Poile would entertain talk of dealing for top pick

Thursday, May 17, 2001 at 1:00am

Nashville Predators general manager David Poile sat at the head of a round table surrounded by his scouts and assistants. The telephone rings. It's Atlanta Thrashers general manager Don Waddell on the line. He has the No. 1 pick in the June NHL Entry Draft. He wants a goaltender. Do the Predators want the top pick?

The scenario played out Wednesday for the media was a dramatization with communications coordinator Greg Harvey supplying the voice of Waddell. But such a scenario could indeed unfold for the Predators on June 23, the first day of the draft at the National Car Rental Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Poile, who made a last minute trade to move to the No. 2 slot in the 1998 Entry Draft, thinks any talk of a possible deal is premature.

"We're putting the cart ahead of the horse," said Poile, who talked to Waddell in Germany while both were watching the World Championships. "He is getting the publicity for having the No. 1 pick.

"They haven't had their scouting meetings yet. Next week they may know exactly who they are taking at No. 1 and that may be the end of the story. On the other hand, he might want to use the attraction of having the No. 1 pick to talk to 10 or 12 teams and find out what they are willing to trade. If he calls me I certainly want to talk."

Poile stressed he would not make an offer of a player or a package of players to Waddell. It would be up to Waddell to ask for specific players.

"He hasn't done that yet," Poile said. "My opinion is that if he is going to trade the pick he is going to wait until right to the end. Any discussion between now and 24 hours before the draft is premature."

Poile will have certain scenarios in his mind just in case he gets such a call from Waddell. The Predators, however, are continuing to make plans to be the No. 12 pick in the first round. This draft is expected to be one of the deepest in recent years and the Predators have five picks in the first three rounds.

"Our meetings with our scouts have been good," Poile said. "What I mean by that is there is a lot of spirit over taking certain players.

"Right now it looks like a pretty good draft. The meat, the heart of the draft, is the first three rounds. Then you look for the bonus picks like Martin Erat or a Karlis Skrastins in the later rounds. But if you told me right now that we would hit on all of our picks in the first three rounds I would probably trade the rest of my picks and we wouldn't have to stay the second day."

Hockey is truly a worldwide sport and this year's draft is expected to feature many European players.

"There seems to be more Europeans than North Americans," Poile said. "If we draft a player we have their rights whether they come over at 20, 22 or 23. They will come over and play for us or we will get something for them."

Craig Channell, chief amateur scout for the Predators, admits there is still a lot of work to be done in determining draft priorities.

"There is still work to be done this year to figure out the order of the top 12," Channell said. "If we get the 12th player on our list we will be comfortable and happy with him. You're going to see as good a player at 12 as you're going to see at No. 3, No. 5 or at No. 23. This is a hard year to pin down.

"There are more players to study. This is an unbelievable draft. It is as good as I have seen in my 11 years. You're going to get good players through the second round that will help us three or five years down the road."

Channell points to Russian players being more accessible and more willing to come to North America. Channell, despite the heavy influx of European talent this year, expects some players from North America to make an impact.

The top two players in the draft are indicative of this dilemma

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