The full interview can be heard here
On the greatest challenge while using analytics for prospects:
I think the greatest challenge in using analytics to evaluate prospects is that you’re dealing with different types of coaching, different leagues. You know when you’re using it for the NHL, it’s one league, one common database. While when you’re dealing with prospects, if you’re trying to use analytics for a guy that plays high school, compared to a guy that plays Major Junior, well you’re gonna have two different type of databases, two different types of competitions. It makes it a bit more difficult in using analytics when you’re looking for draftable prospects.
On making analytic adjustments for different leagues:
I think you have to take in effect the competition level. Like the Major Junior is going to be more structured then watching Boston High School or Minnesota High School. So I think you have to take that into the equation, when you’re looking at the numbers from the analytics.
If you’re just comparing Europe and CHL, let’s say you’re looking at who has zone entries or who makes zone entries or who’s on the ice for a zone entry. On the European ice it’s a bigger ice surface so those numbers might be skewed in one direction or another when you’re looking at one prospect, so you’re always gonna have to look at adjustments.
On Andrea Englund:
We’re very happy with Andreas’ development so far. Obviously, I haven’t had the chance to see him, but our European scouts have had the chance, I’m planning to go over early December. As far as playing with the men, we’re happy he’s playing with the men at a high level. He’s playing either top-4 or 5th defenseman on the team. He’s competing hard, he’s keeping his game simple, he’s playing the way we want him to play as far as being a defensive shutdown guy. Andreas will never be the guy that puts up the most skills but were hoping that he can be a top-4 match-up type of guy for us in the future.
On Englund’s size and reach:
I think it’s just an asset, especially the way our game is going. Having a big guy who has range, who has a big stick, who can defend, who can match up against other team’s top two lines is definitely hopefully an asset we will have in Englund moving forward in the next few years.
On Englund’s puck retrieval and first pass:
For a defensive defenseman when you manage the puck well and don’t create any turnovers, I think that’s definitely an asset in your game. For him his ability to go retrieve the puck, chip along the wall if he faces pressure not turning over or making the simple outlet pass if he faces pressure/doesn’t face pressure. It’s definitely an asset in his game that we really like. We want it to get better and it should get better as he matures and plays more with the men.
On Marcus Hogberg:
Marcus is having a good year so far in the Elite League playing for Linkoping. Him and the other goaltender look like they’re splitting about half and half at this point in time of the year. Marcus had some good games, had a few average games for him, but we think that Marcus has the ability to be a good NHL goalie down the road. We like his size, we like how he covers the net, we like how he moves in the net, he has good reads, tracks the puck well. He has to work on a few things, at times calming the play down, freezing the puck. Overall, as a goalie, we’re really excited to have Marcus Hogberg in our stable of goalies.
On Swedish players in the system:
We’ve had success in drafting players from Sweden. Obviously if we look at our long time captain Daniel Alfredsson. In our first year under Bryan Murray we drafted a player by the name of Erik Karlsson, who’s turned out well. A lot of our Swedish players seem to stick together and we have a good chemistry here. We’re just not gonna draft all Swedish players but we try to draft one maybe every year. We always try to draft the best available player. It’s a good dynamic in our room, they mingle and they’re good people, they mingle really well with the other part of the group and the guys that we have in Binghamton also seem to enjoy it there and have a good relationship with the rest of the players. Sweden has developed a lot of good hockey players over the past 10 years and we just want to be apart of that.
On the difficulty of projecting a goalie’s future/making the NHL:
Just making it is hard enough. In our current case and situation here in Ottawa, we feel we have two goalies that can go out and win us a game every night in Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner. You never know if you have an injury you always want another goalie so having good depth at that position is always something that’s valuable for any organization in the NHL.
On Miles Gendron:
With Myles we took a bit of a gamble taking him that early in the draft. Obviously a lot of people didn’t have him ranked that high, but with his skating ability we knew that we had someone who could be a transitional defenseman down the road. This isn’t a player that’s gonna just step into any league, he’s raw. He was raw last year. He’s only been playing two years as a defenseman. With his puck skills, skating ability, we felt it was someone that could, down the road, be a good prospect. As far as his adjustment to the B.C. Junior Hockey League, which to me is one of the best Tier II leagues around, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, we knew he wouldn’t come in and have 4 points every game like he was doing in Boston High School, but so far so good. He’s not putting up high numbers, but he’s learning how to play defence. He’s learning to play a complete game and still using his skills to the best of his knowledge. So we’re really happy with that, but we know he’s not gonna step into the line-up and play for us next game.
On transitioning from forward to defenseman and Gendron’s versatility:
As a forward sometimes you handle the puck a bit more than as a defenseman, and a player like Miles now he’s getting to handle the puck as a defenseman. At the Boston High School level well he pretty much had the puck the whole game and he played a lot of minutes. Now it’s just to learn away from the puck but having those assets of being able to handle the puck, as he was previously a forward, I think can only help his game down the road. But as I mentioned a few times, it’s gonna be a few years of development, getting stronger. He wasn’t a very thick kid when we drafted him, so it’s gonna be an ongoing process, but we’re happy that he’s got all these abilities that’s part of a package.
On adjusting to bigger, faster, stronger opponents:
I don’t want to say it disrespectfully, but when you’re playing against guys that probably aren’t gonna play after high school hockey to guys that are playing Tier II that a lot of them are gonna play college hockey or move on to Major Junior after their Tier II careers, the game is much faster, the players are much stronger because you’re facing 20-year olds. So you’re gonna have to improve just your execution, not hold on to the puck as much and just do things at a higher pace. Those things I’m not too worried about for Miles, because he’s got the skillset and the hockey sense to do them. Where I’m more concerned is his play away from the puck. You know, facing a guy with a beard who’s 20 years old, who’s a good Tier II player and trying to defend him one-on-one might be a tougher task for Miles.
