Jeff Skinner Press Conference

Jason Botterill Conference Call (6/8/19)


Jason Botterill
Conference Call to discuss Jeff Skinner signing (1 p.m.)  (15:26)


Q: You expressed optimism throughout the whole negotiating process since January. What gave you the belief that this thing was going to be done and what drove you to get this thing done based on how much you spent? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

A: Obviously, we’re ecstatic to have Jeff as part of our organization for the next eight years. I think both sides were very happy with the relationship over the past year. I think it’s my job to show optimism. I think when the organization wants a player and when a player demonstrates to the organization and says that he wants to be part of the solution, it’s my job to try to find a way to come to an agreement. I understand that’s not always going to happen, but I’m very glad that to myself and Newport could come to a resolution and get this deal done.

Q: You’ve said so many times that it was a priority to get Jeff re-signed. Was there a particular reason? I mean, obviously you look at the numbers, you look at how prolific he was at times last year. What did he do for your team, kind of big picture? (Matt Bove – WKBW)

A: I think big picture, he came in and he scored goals. It’s pretty much what the game’s about, is scoring goals, and it’s something that we struggled with. We understand that Jeff’s goal total will probably fluctuate over his time in Buffalo. But [when] you look back on the stats is extremely consistent in creating chances at even strength and certainly his rate of the success rate of capitalization on scoring goals is going to fluctuate from year to year. But it’s something that we talked a lot about, improving our scoring up front and improving our depth scoring. We want to add to our group and not try to have to go out there and try to replace what Jeff Skinner can bring. The other element that gave us comfort in going to a deal with this, with Jeff, is just how we fit in with our group. I thought he was a great influence on young players. The relationship with some of our elite players, such as Jack (Eichel) and Sam (Reinhart), but going out of his way to have an impact on Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt, and just his professionalism off the ice. Probably one of the next questions is going to be about giving an eight-year contract to a 27-year-old, but there’s always going to be risk sometimes in doing that. But we feel very comfortable in how Jeff handles himself off the ice, how he’s dedicated to conditioning and training, and we think that attitude along with our sport science department will hopefully allow him to be healthy and help the Buffalo Sabres the next eight years.

Q: How you navigate, I know the cap’s going to go up in the coming years, but how do you navigate the challenge of having two players like Jack (Eichel) and Jeff take up a significant portion of your cap space, or your cap overall. My second question is how does your experience in Pittsburgh, having two players with similar contract structures, sort of prepare you to navigate that challenge? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)

A: I think this contract just goes to show you when very good players want to stay here in Buffalo and be part of it, we’re going to find a way to try to get it done. Our goal is to continue to try to develop our players within our system and we want to give them big contracts. We want them to develop and be players that are deserving of their big contracts. I feel very comfortable having some of our top players taking pieces of our salary cap up. People talk about some teams throughout the league having “cap situations.” Well they have cap situations because they have excellent players on the roster. That’s what we’re trying to get to. I think the successful teams here are willing to find ways to get deals done with their top players, but then also continually have young players coming through the system here. That’s what we’re trying to develop here and is why we continue to try to have draft picks. We continue to have such an emphasis on [the Rochester Americans] and player development, because we want to find ways to keep good players here in Buffalo and also continue to have strong teams by bringing entry-level contracts into the system, into our team.

Q: Ultimately, what do you think sold Jeff on the long-term commitment to the Sabres? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)

A: I think that’s a good question to ask directly to Jeff. In my discussions with Jeff, I think he felt very comfortable how he was treated coming into the of the organization. It’s always difficult being traded for the first time and coming to a new environment. I felt we handled it well for him. He was allowed to stay focused on hockey. I think just the facilities, whether it’s in Buffalo or on the road, is first class. I think he’d appreciate that. And I think he just sees the potential for this team. I think, obviously, he was a big part of our success in the first half and there was a frustration in the second half or how our team performed. But he sees the potential in the Jack Eichel, he sees potential in Rasmus Dahlin or Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson, some of our younger players. That’s certainly got him excited [about] where this organization can go in the future.

