In the second of a four-part series, we continue our conversation with Mark Yannetti, Director of Scouting for the Los Angeles Kings. If you missed yesterday’s kick-off article, he shared a wealth of behind-the-scenes thinking; detailing what really goes into scouting and selecting players at the NHL Draft. Among the topics covered were how the team stocks their system with players at each position, how and why they select players from different leagues and areas of the globe, plus the intricacies of moving up in a particular round. It’s an important read and laid the groundwork for the rest of this series.
Now, with the team’s annual summer Development Camp set to open on Monday, we turn our attention to some of the actual players selected at last weekend’s Draft. Having dealt away their first round pick to Boston in the Milan Lucic trade, L.A.’s first selection came in the second round, where they took defenseman Erik Cernak from Slovakia (pictured above at the NHL Combine).
“When I read the scouting reports on Cernak, they’re true,” began Yannetti. “He’s a big, strong, hard, competitive defenseman. He’s not Matt Greene, though. When I read some of these reports, I just close my eyes and all I picture is a Matt Greene, a steady number six. I don’t see Cernak as a six at all. He can move the puck. I have heard some people claim his hockey IQ isn’t good. His hockey IQ may not be higher-level functioning IQ, but it’s good. He can score. He can make more than a first-option pass, he can read the play, he can find the second-option seam. The thing about Cernak that I think people may not value enough is his ability to move the puck. Part of the reason I think they see that is because [they] see things in a vacuum. You watch the World Juniors; he was OK at the WJC. He was capable at the WJC. Those don’t seem like glowing compliments. You watch him in the [regular season], sometimes I think he’s outstanding and then there are times when I think he’s capable. You don’t want to draft capable. You don’t get excited to draft capable.
“One thing you don’t look at, though, is that he’s playing in the league as a 16-17-year-old in Slovakia. He’s playing in the WJC with draft eligible players. We’ve seen time and time again, that is a hard tournament for a guy who is not Drew Doughty to be a defensemen and a draft eligible guy. It’s a hard tournament for a guy that isn’t Slava Voynov. The fact that you can survive and be capable as a 17-year-old in that tournament tells you all you need to know. All of a sudden, a scout is looking at a kid saying, ‘He doesn’t always find the second option. He doesn’t always execute the first option play.’ Then, they start to think his hockey IQ isn’t good or it is mediocre or average. The fact that he can adjust to that level of pace is what tells you that his hockey IQ is good or is better than average as a defensemen. It’s that mistake that people make at looking at something in a vacuum. I don’t think people realize Cernak played on the second power play and sometimes the first power play in Slovakia in the Elite league. You can’t put someone on the power play who can’t think at a decent level.”
In part-three, we’ll get into the Kings selection of Alexander Dergachyov in the third round – and how he relates to Yannetti getting to know Slava Voynov in 2008, what really happened with 2012 Draft pick Nikolai Prokhorkin, and how much of the ‘Russian Factor’ came into play when it was time for L.A. to pick at No. 74 last weekend.
In the meantime, if you want more with Yannetti or just love to read about Kings prospects, check out the links below.
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