On Matt Puempel:
I think people that don’t know the (AHL) well, don’t give it the respect that it should be given. The American League is a man’s league and people think they can go in the American league and just dominate. We’re very happy with Matt. Matt had an excellent camp, his play maybe tailed off a bit at the end of camp, but we’re very happy with his progress. Matt has taken his game to another level for us in how he played last year. Matt had 9 goals I think at Christmas time and ended the year with 30 goals. He’s become a guy who was just maybe a skilled goal-scorer into a complete power forward. Now he drives to the net, he gets dirty goals, he gets goal-scorer goals, he shoots the puck with a quick release, he battles for pucks along the offensive defensive wall. He’s really improved his play away from the puck. I think Matt has taken it upon himself to say ‘I was a first rounder, every game I’m gonna try and have an impact’ most of the time by goal scoring but also playing a more complete, not that he’s gonna be a power forward, but a harder game than what he played in Junior.
People think sometimes first rounders they should pretty much step in the NHL when we draft them or once their junior careers are done. But Matt was taken later in the first round and he had an injury in his draft year. He started getting better once he got to Kitchener and then last year was a eye opening in the first half but he stepped it up and I think every day he gets closer to the NHL and I know whether it’s this year or next year, Matt’s gonna be for us a top-2 or top-3 line guy that produces offensively.
On Puempel passing more:
Without a doubt that’s something we’ve noticed. We’ve noticed his ability to manage the puck, especially getting it off the defensive wall, has tremendously improved. Getting the puck in the center, getting to an open area where he can get the puck back, release it or make a play, whether it’s transitioning it to the offensive zone or in scoring areas in the offensive zone, that’s something he’s definitely seemed to improved on.
On Shane Prince:
Shane is someone who always seems to be taking steps every year, he’s done that so far this year. With Shane, it’s just about being more consistent. Obviously, it’s no secret, probably in all of our prospects in Junior or in the American League, Shane is definitely the most skilled prospect we have. His puck skills, his shooting abilities are second to none. For Shane, it’s just about being consistent night in, night out. He’s got the quickness, he’s one of our fittest guys, he’s one of the strongest guys that we have, especially for his size. It’s just taking his game to that level where it’ll be NHL ready. I think Shane will be called up this year and play some games if he continues on this path, then once he gets to do that to show he can be an NHL regular player.
I always tell people, developing prospects, it’s not a 100-meter race, it’s a marathon. There’s few players like Crosby or Stamkos that just step in the league. So I think that with Shane, the process is going and it’s going in the right direction and with Shane we know we have someone who, down the road, will be able to contribute offensively. He’s just gotta keep on that path. When I talk to either Luke Richardson or Steve Stirling, they say every player enjoys scoring goals but no player enjoys scoring goals more than Shane Prince, and that’s what we want him to do once he gets to the NHL level.
On Curtis Lazar playing in the NHL:
He’s not intimidated at all. I don’t think Curtis wakes up and ever has any bad days. He always has a big smile on his face, always ready to go work. Obviously you talked about the 200-ft game, I’ve always told Bryan and Paul that Curtis might be a winger at the NHL level, but he’s come in here and he’s played some games as a centerman, where he’s probably our most defensively responsible centerman on our big team in some games that he’s played. He’s shown that he plays a 200-ft game, he never cheats down low, never leaves the zone early, he’s always working. With Curtis it’s not that 2nd and 3rd effort, but at times it’s the 4th effort. So bringing a guy with that much character, even though he’s 19 years old, always polite, always thanking everybody, playing the game the right way, driving, working, we’re very fortunate that we were lucky enough to pick a player like Curtis.
On Lazar’s abilities:
His shooting ability is probably one his best offensive assets, but his ability to also drive with the puck is pretty special. He’s just a good wholesome kid. I give a lot of credit to both our Western scouts they were on him quite early and they always liked him as a kid. We didn’t hide it when we drafted him, we had him in our top-10 and we felt very fortunate at that point in time if I remember correctly it was #17, to draft a player like Curtis.
On Lazar’s versatility playing at C or on the wing:
I think his versatility is something that can benefit our team, benefit our coaching staff. He doesn’t complain about playing whichever position. I remember after one game I said ‘how was it on the wing?’ and he goes ‘good for me’. But we’re very happy with his progress.
On Ben Harpur:
We’re very pleased with Ben’s development so far, if he can get points that’s a bonus. What we told him after rookie camp and he spent part of main camp with us is ‘focus on being that defensive defenseman, that guy that can play against other team’s best players and take pride in making sure you’re not on the ice for any goals against and try and have as big a physical presence as you can have’. When that type of player gets points you know he’s being good with the puck and he’s probably managing the puck well and getting it up to the forwards and being able to contribute in that way. So we’re very happy with his progress so far. Ben still has some things to work on. If we get the chance to sign him, which we’d like to sign him, you know he’s not gonna step into our line-up next year, he’s gonna need time, but we feel that Ben is a good prospect moving forward.
‘Play to your strengths, play to your size, make it tough for the opposition that they don’t want to go down your side’, we don’t want Ben to fight and challenge every tough guy in the OHL, we just want him to be a harder player and to have that presence where people know ‘oh I gotta go down on his side, he’s 6’6", he’s gonna poke check the puck away from me then finish a hit’. That’s what we want Ben to improve.