Q: You mentioned there might be some fluctuations, but he did just set a career high. Is there still more room to grow for Jeff, even though he is 27? (John Vogl – The Athletic)

A: I certainly believe so. You can always debate it, John, back and forth. Was he fortunate for some of the goals that he had early in the season? But then he went through a slump in the second half of the second half the season. I think there’s still opportunity for him to go beyond that. Hopefully with us having younger players that are going to continue to improve around him and having a stronger team around him will just allow him to have better goal totals. And like I said, the way he goes about having a work ethic and going about trying to find different methods of keeping his body in shape, training in the off-season and then also being a student of the game and where to go on the ice, body position around the net, I still believe he’s growing as a player for sure.

Q: How does this contract, and now your new salary structure with this contract, does it in any way handcuff you to add more elite players including in free agency this off-season, while knowing that Rasmus Dahlin’s contract year is coming up on the horizon? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

A: We have young players such as Rasmus in our organization, and it’s our job continue to help them develop so they’re deserving of the of these higher-end contracts. I think our focus as we move forward here, we’ll certainly be active in talking to different players in free agency. We’ll see how that plays out. Our biggest focus, I think, heading into free agency was getting Jeff signed, and we’ve accomplished that. We’ll continue to talk to see if there’s a fit to help out our team from that respect. I think him sometimes a more realistic option is through trades, like we did last year with Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick, and utilizing our cap space from that standpoint, or adding a player like Jack Skinner like we did later on in the summer. So I think we’ll continue to look at both ways through the both the trade route and free agency to see if we can improve our team.

Q: I know, obviously, you don’t want to go into super detail about this, but what are your goals in free agency? What kind of players do you want to add to this roster? I know you touched on that a little bit at the end-of-season press conference, but what ideally, what kind of players would you like added? (Matt Bove – WKBW)

A: It’s a fair , but I’ll probably respond with a general comment: We didn’t make the playoffs. We have to continue to improve in a lot of facets. I think the easiest one and what we’ve talked a lot about is continuing to try to add more scoring to our group, especially up front, and that’s why getting Jeff signed was such a big deal for us. We want to focus on adding to that group, not replacing it. And that’s what we’ve accomplished with signing up with Jeff. We certainly are excited about some of our young players going into different roles, but if we can find a way to add a little bit more depth instead of relying so much on Jeff, Sam and Jack, I think that’s certainly one of our goals here is an organization

Q: Is there an interest in bringing Jason Pominville back? Have you guys made a decision yet on him? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)

A: Nope, Jason’s actually working out at our facility right now. We’ve kept a dialogue open with him. Not surprisingly, Jason is working extremely hard in the off-season. We’ll continue that dialogue through the summer. It’ll certainly [depend] on how things present themselves during the talking period with free agents and what materializes from trade fronts, both at the draft and heading into July 1.

Q: Was there any pressure on yourself to get something done before the negotiation period opened up? (Joe Yerdon – The Athletic)

A: I certainly think that’s a fair assumption. We didn’t want to get that part. I think when you get to talking to other teams and other situations, it always brings in more of a risk that the player’s going to leave. What I like about the two sides, I know some people may have thought this negotiation dragged on, but the bottom line was that wasn’t to be a resolution until we had a head coach in place. And then once we got a head coach in place, you have to go through the process of making sure the head coach interacts with Jeff, and then you start talking. It’s not just a simple thing of, “here’s the numbers” type of thing. When you’re looking at a deal like this, there’s structure, there’s different clauses, that you have yet to look at the entire package. At the same token, I thought all our discussions were very cordial. All our discussions were certainly trying to find a resolution to both sides’ stances, and what they wanted accomplished through the negotiations. The fact that we were able to get this done two weeks before the talking period, three weeks before July 1, I think was great from both sides. We’re very excited to have Jeff on board, but to get back your first thing, we certainly didn’t want it get to the point where he’s discussing options with other teams and discussing different possibilities.

Q: If this team — and some people, if you look at the team and how it played last year — if it has underachieved the previous two years, how difficult is it knowing what the potential of this team is moving forward and assessing your roster and now with the new coach in place? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

