Michael Futa, Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting, spoke with LA Kings Insider in Edmonton on Tuesday on the scouting staff’s preparations for the upcoming NHL draft and what he saw out of Curtis Lazar, a potential first round draft pick who led the Edmonton Oil Kings with two goals in a 6-0 win over the Prince George Cougars during a WHL matinee at Rexall Place on Monday.
LA Kings Insider: The Kings currently don’t have a first round draft pick at this year’s NHL Draft. Does that change the approach or the philosophy of preparing for the draft at all?
Michael Futa: No, nothing changes. Your list is always that important. In junior when you can’t move picks, it’s a little different, but here, we learned that last year because we didn’t have a pick last year until the pick before. Columbus made the decision five minutes before we picked. So you can never let your guard down, so to speak. The ability to move up, I remember the one year with Derek Forbort. We climbed the ladder to get Derek Forbort. Dean’s never been one to not be active at the draft if there’s a kid that we’re thrilled about. We find that this year’s draft, depending on what the team’s needs are – the big team, or whether its picks – our list is the same as it is when we had multiple early picks. Your attention to detail never changes.
LAKI: Evaluations of a draft are not as easy leading up to the draft as they are in the years following it, but do you have a sense of whether this year’s draft is deep? Top-heavy? How does it appear?
MF: From purely the job we do, I think there are some really good players up high…The media wants every year to have somebody they can name the draft after, whether it’s Hall versus Seguin…or the Tavares sweepstakes. But the bottom line from our standpoint – there are probably three or four guys right out of the get go that in their own right, depending on what you need, could go first overall. And they’re all exceptional hockey players that are going to be impact guys. And then there’s a crop of about another 15 right after that that all bring a lot special. And then you’ve got your list of guys that everybody’s going to have…maybe they’re a little weaker away from the puck, their skating. You do all your due diligence and try and fall together. But I would say, to answer your question, it is deep. It is deep in a sense that you’re probably going to get just as good of a player, just as good of a prospect, in the third round as you’re going to get in the high second round. So if you do your homework, get a little bit of luck and certainly, I think we’ve proven as a staff…with Dean, with Mark [Yannetti], myself, that we don’t take any shortcuts, and with regards to the use of meeting the kids and the video and stuff, you get a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get. Again, we’re thrilled about it. Last year, you certainly forget in a hurry – although it’s certainly nice to win a Stanley Cup – you move on in a hurry, and you’ve just got to keep stocking the shelves so you keep winning more.
LAKI: What of Curtis Lazar’s game did you like in the Edmonton Oil Kings’ win?
MF: In a game like that against an opponent that’s struggling, just in general – it’s nice that he had a couple of goals and stuff like that – but you like to see how motivated he is. He scored early. You can see he’s not a selfish player, because he’s the one who went to the ref [to give credit of the goal to his teammate]. He could’ve taken credit and had a hat trick, but he made sure that [Henrik] Samuelsson got credited with his points. What I liked about his game [Monday] or in general about a player like that, when you’re playing against a team that’s down, and clearly you’re more talented, he didn’t take any shortcuts. He was still back checking hard…it would have been an easy game for any player, if he’s got offensive numbers, to get really gritty and want to rack it up, and he really never lost his interest in his play away from the puck, so I thought that was pretty interesting.
LAKI: With 32 points and a plus-11 rating, is 2012 first round pick Tanner Pearson putting together the type of season as an AHL rookie that you would have expected?
MF: I think as a staff, he’s an older player. The thing that we liked about him was his ability to play. Johnny Stevens last year talked about the 200 foot game. He’s such a reliable guy. The toughness that he plays with, it’s frustrating. He’s got a really good stick. He creates a lot of turnovers with his smarts and getting under sticks, and playing with the other guys, it’s nice to see a line that young form that kind of chemistry…That’s really an ideal situation when you’ve got a great centerman like Linden Vey, and a guy that was a top scorer like Tyler [Toffoli] on the other side that can finish off what they create. They’re all goal scorers in their own right, but they seem to develop the chemistry. It’s such a tough league. It’s really a credit to them, the job they’ve done down there to produce on a regular basis.