I’ll have more from Christian Ruuttu (on Tobias Bjornfot) and others tomorrow, but to wrap up today’s coverage, here’s the Q-and-A from our scrum with General Manager Rob Blake and a quick conversation on scouting Alex Turcotte (and being the one to announce the fifth pick) with the Kings’ Midwestern-based Amateur Scout-United States, Tony Gasparini, plus the first batch of draft day photos.
Rob Blake, on selecting Alex Turcotte 5th overall:
I think it’s no secret – the character and the compete level. We found that to be a very important ingredient for our first round picks, both of them.
Christian Ruuttu does a really good job with Mark Yannetti over in Europe. As far as the D part was concerned, we were looking for a D. We didn’t take one in last year’s draft, so we knew we had to have something in the high-end on that aspect. Good skating D, but again, a captain on the U-18 team. Has that leadership ability, that character and that compete.
Blake, on valuing character and leadership qualities:
Very much. Most important. [Reporter: Why is that? – is it high in this draft?] I think it’s most important in any draft – it’s a very important ingredient.
Blake, on Bjornfot’s leadership abilities as Sweden’s captain:
Skating ability, too. He’s a high-end skater, more in him and Alex, picking that ability. For us, the compete and the character, that’s one of the main ingredients we were looking for in these kids.
Blake, on Turcotte’s willingness to go into “dirty areas”:
100%. He does that. He has a lot of leadership, natural leadership built into him.
Blake, on any comparison between Bjornfot and Mattias Norstrom:
Yeah, a little bit. That was Nelson Emerson’s comparison. Not a bad one – not a bad one to do.
Blake, on what impressed him about Bjornfot at the NHL Draft Combine:
The interview period – pretty professional, pretty well mature for his age and growing up. All that part. Our guys do a lot of the vetting prior to that also. There’s 10 or 12 of us in a room there for 15 minutes, so it’s more just getting a face to the name and that.
Blake, on the lack of trade action:
It’s hard to tell. Not a lot of activity on that front. [Reoprter: So was the discussing, the talking less than it usually is this time of the year?] Yeah, yeah. [Reporter: Why do you think that is?] I don’t know, no idea.
Blake, on whether the uncertainty around the salary cap forces them to use different models:
Well, we understand our position on the cap for the next couple years, regardless if it comes a million or two under the models we’re using. Jeff’s pretty conservative when he does his models, projecting year after year.
Blake, on Turcotte rebounding from injury and illness to finish the year strong:
He’s good. It’s funny – he’s going to Wisconsin. Tony Granato has a really good relationship, so all the diligence that you do on him points to those characteristics.
Blake, on whether he crosses paths with Alfie Turcotte:
Not really. I mean, I know him, and [Alex’s] uncle Jeff, obviously, does a lot for the Junior Kings and stickhandling. Daryl will know he’s around the rink all the time, so he has a little connection to the organization there, too.
I’ve got to be honest, I was a little surprised because I was told I have a look for radio. Obviously having had the opportunity to get to know Alex throughout this draft process, it was special to call his name. He’s certainly a quality young man, and the first thing he said to me, he goes, ‘I had a feeling – as soon as I saw you making the pick, I knew it, I knew it,’ and we started laughing. He’s a great kid, and we’re certainly have him a part of our family and organization.
Gasparini, on Turcotte’s bulldog nature and competitiveness:
Whether it be his skating, whether it be the pace in which he plays the game or whether it’s sheer determination, he wills himself into the game and he wills himself into all the areas on the ice where he can have an impact, and in particular in front of the net. He wants to have an impact each and every shift that he takes out there. In saying that, he’s obviously a student of the game, because how mature his game is at times without the puck comes from watching a lot of hockey and growing up around this game.
Gasparini, on how scouts accounted for a partial sample in Turcotte’s draft season:
Although the fact that he missed the first half of the season, one thing you have to remember is he played the second half of the season with the U-18s a year ago, and as a result, there was some background, and he already familiarized everyone on our staff with his game, and he impacted last year as an underage. He played top-six minutes a year ago on the U-18 team, in particular at the end of the season. That allowed us to be familiar with his game going into this season. We knew he was a top-end player coming in. The scary thing is if you go back to our list from September, before a game was even played, I don’t think he moved very much at all. There may have been some movement, but where he started is where he finished on the list, which doesn’t happen very often.
— Lead photo via Kevin Light/Getty Images