A: I think this team has shown glimpses of it. So our first half versus how it performed the second half, it’s all over the place from that standpoint. I think with so many young players, you continue to hope that it’s our job to help them develop. You saw Jack and Sam taking steps from a statistical standpoint in the past year. Now we need that from some of our younger players, whether it’s the Casey Mittelstadt Tage Thompson, Victor Olofsson stepping in, Alex Nylander, we need some of these young players stepping in there. I think we’re excited about where our group can move to. I think we’ve shown glimpses and we’ve gone through different stretches, but we’ve been a good team. Now it’s our job to be a lot more consistent over 82 games. So that certainly gives us hope, but we also understand that there needs to be a lot of work to be done with that. But from a standpoint of projecting exactly where we’re going to be, I think that’s very difficult in the National Hockey League. You just look at what’s happened in the playoffs, you just look at where the so-called experts had a lot of predictions for teams at the start of the year and where they ended up finishing, it’s the beauty of the sport is that there’s that much parity. We have an opportunity, I think, to accomplish something and to be playing in meaningful games later on the season, but that will certainly be dictated by how we come together as a team, what moves we make here in the summer and also a lot on our players on how that they’re going about things with the training throughout the summer.

Q: You’ve got some younger players that ever since they’ve been drafted in Buffalo have done really nothing but lose and lose badly. And you get talk to these guys, you can see how it wears on them, because nobody wants to lose, everybody wants to win. How much do you take that into account of somebody just mentally, maybe need a change when you’re thinking of trades, or you’re thinking of qualifying offers, or you’re thinking of those things? Do you take that into account that maybe these guys have just lost too much and need a change of scenery? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

A: That’s certainly a concern. What gives us hope it is a lot of these players have had success earlier in the careers in other situations, whether it’s junior, college, over in Europe, World Championships, and they at least do know how to win in those environments. Also, the thing that gives us as an organization hope is [our winning streak that] materialized in November, December. I think they realize what can happen with the city when you have some success. I think what happened in the first half at least shows these guys that it can be accomplished. Now it’s the next step to do it over 82 games.

Jason Botterill Conference Call


BUFFALO, N.Y. (June 7, 2019) — The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has signed forward Jeff Skinner to an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $9 million.

Skinner (5’11”, 187 lbs., 5/16/1992) led all Sabres with a career-high 40 goals during his first season with the Sabres in 2018-19. His 40-goal campaign was good for the third-highest total ever recorded by a first-year Sabre, and his 32 even-strength goals marked the highest total by a player in his first year with the team.

A native of Toronto, Ontario, Skinner has appeared in 661 games since entering the NHL in the 2010-11 season as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, totaling 442 points (244+198). Since joining the league, he is tied for 13th among all NHL skaters with 244 goals and ranks fifth with 191 even-strength markers.

Skinner was selected by Carolina in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie in the 2010-11 season and has twice been selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game (2011 and 2019).

In addition to his NHL accomplishments, Skinner has represented Canada at four IIHF World Championships, totaling 24 points (12+12) in 33 games and earning a silver medal at the 2017 tournament.

Jason Botterill on The Instigators (6/6/19)


Jason Botterill
The Instigators (11 a.m.) (19:59)

Andrew Peters: Welcome back to The Instigators and we’re instigating already. [We were] just told we could have 15 minutes with General Manager Jason Botterill, you looked to Chris Bandura like, “Fifteen? Are you serious?” Good morning, Jason.

Jason Botterill: Good morning, how are you today?

Martin Biron: Do you want more time with us, or do you want less time?
JB: Yeah, I was hoping for maybe half hour, an hour, that’d be great.

AP: Just like normal players, eh, Botts? We all want more ice time, don’t we?

JB: Look, I’m looking for knowledge, and I want to get it from you guys.

AP: You came to the right place, let’s get right to it.

JB: I’ve heard you have some very creative ideas about our team moving forward, so it’s great, I’m looking forward to it.

AP: There’s nothing wrong with playing fantasy hockey, Botts. When you can’t have the real job, what do you do? You play fantasy.

JB: Well we actually have our pro scouting meetings going on right now, and we have Craig’s board up, you know, and then we have what we’re planning on doing.

AP: Well then hey, you know what? Let’s get right to a legit question that is probably a player you haven’t even been asked about recently, because you hear about (Jeff) Skinner, [Rasmus Ristolainen], all these other guys. Victor Olofsson, is he a guy that, because on our board, Craig likes the cost-efficient idea of a guy that might be able to put up 20, 30 goals next year at about a million bucks. Is that a guy, with what you saw at the end of the season, because I think he surprised a lot of us. I think he was a better skater than most of us probably had expected. The pass to Jack was amazing, which showed that he had incredible vision, and we already know about his shot. Is that a guy that has impressed you to the point where you’re like, “We gotta give him a serious look this year for that cost-efficient role on a top line?”

