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Knickle Eager for First Draft with Coyotes

Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 5:27 PM / Features
By Dave Vest

PITTSBURGH – Rick Knickle is eager for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, his first as the Director of Amateur Scouting for the Coyotes.

“It’s put-up or shut-up time,” Knickle said this week. “Being prepared, like in any business, is key. You never want to say ‘Whoa, I wasn’t ready for that.’ I really enjoy this experience. Everybody in the business is in one place and everybody is trying to outsmart each other. It’s always fun. This year is going to be really enjoyable for me because it will be my first time as the boss. I’m excited about it and I’m looking forward to it.”

Knickle joined the Coyotes last summer after spending 14 seasons with the Nashville Predators, where, as a scout, he helped build that franchise from scratch into a perennial playoff contender. Now with the Coyotes, Knickle is ready to take that next step in his career.

Rick Knickle

Barring a trade or trades, the Coyotes will have nine draft picks this weekend at the Consol Energy Center. However, because Phoenix reached the Western Conference Final in 2011-12, the Coyotes won’t make their first pick until the 27th overall selection.

Knickle, who played goalie in the IHL, AHL and NHL over 18 seasons, said that will be a little challenging.

“It’s a situation I’ve never been in before,” he said. “With Nashville, we had always pick No. 17 (overall) or better. I’ve never been down this far, and we’re looking at it as it’s almost the second round. We don’t know what’s going to drop to us. We have no idea who’s going to be left, and scenarios will come about where if you’re looking at all the players you designated to be first-round players are gone, you think of moving the pick. There’s a lot of negotiations and understanding the value of players. For us, we’ve got a long time to wait before we make our first pick. But, there will also be scenarios that we can look at and say, ‘Wow, that guy is dropping.’"

He added: "We’ll take the best player available. We’re so far down (in the first round) we don’t know what will be left for us, so we’ve just got to be prepared and recognize what’s going on.”

Knickle is managing a staff of eight scouts. He, those scouts, General Manager Don Maloney and Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving will watch the draft unfold from a table on the draft floor. After watching and evaluating prospects since the last draft ended, the group recently spent a good chunk of time finalizing their 2012 draft wish list inside the team’s offices in Glendale.

“It’s been really, really good as far as the year has gone for me,” Knickle said. “It’s been my first year of being a director of amateur scouting and being in control and organizing our group. First off, we have a good group of guys; they really did a lot of good work this year, and we really get along, which is important. We’ve done all of our work and all of our interviews, and now we’ve just got a few more things to tie up before Friday night.”

Knickle said this year’s draft class features some talented prospects. But, he said, the key to any draft is finding NHL players in the middle rounds.

“I think this draft class is good but not spectacular,” Knickle said. “There are some high-end prospects, but it’s the middle rounds - the third, fourth, fifth rounds - where you can fill a lot of holes. I think we can do that this year. If you look at the playoffs you see which players come to the forefront. It’s usually not the first-round draft picks, it’s usually the third-round picks, the fourth-round picks, the third-line guys, the fourth-line guys. The draft is where teams get these guys.”

Only three teams – Washington (11), Carolina (10) and Nashville (10) – have more picks in this year’s draft than the Coyotes.

“Yeah, we’ve got some bullets in the gun,” Knickle said. “And with those, you can talk to other teams and possibly make some deals."

With a large crop of talented young defensemen and goaltenders already in the mix, Knickle said the Coyotes need to add big, skilled forwards to the organization. That will likely happen this weekend in Pittsburgh.

“Our staff does a lot of traveling and makes a lot of sacrifices getting ready for the draft,” Knickle said. “It’s a grind but the draft is our Super Bowl, if you will. This is our time to shine. I’ve been there many times at the draft tables where you have gut feelings about players, and you get really passionate about those players and you develop feelings where you don’t want any other teams to have this guy. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But the key is to be prepared in case the player or players you want are no longer available. You don’t want to be sitting there thinking ‘Wow, I didn’t expect that team to pick that guy.’ Having said that, I’m confident we’re prepared for this draft and won’t be caught off-guard. I can’t wait for it to start.”

Below is a list of Phoenix’s draft picks for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft:

FRIDAY
First round – No. 27

SATURDAY
Second round – No. 58
Third round – No. 81
Third round – No. 88 (via Philadelphia in trade for rights to Ilya Bryzgalov)
Fourth round – No. 102 (via Colorado in trade for Daniel Winnik)
Fifth round – No 148
Sixth round – No. 178
Seventh round – No. 184 (via Montreal in trade for Petteri Nokelainen)
Seventh round – No. 208

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