Here’s the first part of the long interview I did on Saturday with Michael Futa and Mark Yannetti, the Kings’ co-directors of amateur scouting. The interview took place after I sat in on their session, so you’ll read a couple references to that morning’s meeting.
For a little background, Futa and Yannetti were named to their roles on June 5, 2007, so this is really their first year overseeing the Kings’ draft efforts.
Previously, Yannetti worked as a scout for the Kings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Futa spent the previous five seasons as the general manager of the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League.
What follows is the start of a lengthy, wide-ranging interview. As you’ll see, it starts with a simple question but a long, involved answer in which the guys discuss their work and their philosophy. After this, the questions and answers will get more specific. Here’s the first part…
Question: By the time the draft begins, how many hours do you estimate you’ll have spent evaluating players?
Yannetti: “I don’t even know if you could estimate it.”
Futa: “I don’t think you can cap it, honestly.”
Yannetti: “We do it, as a group, six times a year, maybe more. It’s 8 in the morning until sometimes midnight.”
Futa: “For example, Mark and I will finish up here, and we’ve been going since Friday. Mark and I will meet at the Memorial Cup and we’ll spend probably five days together, just taking the list that we’ve put together as a group, and we’ll look at some guys that we think we might have a little out of order. That might lead to more of guys squaring off against each other (in evaluations). Then Mark and I have a group of kids that we’re going to individually spend time with, probably two-hour blocks. We’ll be doing some house visits.”
Yannetti: “Then we go back and do this again, after the house visits. There’s so much information to be gained. Now that they’ve stopped playing, we’re still going back and looking at things. We’re looking at them as people. The interviews and the combines will have some impact, but the two-hour blocks are really about spending time with the kid in his environment. That goes a long way, when you’re talking about slight differences in players.”
Futa: “This is the time of year though, I think, when there’s not really any surprises with what we see anymore. You’re really counting on your area (scouts) to really show the intangibles, from the character standpoint, if there’s anything that they learned that we haven’t discussed, anything that might make a difference. We’re really looking at character and work ethic and if there’s anything away from the rink that we might need to know.”
Yannetti: “You saw it there. There was almost no disagreement about what type of player `Player B’ was. Almost zero disagreement there, but there is some disagreement about where he fits. Everybody looks at the same stuff. This is after (evaluating) countless games.”
Futa: “We’ve all got our own individual personalities and certain types of players that we push. If you’re tied, you probably tend toward grit. You need all of it to win. It’s not like it’s one or the other.”
Yannetti: “There’s no right or wrong. When you put us together, a lot of my weaknesses are really, really balanced out by (Futa’s) strengths. I didn’t think I had this many weaknesses until he came on. (laughs) I think I was a whole lot more complete.”
Futa: “I didn’t know I had that many strengths. (laughs) It’s funny how we can be totally different. We didn’t even know each other (before last year) but we brought our lists together…”
Yannetti: “I was shocked.”
Futa: “…and the similarities in the lists were unbelievable. Now you’re not going to know, for a while, how it pans out. That’s the difference between this and working in junior. There, you know right away, when they come into training camp. But at this level, it could be four or five years before you learn how you did.”
Yannetti: “There are subtle differences, like he said. Brent (McEwen, amateur scout) likes the competitiveness and the heart. I might like the hockey sense. Tony (Gasparini, amateur scout) brings background information that I’ve never seen before. You don’t see that from guys who have been in the game for 20-30 years. It’s funny how it all filters in. The way I look at something is different from the way (Futa) looks at something. Then that triggers something in Brent and it’s all a chain reaction sometimes.”
Futa: “I think we’re very fortunate, with the way the staff has been put together and the contacts that are there. My area is a little broader but I have Ontario as well, because of my involvement with the Ontario Hockey League. Brent has involvement as a general manager in the Western League and Tony’s dialed into the colleges, it’s almost like a reality show. You’re walking into the dressing room after games, meeting coaches and GMs. It’s not like there’s this hands-off thing. That helps, because you need a lot of information to throw into the blender.”
Yannetti: “You’re constantly dealing with incomplete information. The more information you have, the better, because you’re dealing with 17-and-18-year-old kids. You can never have complete information. There’s a level of `complete’ that’s unacceptable, but with all these strengths we have, you just get more and more information. It’s at a different level here than I’ve seen in the past.”