JB: What we like about having a bulk of young players, [is] there’s going to be competition in training camp. I think it’s always difficult to project which guy is really going to step up from that standpoint, but we have multiple players that we’re looking to try to put into the lineup there. Victor, I thought he had an amazing season. When you make that transition, coming over to North America, you don’t know how it’s going to go. We’ve always talked about the shot, but what we likes was his ability, as the season progressed, [to] get to the net more, getting into the forecheck more. He did a very good job in the defensive zone in the American Hockey League and really earned the opportunity to get called up. I think both Jack (Eichel) and Sam (Reinhart) really enjoyed playing with him at the end of the season, simply from the standpoint of his hockey sense. You talk about the shot to finish off chances, but also to create chances. I think the only thing that we have to guard against is games a the end of the season when you’re out of the playoffs are different than the intensity of the National Hockey League at the start of the season when teams are all ready to go. But we’ll certainly give him a great look at the start of the season and see where it goes.

MB: Who else from Rochester are you looking at that you can say is either NHL ready or just on the cusp of making it to an NHL team?

JB: Well obviously Alex Nylander, I thought, took great strides last year. [It] was disappointing when he got up here that he did run into the injury, just to add more games to his experience level there. Also, you saw C.J. Smith. You saw last year where he was at. Coming up, I thought he shows the ability to score, the affinity to finish off chance. He’ll be another one that gets a lot of looks. I think a lot of guys on our team, you look at a Rasmus Asplund, is he ready to make our team right out of training camp? Last year, he comes to training camp, it’s experience. Just get a feel for it over in North America. Now he’s going to come to be really pushing for a spot on our team.

MB: Is the second half of the season for Asplund something that you say, hey, if he can have 30-40 games at the start of the season the same way, that now you’re really looking at him being a big piece of your team going forward?

JB: Yeah, what’s the safe, conservative thing to do? Probably say, “Hey, at Christmas time we’re looking for him to really be in that call-up spot.” But with this kid’s work ethic, and how he handles himself in the off season, we’re certainly going to be open to what he can do in training camp and see where it goes from there.

Craig Rivet: You know what? I think there’s a lot of people, going back to (Victor) Olofsson, there were a lot of people that we’re saying when he got called up he looked really good. His skating was there, he was making plays. He was also, something that you had mentioned, he looked really solid defensively. And these were things where, “Why wasn’t this guy up sooner? He could have helped the team.” And the reality is he probably wasn’t ready a that time, and that’s where, I think you’ve talked a lot in the past about having guys develop their game so when they do get to the National Hockey League, they’re able to jump in and not only just be a player, but help the team move forward. That’s one thing that I remember a lot of fans were wondering why he wasn’t up sooner. The reality is he probably wasn’t ready at that time, but when you did call him up, he looked pretty darn good. And there was another player too, Will Borgen. We talk about all these forwards, but Will Borgen is a guy that skates exceptionally well, he’s got a physical presence to him, and he spent the whole year in the minors. Where do you see him as a possible guy coming to training camp and possibly earning a job?

JB: Well we’ll start with Will there. What we loved about Will is just the progression throughout the year. He came from a very good program at St. Cloud, had an opportunity to represent our country at the Olympics, but still, making that transition to pro hockey is an adjustment. What we love is he went from sort of a third-pairing guy, low minutes at the start of the year in the American Hockey League, to a player that our staff down there felt comfortable throwing in any situation out there. He brings a different attribute, that physical play, that is different than a lot of our other prospects. He got us excited pretty much the start of training camp at the rookie tournament. He played with (Rasmus) Dahlin, and I know Mr. Dahlin can make a lot of other players look good, but I think they complement each other very well there. Giving him some games at the end of the season was great for him to understand just how hard it is in the National Hockey League, how physical guys are. You talk to him a little bit about battling Anders Lee in front of the net, how heavy a guy like Anders Lee is, and that’s what he has to do. As a young guy, he’s got good size, good frame, but he still has to get stronger. Having that experience is going to help him a lot from a motivational standpoint in the summer, what he has to do. But we’re certainly looking at him to push things at the start of the season. You look at, especially with (Zach) Bogosian going to be out at the start of the year, he’ll get a great look in training camp, Will, and we’ll see where it goes from there. I do want to say, going back now to Victor (Olofsson), that’s where, you know, there’s always that transition coming from Europe over to the North American game, and going through the experience of going into a Syracuse on a Saturday night and the intensity in a small building like that, and he really handled those things very well. What I like about Chris Taylor, what he teaches down there, is Victor was a big part of our penalty kill down there, and I think, just that reliability, it teaches them better defensive habits that will allow him to come up to the National Hockey League because as good of an offensive player Victor is, it’s difficult to earn that time on the power play right off the bat. With his penalty kill ability, it’s going to allow him to get more minutes at the National Hockey League level.

