General managers ready for a poker game

Sure, it’s all about hockey, but the NHL’s general managers are playing an awful lot of poker leading up to Sunday afternoon’s entry draft.

NEW YORK – Sure, it’s all about hockey, but the NHL’s general managers are playing an awful lot of poker leading up to Sunday afternoon’s entry draft.

The Ottawa Senators are among the many teams who have already made offers – and received counter-offers – to move up into a loftier drafting position from their current 17th overall spot. Yet teams are still keeping their cards close to their vest, not presenting their very best offers until necessary.

“I’ve put feelers out to to different groups of teams, talking about the possibility of moving, either way, and made a couple of proposals, but nobody has got back to me at this point,” Murray said Saturday afternoon.

The general consensus among scouts is that the top end of the first round is full of talent — “teams picking high are going to get, if not franchise players, definitely impact players,” according to Senators assistant GM Tim Murray – meaning it’s difficult to pry away one of the top 10 selections without a significant package going back the other way.

In the minds of the Senators’ scouting staff, there’s a top group of five or six players, followed by a second tier of five or six players. Considering their draft position, the Senators have focussed their attention on a third level of talent – four of those players were invited to Ottawa two weeks ago for a closer look – confident that one of that crew will end up becoming a decent player. However, they believe there’s an outside shot at getting a player from that second tier.

“It’s doubtful that one of those guys would drop to us,” conceded Tim Murray.

The Senators have left nothing to chance. After extensive, lengthy meetings in May to go over every prospect, the organization came to New York armed with a top 150 list. After attending the NHL’s scouting combine in Toronto earlier this month and interviewing players again here, they’ve “tweaked” the list slightly, according to Pierre Dorion, the team’s director of player personnel.

“A few changes, nothing major,” said Dorion. “We met pretty much all day (Friday) and again (Saturday) morning just to go over the top 17. We’re not going to talk much about about (Seth) Jones, (Nathan) MacKinnon or (Jonathan) Drouin, but if one of the players in the higher groups should fall, what would our (options) be?”

In an ideal world, the Senators would find an imposing power winger. Adam Erne, Bo Horvat and Kerby Rychel are expected to be taken somewhere in the middle of the first round and could fit the Senators needs.

“We always say we try to draft the best player available, but there is a type of player we’re looking forl no doubt and we’ve looked to upgrade in particular areas,” said Bryan Murray.

It’s also possible the Senators could opt to take the far less exciting route and move back – perhaps if one of their targetted players has already been selected. The Senators don’t currently have a second round selection – that pick was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the deal for Ben Bishop in February, 2012. If a team was willing to offer up a later first round choice and a second round pick for the Senators’ 17th overall pick, the Senators would consider it.

“If (Bryan Murray) came to us with an offer to move to 20th or 21st and we could still get one of the guys we liked, and we still feel we can get a player in the second round, we might,” said Tim Murray. “We just don’t want to move too far out of (the first round).”

The way things stand now, the draft could be a couple of hours old before the Senators get their turn at the podium. By then, much of the drama surrounding the consensus top picks – Jones, Drouin and MacKinnon – should be over.

The Avalanche have been outspoken in saying they will pick MacKinnon, even though Jones is an imposing defensive presence with family ties to Denver.

Bryan Murray, for one, says it’s possible the Avalanche are bluffing, perhaps hoping for a great offer to come their way.

“There are different approaches by different teams,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re following through totally or just that it’s easy to say this is what we’re doing and going about doing it. I’m not surprised about anything that happens in this business anymore.”

The Ottawa Senators are among the many teams who have already made offers – and received counter-offers – to move up into a loftier drafting position from their current 17th overall spot. Yet teams are still keeping their cards close to their vest, not presenting their very best offers until necessary.

“I’ve put feelers out to to different groups of teams, talking about the possibility of moving, either way, and made a couple of proposals, but nobody has got back to me at this point,” Murray said Saturday afternoon.

The general consensus among scouts is that the top end of the first round is full of talent — “teams picking high are going to get, if not franchise players, definitely impact players,” according to Senators assistant GM Tim Murray – meaning it’s difficult to pry away one of the top 10 selections without a significant package going back the other way.

In the minds of the Senators’ scouting staff, there’s a top group of five or six players, followed by a second tier of five or six players. Considering their draft position, the Senators have focussed their attention on a third level of talent – four of those players were invited to Ottawa two weeks ago for a closer look – confident that one of that crew will end up becoming a decent player. However, they believe there’s an outside shot at getting a player from that second tier.

“It’s doubtful that one of those guys would drop to us,” conceded Tim Murray.

The Senators have left nothing to chance. After extensive, lengthy meetings in May to go over every prospect, the organization came to New York armed with a top 150 list. After attending the NHL’s scouting combine in Toronto earlier this month and interviewing players again here, they’ve “tweaked” the list slightly, according to Pierre Dorion, the team’s director of player personnel.

“A few changes, nothing major,” said Dorion. “We met pretty much all day (Friday) and again (Saturday) morning just to go over the top 17. We’re not going to talk much about about (Seth) Jones, (Nathan) MacKinnon or (Jonathan) Drouin, but if one of the players in the higher groups should fall, what would our (options) be?”

In an ideal world, the Senators would find an imposing power winger. Adam Erne, Bo Horvat and Kerby Rychel are expected to be taken somewhere in the middle of the first round and could fit the Senators needs.

“We always say we try to draft the best player available, but there is a type of player we’re looking for, no doubt, and we’ve looked to upgrade in particular areas,” said Bryan Murray.

It’s also possible the Senators could opt to take the far less exciting route and move back – perhaps if one of their targetted players has already been selected. The Senators don’t currently have a second round selection – that pick was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the deal for Ben Bishop in February, 2012. If a team was willing to offer up a later first round choice and a second round pick for the Senators’ 17th overall pick, the Senators would consider it.

“If (Bryan Murray) came to us with an offer to move to 20th or 21st and we could still get one of the guys we liked, and we still feel we can get a player in the second round, we might,” said Tim Murray. “We just don’t want to move too far out of (the first round).”

The way things stand now, the draft could be a couple of hours old before the Senators get their turn at the podium. By then, much of the drama surrounding the consensus top picks – Jones, Drouin and MacKinnon – should be over.

The Avalanche have been outspoken in saying they will pick MacKinnon, even though Jones is an imposing defensive presence with family ties to Denver.

Bryan Murray, for one, says it’s possible the Avalanche are bluffing, perhaps hoping for a great offer to come their way.

“There are different approaches by different teams,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re following through totally or just that it’s easy to say this is what we’re doing and going about doing it. I’m not surprised about anything that happens in this business anymore.”

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