Burkie ready to grill 'em

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 PM ET

TORONTO - Memo to would-be Maple Leafs draft picks: Know what kind of car your dad drives, who gave you that nice watch, and for goodness sake, brush up on the American League standings.

Those everyday questions are the ones general manager Brian Burke likes to throw at the kids who will be attending this weeks NHL scouting combine at a Toronto hotel.

Burke leaves the left-field queries and psych evaluations to his scouting staff, team psychologist Dana Sinclair and a small army of league-approved fitness and medical experts, believing he can get a good read on a player through some casual talk covering more mundane topics.

And though Burkes team has no pick in the first or second round at present, he has already interviewed some of the potential first-rounders in case he pulls a draft-day doozy on June 25 in Los Angeles.

You want to be ready, Burke said on Wednesday.

One year in Anaheim, we were picking around 20th and interviewed this top-10 kid who really couldnt be bothered with us. He was slouching in his seat and giving us that why-am-I-here look. Finally, I snapped at him: Pay attention, son, I know how to move up you know and that got him up.

Burke used to ask a stock question about whether a top prospect had ever been captain of his team.

Theyve usually been a captain in two or three places and that always tells you about leadership abilities.

But the year (Vancouver) interviewed Jaromir Jagr, he told us through the (Czech) translator he had never been a captain. Immediately the red flag went up for us, until he told us the reason was that he had always played with players three or four years older than himself.

We started talking to kids back in October, partly because most of them arent nervous by the time they get to this weekend.

So Ill ask them what car their dad owns, where they got that watch or what place the Blue Jays are in. That can sometimes fluster them, but it also can be a good ice-breaker.

Its a great thing the NHL does to give us a chance to see and talk to these kids.

Other teams love an esoteric line of questioning. At last years combine, Brayden Schenn, younger brother of Leafs defenceman Luke, was asked to choose between taking a pill that would make him a Stanley Cup champion MVP, versus accepting a short life span. Evander Kane had to demonstrate his goal-scoring celebration. NCAA forward Jordan Schroeder had to pick one dinner guest from Barack Obama, tennis queen Maria Sharapova and the often tempestuous Sean Avery.

Id like to have picked Sharapova because of her good looks, but I went with the logical answer of Avery, the 5-foot-8 Schroeder joked.

Burke would not comment on what he instructs Sinclair to probe for, except to say she has been of valuable service to his teams in Vancouver, Anaheim and now Toronto.

She and her husband run Human Performance International, whose clients include the NFLs Indianapolis Colts. the NBAs Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Sonics, the PGA and the Canadian and U.S. Olympic associations.

Heavy workout

About 100 draft-eligible players will get a heavy workout this weekend, but most of the projected first-rounders, particularly those who have gone through the national team program in Canada and the U.S., are already well-known to interested teams.


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