MB: So you’re looking at prospects, let’s move on to trades, offer sheets, free agency, to fill in spots on your team.

JB: Well you have it all covered there.

MB: Well no, but I’m asking you, there are some aggressive GMs out there, and there’s GMs that like to kind of see things develop a little bit more. This summer’s interesting because of teams that are in cap hell or cap jail right now, a lot of RFAs that are high-end RFAs available. You have some cap room. Where do you feel are some of the maybe tools that you can use as a general manager to maybe get one or two pieces to help your team and your roster?

JB: Look, these teams that you talk about in cap hell, it’s eventually where we want to get to. Not because you’re in cap hell, but because you have a lot of talented players in your organization. That’s where you look at, some of these teams that are in financial restraints, it’s because they have a lot of very talented players. We’ve tried to, over the last couple of years, utilize our cap space to our advantage and bringing in more skilled players to our group. And that’s what we’ll continue to look at. I think it’s going to be a very interesting market just because of so much uncertainty with the RFA market and what’s going to happen out there. I do think it could freeze up a little bit of the possible trade market, and also just the unrestricted market, just because teams don’t know how much they’re going to have to spend and how are these contracts going to play out. If you go long-term, are the numbers going to be very high? If you go shorter-term, you certainly have a little bit more space to work with. There’s a lot of unknown going on from that standpoint. But we’re certainly in a lot of dialogue. In our situation, short-term, we certainly have cap space. With our young players, you always have to look in the future too, and you just want to make sure you’re making the right choices there.

MB: You’re saying that the RFA market may freeze what trades could happen or where the UFAs may go, so do you expect the trades to be a little bit slower when considering trades and player movement because of what July 1 has in store for teams?

JB: To be honest, Marty, it’s difficult to assess. Is there a lot of communication going on out there? Yeah. But I think, you see whether the trade deadline, you see leading up to the draft and July 1, there’s always a lot of [communication]. The way things have worked, obviously we made a trade last (year) later in the summer with Jeff Skinner, but that doesn’t really happen that much throughout the year. It seems to be so focused on improving your team at two spots: the trade deadline and July 1. So there’s certainly a lot of discussion going on there. Predicting, “Hey, is there going to be more trades or anything like that?” I think that’s always difficult to handle. I talk about the unrestricted market certainly being, I think that sort of that second or third tier, it might be frozen up a little bit, but you know teams are always searching for higher-end skill talent. I don’t think there’s a lot of talk about this unrestricted market. I think there’s certainly some very talented players at the high end that will get very good contracts and very good offers out there. I think that second and third tier, it could be something that slows down a little bit just because of the unknown of the restricted market.

AP: Just a lot of optimism and confidence around the Jeff Skinner contract. I have to ask you, Bottts, there’s speculation out there. Ralph Krueger was asked about it yesterday, just seemed optimistic about the conversation that he had with Jeff Skinner. Where are we at? You’re not nervous at all?

JB: Well look, it’s what I’ve said before, Andrew. Until you have a contract signed, nothing’s for sure. But what I’ve enjoyed about the negotiations is that there’s no threats, there’s no posturing. It’s just trying to go through people’s expectations and people’s desires and trying to find a resolution to it. It’s been very straightforward from that standpoint. We have a very open dialogue with Newport Sports, we’ve worked with them very closely the last couple of years, especially with Rasmus Dahlin coming into our group last year and just making sure that everything was set up from that standpoint. I think there’s a respect level from the agency there towards how we handle things in our franchise, so that’s where the optimism comes from. It’s been my job to try to find a resolution to it. He’s a player we certainly want to get signed, but we have to look what’s best for the organization and we’re trying to get it done.

MB: Do you talk every day? Is it an every day conversation? Is it twice a day, every other day? I’m just saying because if I was a player, I’d be calling my agent morning and night and be like, “Hey, did you guys talk, what happened?” And I would put pressure on the agent maybe to get that conversation. What he does, it’s his business and he gets paid for that, but I’m curious to see if it’s an every day text or email or phone call.

