UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- For a man who uttered the famous phrase "draft schmaft" more than a decade ago, Cliff Fletcher certainly has changed his tune when it comes to the NHL's annual auction of junior and college players.
While his Maple Leafs continue their road swing with stops in Buffalo Friday and Ottawa Saturday, the team's interim general manager is headed west to eye blue chip prospects Kyle Beach and Luke Schenn, two kids who are slated to be top-10 picks in the 2008 entry draft June 20-21 in Ottawa.
The trip to the left coast comes on the heels of another Fletcher scouting junket, that one coming Sunday when he travelled to St. Catharines to watch highly-regarded defencemen Alex Pietrangelo of the Niagara IceDogs and Zach Bogosian of the Peterborough Petes.
"It's a homework thing," Fletcher said yesterday, "If I can see all the top picks first-hand, then I will be up to date when we sit down with our scouts and discuss (candidates)."
Fletcher made the "draft schmaft" comment during his first tenure as Toronto GM, an era in which the big-money Leafs simply could buy high-priced free agents and pick up salary in trades.
But Fletcher is the first to admit times have drastically changed with the ushering in of the salary cap in the post-lockout NHL.
With Toronto potentially in line for a top-10 pick, he does not want to leave any stone unturned.
Because Beach's Everett Silvertips and Schenn's Kelowna Rockets both are underdogs in their respective WHL playoff series which start this week, Fletcher feels this might be the only window to see both players in person before their seasons potentially come to an end.
While Beach is a skilled left winger who racked up 60 points in 60 games this season, his history of concussions has ignited concerns among some scouts. He is described by some hockey people as a "Sean Avery type" who has been known to have a short fuse, as evidenced by his 222 penalty minutes this season.
Schenn, meanwhile, is a shut-down defenceman who represented Canada at both the 2007 Super Series versus Russia and the 2008 world junior championship in the Czech Republic, helping his team win the gold medal.