NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Five Questions With …” runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Dan Marr, who has served as director of NHL Central Scouting since 2011.
Dan Marr said it’s unfair to label Alexis Lafreniere a franchise talent before he’s played an NHL game, but he is confident that whichever team gets the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and selects Lafreniere, it will be adding an impact player capable of making an immediate contribution.
The No. 1 pick will be determined in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, scheduled for Aug. 10, and will consist of the eight teams that lose in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Each team will have an equal chance of winning. The second phase was needed after a placeholder team won the First Phase of the draft lottery June 26. The 2020 draft will be held virtually Oct. 9-10.
Lafreniere scored 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games with Rimouski to lead the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and he was named the player of the year in the Canadian Hockey League (QMJHL, Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League). The 6-foot-1, 193-pound left wing is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.
“Lafreniere has lived up to all the hype and well-deserved accolades that have been bestowed upon him leading up to his NHL draft selection,” Marr said. “He will be an excellent player in the NHL and will impact and contribute to the success of whichever NHL club is lucky enough to be awarded the No. 1 overall pick.”
Marr and his staff have been forced to navigate through some very unusual times. The NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, and the regular seasons for the CHL and the United States Hockey League were cancelled, as were the NCAA hockey playoffs, and seasons in Europe. Central Scouting’s final meetings were held virtually for the first time, and the NHL Scouting Combine, which had been scheduled for June 1-6 in Buffalo, was canceled.
And there still is uncertainty as to when next season will start for leagues around the world.
“Officials from the CHL, USHL and USA Hockey have provided updates that plans are in place to hold the 2020-21 season and those plans will be based on continually evolving contingencies with the pandemic circumstances,” Marr said. “All have confirmed that an NHL top prospects game (one for CHL players, one United States-born players) would be included at an agreed-upon date.”
Here are Five Questions with … Dan Marr:
How excited are you to learn the winner of the NHL Draft Lottery?
“The uniqueness of the 2020 NHL Draft lottery is exciting for the NHL and its fans in part that it was re-configured into a two-phase process with the initial lottery phase resulting in the No. 1 selection going to a yet to be determined club. The fact that the eight clubs eliminated in the [Stanley Cup Qualifiers] all have equal odds at winning the lottery makes it truly unique and the fans in each of those eliminated cities will be excited knowing they have a 1-in-8 chance to be awarded the No. 1 selection.”
Can you sum up how strange a season this has been for the scouting industry, and how this experience could change the way scouting is done in the future?
“The scouting landscape, like the entire hockey industry and global community, is dealing with a surreal situation in which the immediate future is an unknown. In order to proceed with the 2020 NHL Draft, NHL Central Scouting and NHL clubs embraced various technical means to communicate remotely and continue to prepare for the draft. Some of these same methods that were introduced into conducting draft interviews, meetings and rankings may be incorporated for future use. I know that for NHL Central Scouting, it has provided an option for us to utilize technical means to remotely produce some of our year-end reporting that typically had been conducted via in-person meetings, and many NHL scouting directors have conveyed similar observations.”
How difficult will it be to collect the necessary data and viewings for prospects eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft knowing that so many summer camps and tournaments already have been canceled?
“The traditional scouting season has taken on a tentative structure which has impacted on the close of the 2019-20 season and will significantly impact the 2020-21 season. All the NHL clubs and Central Scouting are in the same scouting circumstances, and not having the summer and preseason events means a lost opportunity to provide an early identification of NHL draft prospects. The scenario is even more muddled with not knowing the start and length of the upcoming season for various junior leagues, which ultimately will impact the traditional dates and formats for various tournaments and events. Fortunately with Central Scouting, we are set up with an online system in which we can proceed to distribute and collect player information and questionnaires of 2021 NHL Draft prospects and we will soon be activating that process. All of us can only hope that the 2020-21 season can move forward when it’s safe to do so.”
There’s a debate on whether Saginaw (OHL) center Cole Perfetti, No. 5 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, or Ottawa (OHL) center Marco Rossi, No. 6, would be the better option if a team had the choice. Why did Central Scouting have Perfetti ahead of Rossi in the final rankings?
“That question is one that can go around and around and be a close call in every discussion. With each player you are getting a potential game-breaker in that both have exceptional hockey sense and skills to offensively make a difference in any given situation. Both players have more in common than not, including being smaller centermen (Perfetti 5-foot-10, 177 pounds; Rossi 5-9, 183). But the one difference in Perfetti’s favor that was factored in at our meetings was a slight advantage with his skating assets.”
Do you consider defenseman Jamie Drysdale, No. 3 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, in the same category as NHL defensemen and Calder Trophy finalists Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche and Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks?
“If you were to poll the Central Scouting group, it’s not an exaggeration to answer that question with a consensus resounding of most certainly. Jamie Drysdale plays a similar style game in which his skating, skills and smarts are on display every shift, and the combined quickness and composure in which he sees the ice and executes plays is reminiscent of both Makar and Hughes in their draft years.”