trends depending on the team who wins the Cup. if a big heavy team won, the GMs often tell their scouts "look at the team that won, find me that type of player""

Dorion, paraphrased: This year, we know that quick, puck possession skilled teams have done better than the bigger, heavier teams. We're trying to find a balance between the smaller, skilled players and the bigger, heavier players to be able to play against every team in the NHL.

  • This was an interesting answer that's akin to all the "Detroit/LA/Boston/Chicago model" discussions that always come about at this time. It's understandable how this comes about - everyone wants to be in the Cup final and an easy way to do so is to model the team that's where you want to be right now. There are a number of issues with this though, namely: the teams that make the Cup finals aren't always the BEST teams - it takes luck (in-game and externally like player health) and talent to win the Cup. I can't remember who said this, but I remember the phrase "It takes talent to make the playoffs, but it takes luck to win it all."
  • Dorion's thoughts on balance are akin to what most GMs think, and for sure, roles are important. I'd still take the most skilled players, regardless of size, and let them figure out how to be complementary. Watching the Triplets (Kucherov - Johnson - Palat), the first thing I notice is how skilled they are, and it's this skill that allows them to be a successful line. What makes them so dangerous in terms of generating scoring chances is that all three are legitimate threats to carry the puck in, pass, and shoot, which must be ridiculously hard to defend compared to a line with a "bruiser, passer, and shooter" - where you can weigh the probabilities of each player making a certain action in your head and make your decisions accordingly. Unpredictability is key, especially at the NHL level.

Q: How deep is this Entry Draft?

"It's a very good draft. It's not [2003] but it's one of the better drafts in one of the last 10 years. What makes it good is that there's quality at the top, but there's also depth through the first two rounds. There are players in the second round this year that would be first rounders in other years. For us, having three picks in the first two rounds, we feel really comfortable with the players we're going to select becoming good pieces for us in the years to come"

  • For their sake, I really hope they "hit" on the second round pick they got for Jason Spezza. It currently sits at 42nd overall.

Q: How hard is it to evaluate a player who was passed over one year, but is eligible again the second year. How do you compare him to a kid who's a year younger?

"Always have to take their age into consideration. May compare more with late birthdays because late birthdays are almost the same age. Take every factor into consideration; why did 30 teams pass up on this player? Did he grow? Did he change teams? Is it the "Russian Factor?" Often it boils down to performance and they may do better in their second year, leading them to be a prospect this year."

  • A really great question by Steve Lloyd, and something that I always wonder about. The Sens aren't scared of taking overagers, with their most recent being Quentin Shore (168th overall, 2013). Looking back, Zack Smith was also an overager back in 2008. In Shore's case, he was ranked in the 3rd or 4th round in his draft year but fell through the cracks. It's also interesting to consider when you think about how many European skaters go undrafted their first time around.

Q: Since you've changed roles, are you going to be trying to get more picks for this draft?

"In some ways, we always try to get more picks. But we've got a lot of really good young prospects in our organization and we're at a stage where, for us, if we're at a position where we could get a top six forward or improve at a position we need to improve at right away, we're looking more at what we can do in the short/medium term than the long-term. Adding a few picks is always good because we have a great staff that do a great job at drafting. But we're not just going to add picks to add picks. We want to get better right now for the Ottawa Senators [NHL] club"

  • The point to highlight here is that the Sens are heading into this offseason with some attention to the short-term rather than long-term. It's interesting, especially because fans were sold on the "long-term contender" idea when the Sens went into the rebuild in 2010-11, but perhaps smart when you consider the current age of the core. Erik Karlsson is 25, MacArthur, Methot, Michalek, and Ryan are all on the right side of 30, Turris is in his prime, and the young talent are still under team controlled RFA years (Stone, Ceci, etc.). Now may be the "right time" to go for it
  • What does that mean in terms of the Senators actions at the draft? Don't be surprised if they end up trading picks with players (or maybe in the potential goalie deal) to get the right piece they want at the NHL level. I highly doubt they'll trade their first round pick (last time to do so was 2010 for David Rundblad) and I'm sure they want to keep one of their 2nd round picks given how Dorion talked up the draft earlier, but they do have the extra pick from the Spezza deal that may be a factor here.

Q: On pro scouting meetings; got the impression from Bryan yesterday that you'd like to get a deal done (re: goaltenders) sooner rather than later. Do you feel like you can get the deal done before the draft after you go through the evaluations with your pro scouts?

"Yeah I think he got the sense that once we get our pro scouts in this week, we'll get a good idea at where the teams are at in terms of their offers. I think Bryan's going to circle back with every team next week. We hope it'll be done by the draft, but if it's not, we're not just going to make a deal to trade a goalie to make a deal to trade a goalie, we want to make a good hockey deal and whatever the timeframe on that is will be when it happens."

  • So the preference is before or at the draft. Get ready for a rumour-filled couple of weeks, Sens fans.
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Sens Links
  • In case you missed the press conferences of Bryan Murray and Matt O'Connor yesterday, Ross has a media round-up for you! [Silver Seven]
  • One of the main takeaways from Murray's presser is that Dave Cameron has essentially agreed to a two-year contract extension as head coach. [Silver Seven]
  • Another tidbit from the presser was the thoughts that Senators management currently have towards Erik Condra. [SenShot]
  • TSN's Scott Cullen published his Sens version of his offseason columns for all 30 NHL teams, and included a tidbit on potentially buying out Jared Cowen that Nichols has more on. [TSN6th Sens]
  • I'm always down to feature awesome fanposts, and this next post fits the bill! BigRig_GR takes you through their offseason priorities. [Silver Seven Fanpost]
  • I talked about leadership a bit in the Nuggets, and one storyline that hasn't been talked about all that much is the shift in leadership from the "Old Guard" (Neil/Phillips) to the "New Guard" (Karlsson, Turris, Ryan, Methot, MacArthur). Jay looks at whether Kyle Turris is one of the players who deserves a letter. [SenShot]
  • Varada has a thoughtful post on "consistency" and whether it's a factor that is currently not picked up by current underlying metrics. [WTYKY]
  • Travis has a post on the 8 NHL defenseman that the Senators currently have signed to one-way contracts. If they could only move one, which would you move? [SenShot]
  • Due to the number of defensemen on one-way deals, a player like Chris Wideman (AHL All-Star and Eddie Shore award recipient) may be pushed aside. Should the Senators make room for him? Trevor thinks they should. [SenShot]
  • We talked about him briefly during the last Nuggets, but here's Jeff's longer profile on the prospect that you folks rated that you're most excited for next season, Tobias Lindberg. [Silver Seven]
  • The "Your Say" series continues, with notes on two veteran forwards (yes, Colin Greening is old). [Silver Seven - Your Say: GreeningMichalek]
  • The folks over at SenShot continue to look at draft eligible prospects that may be available during the first two rounds. This time, Trevor looks at Thomas Chabot. [SenShot]
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Thanks for reading!