Brian Kilrea can't remember the last time he missed an NHL draft.
The Ottawa 67's coach and GM, and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, has sat up in the stands in rinks from Vancouver to Montreal to take in the annual selection process, partly as a junior coach and GM, partly as a fan and partly as another useful resource for NHL scouts and GMs.
The event is one of the highlights of the year for Kilrea. He will be at Scotiabank Place tomorrow night for the first round and Saturday for the rest, hanging in until the last pick.
"The draft for me is exciting," said Kilrea.
While he is there mostly as an observer and a fan -- rooting for 67's players and others from the OHL to go as high as possible -- Kilrea often becomes part of the process himself.
Kilrea's an invaluable resource for any scout or GM looking for information about OHL players.
"Some scouts want to ask you questions, not only about your own players but other players, how they play against you, what they do in your rink.
"(Senators GM) Bryan Murray came up in Columbus and asked me last year about a player," recalled Kilrea.
"One time in the Montreal Forum, we were sitting way, way up and Scotty Bowman, he was with Buffalo at the time, they had a late pick in the (fourth) round right before the break. Scotty came up early in the round and he got me aside and asked, 'Is there anyone that you like in the OHL that we've missed. You've got a different outlook.'
"I said there was one guy I really liked, but he had an injury to his Achilles tendon and it had completely healed, but I don't think he's rated as high as he should be. He's a really good hockey player.' As it turned out, Scotty took that player and he ended up playing about 10 years in the league. He was a fella by the name of Halkidis."
As in Bob Halkidis. A tough defenceman who played for the London Knights, Halkidis was picked 81st in 1984 by the Sabres. He wound up playing 256 games in the NHL with the Sabres, Kings, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Lightning and Islanders.
Of the 21 players taken in that round, Halkidis was one of seven to make it to the NHL (a guy by the name of Tom Glavine, taken 69th by the Kings, was one who didn't make it. He probably figured he had a better shot in baseball. He was right).
There were a lot of players taken from the OHL after that (the draft was 12 rounds then), but only two others went on to play more NHL games: Goaltender Kirk McLean (107th by the Devils) and forward Mike Stapleton (132 to the Blackhawks), so Kilrea gave Bowman a useful pick.
"Scotty took the time to walk up just to ask somebody else's opinion. When you're there, you can help some player, whether it's your own or somebody else's,."
Kilrea has seen a lot in the approximately 30 NHL drafts he's attended and not all of it good. He agrees with his great friend, Don Cherry, who has said players shouldn't go to the draft if they aren't projected to go early. It's heart-wrenching to see the faces of overlooked kids.
EYES ON CUMA, DEMERS
"I've seen it and Don Cherry is so right. I've seen some kids, some from our team, go and sit through all the rounds -- and in the old days there were more -- and not get drafted. They're just devastated and they're hearing names called of players they think they're better than," said Kilrea.
That hopefully won't be the case for a couple of Kilrea's players this week. Kilrea will be anxious to see where defencemen Tyler Cuma (ranked 19th by Central Scouting Bureau among North American skaters) and Julien Demers (83rd) are picked.
"There are also a lot of Ottawa guys who are up for the draft and you're happy for them ... and then you follow Ottawa's picks. You're always hoping they take somebody that you like, but then again because we don't get to see the players from the States or Europe, you can't compare them."
Kilrea, usually in the company of assistant Bert O'Brien, takes in the whole thing, comparing notes with what's happening on the floor. They've got their own ideas on where players should be ranked and are interested to see how scouts see it.
"It's intriguing," said Kilrea. "You see some of the trades that have gone on to get that pick. Darn right I go as a fan."