Canucks believe driven draft prospects simply too busy, too devoted to be distractedWHO has a warning for the NHL?The World Health Organization (that’s WHO) has categorized a priority to play video games as a mental-health disorder when it takes precedence over other interests and daily activities — including training, nutrition and rest for young NHL prospect and players — to produce negative consequences.The WHO has added “gaming disorder” to the International Statistical Classification of diseases and related health problems — ICD-11 — which goes into effect in 2022.What does this all mean when interviews are conducted this week at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo? Will 104 prospects be asked about the global obsession with Fortnite and the Battle Royal version before finding out what else makes them tick? Will their answers affect draft selections on June 21-22 at Rogers Arena?Canucks general manager Jim Benning doesn’t think so.Even though a rumour surfaced a year ago that prospect Olli Juolevi had a gaming addiction — an allegation his agent Markus Lehto denied — and the Vancouver Canucks banned video games on the road this season, Benning believes there’s more at play because of the dedication and time management required to become an NHL prospect.
Fortnite is far and away the most popular video game of the moment, and lots of young NHL players are caught up in the phenomenon.
So don’t expect gaming questions to be a priority when the Canucks hockey operations department interviews 70 players during 10-15 minute segments this week in advance of medicals and physical testing.“Playing those (video) games is part of growing-up process,” Benning said Tuesday. “But if kids are playing them too much, they’re not going to tell us in an interview. And between going to school and practising and playing and travelling, these kids are busy. So we don’t get into that too much because we know they don’t have a lot of free time. They’re pretty busy.”It’s also a busy week for Benning because the scouting combine attracts his peers and agents. He expects to talk to Ben Hankinson, the representative for restricted free agent Brock Boeser and unrestricted free agent Luke Schenn, and stay abreast of anything that might improve his roster.One rumour that won’t go away surfaced out of Edmonton on Tuesday, suggesting the Canucks and Oilers have talked about swapping Loui Eriksson for Milan Lucic.“I haven’t had any conversations with Kenny (GM Holland) regarding that,” said Benning.
Canucks director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett, left, and prospect Olli Juolevi at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images files
As for the scouting combine, here’s a Q&A with the Canucks GM:What do you want to accomplish in the interview process?“Getting to know the personalities and finding out what makes them tick, their competitiveness and how badly they want to be NHL players. The hard part of our job is we’re trying to project what they’re going to turn into three or four years from now when they’re fully matured physically and mentally. We’re looking for a skill set and a foundation to develop.”What doesn’t surprise you about today’s driven prospects?“How polished they are and how comfortable they are walking into a room of adults and selling themselves on their strengths and talking about their weaknesses. That just mirrors today’s society, they’re more interactive with their phones and they’re more social.”What’s the best question to get a real read on a player?“When you ask how a teammate would describe him, he can’t lie. We could go and check with the players, coaches or trainers. They usually give a pretty honest answer. And we challenge them with tough questions about things we’ve heard about them and if it’s true. The Swedish and Finnish players are more reserved and give short answers, so it’s harder to get a feel for their personalties. And sometimes with the Russians or Czechs, there’s a language barrier.”
The Canucks were impressed with the poise shown by their first-round draft pick Quinn Hughes (above) in his interview at the pre-draft combine, recalls Vancouver GM Jim Benning (right).
Michael Ainsworth /
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS files
What was the Quinn Hughes interview like a year ago?“Sometimes when players are nervous, they talk a lot. But with Quinn, there was just a quiet confidence in his ability. After we interviewed him, we just felt like there was an air about him and that he came from a hockey family and knew what to expect. This was just another step to prove he was going to be a good NHL player.“And with Petey (Elias Pettersson), he had a self-confidence about him (before the 2017 draft). He was humble, but we could tell there was a quiet intensity about him to knock that door down to show people he could be one of the best players.”Have you been turned off by a player and not drafted him?“Yeah. If we don’t get a good feel — whether it’s the personality or drive and willingness to face adversity and develop as a player in the AHL — there may not be the mental toughness and it’s too easy for them to give up.”What sets the U.S. National Team Development Program apart with five top-10 prospects?“They have a pro-style set-up there (in Plymouth, Mich.) with school, working out and practice and when we talk to those kids, they’re organized. There are probably 12 players off that team that we’re gong to interview.“Spencer Knight (rated 19th overall) has the ability to develop into No. 1 goalie. And the players there are so good and dominant offensively, sometimes when you look at one player, you lose sight of how good the group is.”email@example.com/benkuzma CLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.