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Even New Jersey Devils super-scout David Conte says drafting is educated guessing

The Edmonton Journal's Jason Gregor posted the first of what he promises will be a two-part interview with New Jersey Devils director of amateur scouting David Conte, who's held his position for the past 20 years and worked for the Devils for 29 years(!), and the beginning of a fascinating conversation with Conte reveals that even advanced statistics and the knowledge of seasoned scouts don't eliminate the "luck" of the draw from drafting and developing players:

Gregor: What has been your basic guideline or specific attributes that you need to see in a player, and how have you been able to find them on a continual basis?

Conte: When I figure out what that is, I’ll let you know. But right now, we’re just trying to ascertain all of the different things from character to style of play and how they fit into our culture. I think that nothing has terribly changed, but I think that each draft is a unique and new experience. There is no next Scott Stevens. There is the next great player, there is the next Nathan MacKinnon, but there is not the next Mario Lemieux. I mean, they are all so special unto themselves and I think that we need to take each year as it comes and start with a clean slate and some level of objectivity.

Gregor: When you go to a top-10 or even a top-five pick, and we do see historically that there is a drop-off. How do you find where that drop-off is? Is it noticeable from an experienced scout as yourself as much as it seems to be when you read all of those mock drafts?

Conte: I try not to be influenced by that. We try to categorize and quantify the value of each particular pick and see where those drop-offs are and try to adjust accordingly. So try to move forward, try to stay where you are or move backwards. Again, there is too much of this talk. It’s great for you and it’s great for the fans, but for those of us who have to make an absolute decision, it’s kind of better to rely on our own knowledge, on our own scouting reports, and our own people and basically sequester ourselves to making the choice that we think is right for the New Jersey Devils. I suppose that what might be popular with the media, or popular with the fans, or even popular with your coaches sometimes, might not be what we see. This is a pick that will impact, especially when picking ninth, this franchise for a long time to come. It is easier to get caught up in the up-and-down rankings because you are only waiting nine turns, but I also think it’s far more important to pick correctly because you have less room for error.


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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