Over the past few years, we have noted several times our collective opinions of the work done by the Kings scouting and development staffs. Specifically, two of the people we enjoy talking with the most are Mike Futa and Mark Yannetti. Since GM Dean Lombardi took over the team in 2006, they have been a pair of constants within the organization, offering both a critical outlook about the future and openly sharing their evaluations of prospects in the pipeline. As the offseason now turns away from the Draft and more toward this week’s Development Ccamp, we caught up with Yannetti to gather some thoughts on several of the Kings’ recent selections.
When asked about Swedish defenseman Jacob Moverare, selected in the fourth round (112th overall) at last month’s Draft, Yannetti had plenty to say…
“Moverare, in my opinion and our staff’s opinion, had the highest hockey IQ of defensemen in the Draft. Not of Europeans, in terms of all defensemen, we think he had the highest hockey IQ, period,” he began. “Now the next question is, why was he available in the fourth round? Because, he’s also one of the weakest skaters in the draft. If not the weakest, he’s near the bottom. So you now have the highest hockey IQ and the lowest ability to skate. So the question, again, is how much can you improve his skating? How much negative impact will his skating have on his game? Thus far, it has no negative impact. But as we move up levels, we do see that that can happen.
“You look at Tyler Toffoli, He slid [in the 2010 Draft] because of his skating. I don’t want to minimize the work that went into it, but Tyler Toffoli is an above-average NHL skater today. He went to the development staff and he did excellent work. Michael Mersch, one of the reasons we got him [in the fourth round of the 2011 Draft] was because of his skating. His skating has improved, but not to a level it needs to be at yet. It’s better, but Michael’s skating is a work in progress. So with Jacob, how much can we improve his skating? Can we trend it towards the Toffoli range, which is very optimistic – and maybe too optimistic? Can we surpass the improvement of [Kurtis] MacDermid? Can we get to the MacDermid improvement? There are various levels of improvement we can do on his skating. And price comes in as well. This is a kid that is very young, very mentally mature, lots of uncapped athletic ability. If we improve that, do we improve his skating? Do we improve his skating just by improving that?
“There are a lot of moving parts in terms of his development. But not only does he have that elite asset, he has it at one of the highest levels. So for us, he is the type of kid that wants to get better. He is a kid that’s not going to leave potential on the table. Which when you are trying to fix skating, that is something you want to have. Even at the best of times, it is tedious work to improve skating. That’s him in a nutshell. And when I say high hockey IQ, it’s not just with the puck. It’s with and without the puck. It’s a versatile hockey IQ, too. Because sometimes hockey IQ manifest itself on one side of the puck, most times [not two].”
Another often mentioned tidbit when talking about Moverare is his age. At just 17-years-old, he has joined the rare list of under-18 players ever drafted by the Kings (Adrian Kempe comes to mind). However, Yannetti thinks people tracking such information are focusing on the wrong things.
“I think age is used the wrong way to determine potential,” said the Kings longtime Director of Amateur Scouting. “I always like the term ‘developmental age.’ Take Nick Dowd; he’s improved leaps and bounds in the last year and a half. And he continues to improve because his developmental age does not match his [true] age. So you can have a 17-year-old, who is close to tapped out, or a 20-year-old, who looks like somebody’s younger brother. With Jacob, he is 17, but he is at the very, very bottom end of the developmental age for me. That’s another huge positive, because strength is a component of skating. Coordination is a component of skating. Foundational, muscle memory, the foundational aspect of coordination that these guys learn, is at the lower end of that spectrum. So it’s not surprising that his skating would be below average. And there are also some technical flaws, too, so the question is how much do the technical flaws get accentuated by the physical flaws? We will have to take that as we go.”
For anybody who closely follows the Kings scouting process, it’s widely known that Futa and Yannetti aren’t the only ones doing the heavy lifting. In fact, they have a full staff – all across the globe – looking for the next wave of talent. In the case of Moverare, there appears to be quite a bit of consensus when it comes to his potential.
“Obviously Christian Ruuttu [L.A.’s Director of European Scouting] saw him first,” explained Yannetti. “He was more involved with him early; but I can tell you, in terms of rating a player and reading reports, all the guys on our staff saw Jacob. Everyone saw him – Tony [Gasparini], Byrnie [Chris Byrne], Nick [Niklas Andersson] and Ruuttu. And If I showed you all their reports, you wouldn’t know who wrote which report, because it’s one of those rare instances where every report defines the guy identically. They were carbon copies, in terms of reading his deficiency and his weaknesses, and the discussions on him were really stimulating because you had so many people with such intimate knowledge of him. Whereas sometimes with the Europeans, it’s just Christian and myself. Sometimes, with other guys, it’s just Mike and myself or Chris and myself. Obviously Christian was at the point on Moverare, but this one was a staff pick through and through.”
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