The 2016 NHL Draft isn’t even a mere two months behind us, but all teams of the best hockey league on the planet are already thinking about the next draft. As Roman Havluj from the European affiliate of Central Scouting said, there are more than 180 scouts on this year’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial, and a couple of general managers, too. Steve Yzerman from the Tampa Bay Lightning personally visits ice rinks in Breclav and Bratislava every year and he is not the only one of the 30 general managers here.
Jarmo Kekalainen from the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with a couple of scouts including the club´s head of amateur scouting Ville Siren, travelled to the Memorial to get an early idea about the upcoming draft class.
"I think it is a great way to start the year in scouting. You get an idea what you are getting for the next year’s draft, how the draft class looks like and it is also a fun tournament. Canadians have the best team for the pretty much only time during the year because in April during the World Championships, they have players playing still in the playoffs," said Kekalainen during one of the intermissions of the game between Czech Republic and the USA.
It is unclear yet whether future superstars like Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine will be up for grabs in next year’s draft held in Chicago. "Everybody thought the draft class last year was very high-end at the top and then pretty deep, too in the first round. I am not sure if this year’s class is as good as last year but they still have eleven months to prove us that they are just as good. Many players will develop during the year both physically and mentally and we have lots of time to evaluate them," continued the only European GM in the NHL.
Notwithstanding the fact that we are still at the start of the season, Kekalainen is already starting to see some future NHLers in Breclav and Bratislava. "I think that there are many future NHL players. To be an NHL star, that is always a tough task for a 17, 18-year old because you still have to go through a lot of steps before you even get in the NHL and then to get to the top of the NHL, that is another big challenge for anybody."