Transcribed for accessibility: Tampa Bay Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray discusses the 2017 NHL entry draft.
Question: The draft class that you put together, it seems like you addressed some needs defensively and up front.
Al Murray: You know, I tell everybody this every year and I keep my draft lists. One day I’ll put them on eBay or whatever so everybody can believe me. We go by our list. The best player that we feel is going to be the best NHL player is the guy we take. We’re not worried about positioning. We just continue to try to get the best prospects.
So real happy, we had all three of the first three picks ranked very highly. And then the other guys were kids that we liked that are going to have more time to go away to college to continue to develop.
But the first three guys, when you look at Cal Foote, he’s a late birthday so he’s got another year of junior. We think he’s going to develop and hopefully play for Canada at the World Juniors and then turn pro the year after that and continue to work away.
Alex Volkov is a Russian player. He’s a 19 year old. Would have played for the World Juniors this year for Russia, but broke his foot. He came across, played in the Subway Series [CIBC Canada/Russia Series] against the Canadian Major Junior teams and then went back home and before the World Juniors, he broke hit foot so he missed a large portion of the season. But he’s coming to our development camp next week. We’re hopeful that we can work out a contract. He’s got a chance to play in Syracuse this year.
Alex Lipanov was one of the top players on the Russian ‘99 team [players born in 1999], so he’s played with - on the number one line as a center for Klim Kostin. High-skill player. He’s going to Barrie this year in the Ontario Hockey League, so he’ll be at development camp next year. He was at the draft today with his parents, so he’ll be at development camp next week.
And then all of the high school players we took - Perbix, Guttman, and Walker - we’ve contacted them all. We’re in the process of making plane reservations and they’re all expected to be in Tampa this week for development camp as well.
Excited about the players we got and really happy that they’re all going to be able to come down to Tampa very quickly and start to meet people and start working with our organization to improve themselves.
Question: Alexander Volkov’s injury put him off of a lot of people’s radar, you think? Or he wasn’t really on a lot of the...
Murray: I think he was, and I think where we took him was higher. There’s certain players you say, “What round can we get them in?” or “Where do you expect them to go?” We thought he’d probably go in the third round so if we take him in the second round, we’re going to be ahead of the curve and we’ll get that player. That was where he was on our list.
It ended up being in the second round and we think that’s where we got him, but I know teams have talked to us. We talk to other teams too. “Geez, you got a guy we liked.” Teams have come up to us on both Lipanov and Volkov and said, “Those were players that were coming up on our lists very quickly.”
Question: Guttman and Perbix - what can you tell us about them?
Murray: Perbix is a defenseman from Minnesota High School. He’s 6’4” - let me just look at my cheat sheet here - he’s 6’4” 190 pounds, right shot defenseman from Elk River High School. He’s going to go play next year at Omaha of the USHL [United States Hockey League] and he’s off to St. Cloud State [University] on a scholarship.
Cole Guttman is a right shot center, played this year in Dubuque [of the USHL]. He’s going back to Dubuque next year where he’ll be the captain and then he’s also going to St. Cloud State. He’s a skilled centerman, right shot, 5’10” about 170 pounds. High energy, good skater with skill. He was a point a game in the USHL - and a point a game in the USHL is a real good total. Kind of like [Lightning prospect Ross] Colton and [Lightning prospect Ryan] Lohin. That’s where we see him, progressing the same way.
And then Sam Walker. Sam played at Edina High School. He’s got a choice next year. He can go back to Edina High School or he can go to Lincoln of the USHL. He’s another right shot center, good skater, good skills. He’s a little thinner than Cole - he’s 5’10” probably 160 pounds. And then he’s going to go to the University of Minnesota.
So all three of them have real good development paths. They’re all good skaters. In the case of Perbix, he’s a big player - the other two are smaller, skilled guys.
Question: Was there a thought of taking a goalie at all or are you pretty happy with the depth you have in the organization?
Murray: No, we’re always looking again for the best player. There were several goalies that we liked and before we took them they were chosen so we went to the next player on our list. We thought there were some good goalkeepers, just not at the spot where we felt there was comparable talent at another position.
Question: Anybody you feel like might be a sleeper pick? Or someone you were surprised to see available at that spot?
Murray: I guess the guy that dropped the most was probably Lipanov. But not a sleeper, not a surprise. There’s still some bias somewhere with some Russian players. We don’t have that bias in our organization. We want the best players.
You don’t want a whole team of Russian players, but you don’t want a whole team of Swedish players or French-Canadian players. You want a mix and you want the players to merge and blend together. We think we’ve got good people.
Both of the Russian kids speak English. In Lipanov’s case, he’s coming over and going to Barrie [of the Ontario Hockey League]. In the case of Volkov, he purposely did not re-sign a contract because he’s interested in trying to work out a contract and come to the American Hockey League next year.
So if you find people that want to come play in the league and show themselves to be good people and motivated, then those are the guys we want. It doesn’t matter where they come from.
Question: There was a lot of intriguing options at number 14 yesterday in terms of guys who fell there, but you got up right away and picked Foote. What made him a guy that kind of stood above the rest, especially among defensemen there that you could have picked?
Murray: Well in the case of Cal [Foote] yesterday, we had probably five or six guys that we thought were in an elite group that were going to go very early. And then we had I think it was another six or seven [players that] we spent all season debating.
And then hours and hours over the last two days debating. We put them in an order. We came back half an hour later, changed the order. We came back two days later, we changed the order. So there was a lot of good players that could have gone in any order.
He was the next player on our list. When he was there, that was the next guy and it was an easy decision. There were a whole bunch of players we liked and he was the next up.
Question: Speaking of Russians, I know another guy you guys acquired - Mikhail Sergachev, I’m sure you guys scouted before in the previous draft last year. What are your initial takes? What do you see in him?
Murray: Well he’s going to get an opportunity to try to make the team this year and we’ll just see. He’s a very - he’s a big kid, first of all. He’s 6’3” about 210 or 215. He’s a very good skater, he’s got skill, and he’s very competitive.
We hope that maybe we’ve got another Ivan Provorov. I don’t want to put pressure on him, but Ivan at the same age last year was able to move right into Philly’s [Philadelphia Flyers] lineup from the CHL [Canadian Hockey League].
We hope that Sergachev can do the same thing, but there’s no need to rush him. He’s got all the tools to be a NHL player for a long time. If he’s ready now, we’ll start him off. If not, he’s in a good junior program back in Windsor.
He’ll just progress at whatever pace he shows us, but we’re certainly not going to put any roadblocks in his way.
Question: Is there a Russian scout you want to give credit to?
Murray: I think when you look at our staff, there’s no one person. Some of the guys like Volkov was seen by all of our CHL guys before he broke his foot more than our Russian scouts. So it’s a team effort by our group and we’re really proud and happy to work with all our guys.
There’s not one player on the list that one scout can lay claim to because it’s a group effort. When somebody identifies a guy, we work together to make sure we’ve got enough information.