When it comes to the NHL Draft, you won't find a general manager more hands-on than Rick Dudley. Before his first GM job and in-between his opportunities at the top, the Atlanta Thrashers boss is a player personnel man at heart. Most general managers want to be highly involved, for very good reasons, with a lottery pick. However, few if any will travel to Lake Placid, NY in early August for an up-close-and-personal look at Team USA's evaluation camp for the World Junior Championships.
That's where Dudley (pictured, far right) was last year in preparation for the draft, and where he was this week when we tracked him down for some insight into his scouting process. While at the home of USA's "Miracle on Ice," Dudley even found time to complete an inventive salary dump trade with the Rangers involving Atlanta's Todd White and New York's Donald Brashear and Patrick Rissmiller.
On the subject of scouting and his staff's selection of Alex Burmistrov (pictured, far left), who the Thrashers took eighth overall in this year's draft, I knew to get out of the way, take notes and allow Dudley to speak. The man, like almost everyone in his profession, has had his share of hits and misses over the last 20 years, but he is plenty passionate about the job.
On Why He Scouts All Year
"For the draft, we have an excellent staff in place, led by our director of amateur scouting, Don Marr. I get involved simply because I feel I have to get involved. I respect all of the information our scouts bring to the table, but when you're investing in young hockey players like our franchise does and all the NHL teams do, I feel it's my responsibility to get out there. That's why you'll see me in Lake Placid now and Europe and everywhere else at other times. Knowledge is power. I also feel I evaluate talent well.
"We utilize a system that I've had in place for more than 20 years. It even pre-dates my career as a scout and manager in the NHL. The basic premise is that we have 12 categories that make the perfect hockey player. We look for patterns in a player's game. We do an evaluation on every scrimmage and every game we see. In Lake Placid, I'll file a complete report on every player I see. This process continues from now until the last game is played before the draft."
On Drafting Alex Burmistrov Eighth Overall
"There were two knocks on Alex: he's Russian, with all the uncertainty that comes with some players, and there were some concerns about his weight -- in this case, that he was too light and might not get strong enough to compete against the big guys in the NHL.
"I'll tackle those. On the issue of whether Alex is committed to playing in the NHL, we did our homework and that's not an issue at all for him or for us. He showed his commitment by playing in Barrie last season. He was sincere when we met him at the draft combine. He's going to play in the NHL.
"How soon he makes it will depend a lot on his size and whether he's strong enough by the end of our training camp next month. I wouldn't bet against him. At our prospect camp, Alex was at 171 pounds. We're even more confident than ever that he'll play at a good size. He was so strong on his skates. His skill level was off the charts, so we're really excited about him. I would not rule out him playing for the Thrashers this season."
(NEXT: In the third and final entry, Dudley discusses the hiring of Craig Ramsay, his to-do list for the rest of the offseason and his expectations for the 2010-11 Thrashers).