Red Wings to quiz NHL prospects in Buffalo

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – The next step in determining who the Red Wings draft next month is underway.

The Red Wings and the other 30 organizations are in Buffalo for this week’s NHL Scouting Combine.

Over 100 of the top prospects in this year’s Entry Draft are in Buffalo, being tested mentally and physically, as teams prepare for the June 23-24 Entry Draft.

After missing the playoffs this season, the Red Wings will pick No. 9 overall – the highest they’ve picked since 1990. They have 11 picks overall, including four in the third round.

The Red Wings are interviewing, questioning, testing and quizzing players just like anyone else.

“We get to know them, what they think, what’s important to them,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We get to know them a little better, and they get to understand us.”

Each team gets up to 20 minutes with a list of players they wish to interview.

Holland estimates the organization talks to about 10-12 players each day – they began talking to some players Monday and last through Friday – and will take about 10 or 12 prospects who could be around the Red Wings’ No. 9 overall pick for dinner.

Overall, the Red Wings are likely to interview 60-70 prospects by the end of the week.

With the extra picks in June, especially in the third round, this week’s combine is a good opportunity to sift through candidates.

“You want to gather as much information as you can,” Holland said. “You want to know about them, their families. You want to see how they react in these types of situations.”

It’s definitely imposing for a young prospect, walking into the meeting.

Holland, assistant GM Ryan Martin, director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright, assistant to the GM Kris Draper, and several other scouts are representing the Red Wings during their interview.

Holland said, generally, he and Wright will ask most of the questions, with about eight Red Wings’ front office personnel listening to the responses.

“You want to see how they react in that type of environment,” Holland said.

Players go through physical testing Saturday, including the bench press, vertical jump, standing long jump and pull-ups and push-ups.

This year’s Entry Draft has been labeled as not as deep as the past several years. But Holland feels the Red Wings will get a quality player at No. 9 overall, someone who should be NHL-ready in 2-3 years.

“You just have to find those players,” Holland said. “(Ottawa star defenseman) Erik Karlsson was drafted 15th (in 2008). This is an inexact science.”

This week, with general managers all gathered in one spot, there is also ample laying of ground work for possible trades next month.

With teams having to submit their protection list for the expansion draft June 18 – Las Vegas makes its selections on June 21 – there’s expected to be a lot of trade activity with teams not wanting to lose certain unprotected players for nothing.

Holland said he’s spoken to a few general managers each day, and hopes to have touched base with most every general manager by early next week.

“We’re certainly open to anything that will make us a better team,” Holland said.