JB: I think what people are forgetting, too, is just that we didn’t have a head coach for the last month and a half or so, and that was a situation where nothing was going to be resolved. If you’re signing a long-term contract, you’re not going to just sign a long-term contract with an organization until you know who the head coach is. And so once we had that set up, obviously there’s communication with Ralph (Krueger) and Jeff. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s the power of the players right now. The players that played under Ralph, the players that, whether it was Edmonton or at the World Cup, there were a lot more touch points than I anticipated with Jeff, and I think that probably gave Jeff even more comfort of having Ralph as our head coach there. Then it just comes down from a situation of communicating with it, and yeah, we’re in constant communication with Newport over the last little bit here and trying to get something set up.

AP: In conversations about eight-year contracts, long-term deals with any player at this age on any team, does the conversation come up — obviously it would be from the team side — about fear of the production later in the contract?

JB: It always has to be a part of the equation, especially when we have such a young team, those are the dialogues that we look at. The comfort level that we have with Jeff’s situation is, part of the reason why we like him so much as a player and he’s been a good fit for our team, is just the professionalism that he’s brought to the locker room. The focus that he has. You talk to him, and if you followed him on social media a little bit, you understand he’s been bouncing all over the United States and it’s not just on vacation; he’s going to train with different people, trying to find different elements to give him that edge, and I think he’s very focused on his health, very focused on new ways of training. I think he really integrated well with not only our players on our team, but also our staff and some of what our sports performance ideas from a staff can bring him, and I think he was invigorated by it. Look, there’s always risk, there’s always risk of an injury that you can’t control, but how he takes care of his body off the ice is very impressive and it gives us comfort in offering a longer-term contract.

AP: You looking forward to going to Vancouver for the draft? Can you give us four players, I mean you’re drafting at No. 7, can you give us four players that intrigued you? We talked to a couple really impressive young men, one of them ranked later on in the draft. Who was the other one we had? Cole Caufield. What are you looking at going into the draft at seven?

JB: We’re looking for the best player, Andrew. Best player. Andrew, I’m not going to present my list, because I think it’s a very unique year. Obviously you have your top two players at the top of the draft, and then I think what’s exciting about going into Vancouver: One, the draft is always a great time, just because you have the entire hockey world in one spot. For a communication standpoint with agents, with other GMs, and just being on the ice surface there at the rink, it’s exciting. It’s a fun atmosphere, and you’re bringing talented players into your organization. But what the other thing is, is you look at the draft this year, whether you want to go three to 10, three to 12, there’s some very talented players in that group, and I think teams have the same players sort of in there, but it’s going to be a different mix from that aspect. I can’t predict on hey, there’s going to be a lot of trades because teams want to move up to get their guy maybe a spot or two ahead, or there’s a group of players that they’re going to feel comfortable that they come down to them anyways.

AP: You’re not picking first or second, you went to the World Championship, you got to see (Jack) Hughes and Kaapo Kakko firsthand. I’m not going to say who would you pick at No. 1, but what did you think of those two guys and how did you feel about the chance that we may seem some movement or some surprises at No. 1 and 2 this year?

JB: I don’t think you’re going to see any surprises at one or two. Look, those are two talented players. Very different players, but both are going to step in and help their organizations immensely right off the bat.

CR: Will both play in the National Hockey League next year?

JB: I certainly think so. My anticipation is after three you’re probably not going to have as many playing in the National Hockey League.

CR: After three, so you feel that three players out of this draft will…

JB: No, I believe one and two will play in the National Hockey League for sure next year. Beyond that, I don’t think there will be a lot, but that being said, I was impressed last year, there were some players: (Jesperi) Kotkaniemi and stuff too, that stepped in right away and had a great season, that maybe our projection I wasn’t thinking they were going to be in the National Hockey League. You go through the combine last week and you just realize, it’s astonishing how prepared these guys are and how physically built a lot of them are now through their programs. Whether they’re skating at such a young age, working with trainers, strength trainers at such a young age. These guys are more mature and more prepared to step into the National Hockey League at a young age.

AP: Are you watching the Raptors?

JB: Watching the Raptors, without a doubt. It’s great for Canada basketball and just the atmosphere up in Toronto right now at those games. Insane.