I ran into former Red Wings greats Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper last night at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ont. during a game between the Spitfires and the Soo Greyhounds. My friend and colleague Joel Boyce also took part in the interviews. Here’s what the two men had to say:
First up was Draper, in his usual low, gravelly voice…
Rob Benneian: Staying busy during the lockout, what have you seen so far tonight?
Kris Draper: Actually, a pretty entertaining game. Windsor is playing well, Soo is battling hard to get back into the game so it’s good. I think this is my third Windsor game that I’ve seen. We have a draft pick, Ryan Sproul, but unfortunately he’s injured right now and not playing. I was scheduled to come see him play and still decided to come. It’s good to stay involved and for me just learning the other side of the game. Last year was obviously my first year out and I saw a lot of amateur hockey and I’m just trying to get a little more involved and familiar with this year’s draft.
RB: I saw Sproully a bunch last year, talked to him quite a bit, he said one of the things you guys want him to work on is his defensive play. Have you seen much of him, and how’s he doing?
KD: I saw him once, I saw him play in Sarnia. I thought he did a good job. He was matched up against Galchenyuk for most of the night. He contained him well, it was good to see that. The thing is, you can’t teach offence, you can’t teach a kid how to score goals and he can certainly do that. If he starts to put the defensive aspect into the game he’s gonna become a more complete hockey player. He’s young, he knows he has a lot to learn and it’s like I said, it’s unfortunate with the injury to miss a couple of months, but he’s gotta make sure when he’s healthy he’s gotta be ready to get back playing.
RB: I know you’re new to the front office game, but how is it different from last year to this year being that there are no games to be played right now?
KD: For me, it gives me more of an opportunity just to really get in, like I said, to the 2013 Draft. Talking to Kenny Holland and Jim Nill, there’s no NHL and not watching the Red Wings play gave me a lot more nights to be able to come out to the rink. Here tonight, gonna go to Grand Rapids on Friday, gonna go down to Toledo to watch Petr Mrazek, one of our top goaltenders play, and then Sunday I could be back in this building or maybe up to Sarnia. That’s really what the opportunities are. More chances to see teams, see guys who have been selected and have some input on the upcoming draft.
RB: Speaking of the 2013 Draft, there’s a handful of 95s playing tonight. What do you think?
KD: They’re playing well. I thought Kerby Rychel did some good things on the power play. Obviously watching Darnell Nurse, scored a goal, wasn’t a pretty goal but is there ever such a thing as a bad goal? Not in my world.
RB: You lost a couple teeth scoring a goal didn’t you?
KD: Yeah, I did, yeah (laughs). Like I said, for me to be able to come over here and see these guys play is good. I’m gonna be able to see them a lot so when their name comes up, I want to make sure I have a good report and a good feel on these guys and that’s what I’m going to try to do.
Joel Boyce: How many games do you plan to make it out to?
KD: I’d say I’m gonna get to two or three a week and now with Grand Rapids starting up I’ll probably mix in some Grand Rapids games. Most you’re gonna do is the OHL. Plymouth, obviously we’ll see them this weekend. With GR opening tomorrow night, I’m gonna watch them play their first game. Petr is gonna play his first professional game and I wanna see that. Chris Osgood and myself are gonna drive down to that one. So probably about two, three games a week. I wanna get up to Ann Arbor and watch the US U-18s play as well. You know, really just have a real good feel for all the players in this area and when we start having our amateur meetings and a guy’s name comes up who’s been around here, I want to be able to give my opinion and that’s really learning the evaluation process of what these kids do. You realize how young they are and you gotta keep watching them play and you just look for some good things that you’re gonna see in these players and you give your input. It’s a learning process for me. Last year was my first year doing it and with the lockout going on right now it gives me more of an opportunity to see these games.
RB: So with the lockout going on right now, you’re putting a lot of kilometers on the car?
KD: Well, I only live across the border, so it’s not too bad coming here. I’m just glad there’s a lot of hockey in this area so I don’t have to go too far but I make sure I give Ken Holland my gas bill.
KD: We have a good relationship with that, I’ll be handing it in tomorrow morning when I go to the Joe.
Next up, the Captain, sporting a Syracuse Crunch windbreaker….
RB: What are you guys doing with all your spare time?
Steve Yzerman: Watching hockey.
RB: What have you seen so far tonight?
SY: Just watching the game, you know some of these kids, there’s few draft eligible players so just getting familiar with the names. I’ve read about some of the players, I’ve seen them before, so just another opportunity for me to watch some of the kids that have been drafted, other clubs draft picks.
JB: How many OHL games do you get to?
SY: Now, I can see as many as I want unfortunately. We’ll spread it around. The American league starts tomorrow night, so we’ll spend some time with that, watch some of the amateur teams as well.
RB: You mentioned the 95 guys and Kerby Rychel a late 94, what do you see out of them?
SY: Well they’re all good young players. Get familiar with some of the kids that are eligible for the draft. They’re all good players.
RB: What can you see out of a player that young? Are you looking for anything in particular?
SY: Just watch, observe, get to know them and understand what kind of player they are.