Holland: Combine allows Red Wings to 'paint a picture'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland

Detroit — When talking about the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and gathering information on all their possible selections, general manager Ken Holland talks about “painting a picture.”

The next few strokes of that process begin Sunday when the NHL Scouting Combine takes place in Buffalo, and lasts until June 2.

Holland, assistant general manager Ryan Martin, director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright, and several other executives from the Red Wings front office will spend time in Buffalo sifting through over 100 draft-eligible players.

“It’s an opportunity for us to get to know them, ask questions, find out a bit about who they are,” Holland said. “You have all the top players in one (city). I like to say it’s sort of like painting a picture.

“This is another chance to gather information and learn a little more about them.”

More: ‘Next season’: Red Wings confident of quick return to playoffs

Interviews dominate the majority of the week, with physical testing taking over on June 2. Players go through different stations including the bench press, vertical jump, standing long jump, pull-ups and push-ups.

All this testing is vital because the NHL Entry Draft is creeping around the corner.

The NHL Draft is June 22-23 in Dallas, with the Red Wings owning 11 overall picks — including two in the first round (including No. 6 and either No. 30 or 31 overall), two in the second round and three in the third round.

It promises to be one of the most busy — and important — weekends for the Wings' organization in quite some time.

Having missed the playoffs the last two seasons, and in the midst of rebuilding the organization, the Wings can’t afford many misses in this draft. That makes this combine in Buffalo that much more important.

All 31 teams get to spend approximately 20-30 minutes with about 10 players they would like to interview, beginning Monday and lasting until Friday.

How the players respond in these types of interview sessions, said Holland, is a useful tool.

“You want to see how they handle that type of situation, how they answer the questions,” Holland said. “It’s not a lot of time, but you get an idea of who they are.”

The Wings’ representatives will also take prospective draft picks to dinner each night, getting to know the players in an informal environment.

By the end of the week, the Wings and other teams are likely to have interviewed about 60 prospects.

“I would say by the end (of the combine) there will be names moving up and down our final list,” Holland said.

Along with interviewing prospective draft picks, the week in Buffalo is an excellent opportunity for general managers to talk and lay the groundwork for potential trades with all 31 front offices in one location.

Holland expects to touch base with most every general manager during the course of the week to see if there is a fit for any possible deals.

Ice chips

Just after the Entry Draft, the Wings will hold their annual development camp.

But unlike previous years, they will not be heading to Traverse City. Instead the camp this year — moved up approximately a week — will be at Little Caesars Arena at the Wings’ practice rink in the Belfor Training Center on June 26-30.

…Holland said Todd Nelson, head coach of the Wings’ minor league affiliate Grand Rapids, has been given permission to interview for possible NHL assistant coaching positions.

Holland added the assistant coaching position for head coach Jeff Blashill remains vacant, as Blashill just returned from Denmark early this week after guiding Team USA to a bronze medal at the world championships.

Holland said there’s no timeline to fill the position, which became open when the Wings let go John Torchetti after the season.

…The Wings will hold organizational meetings June 11-13, nailing down plans for the Entry Draft and unrestricted free agency, which begins July 1.