E.J. Hradek is the man to ask if you’ve got playoffs questions and predictions. As the regular co-host for NHL Live Powered by Constellation, he has his finger on the pulse of the battle for the Stanley Cup Championship. With the contest rolling on, we asked the NHL Network host what to expect from the rest of the tournament, how he picked out would-be-star players in his scouting games, and if he ever has time to watch anything besides hockey.
What are you expecting from the Stanley Cup Playoffs at this point? Do you have a clear picture of what lies ahead and which teams stand strongest?
For me, the playoffs are about match-ups and injuries. Teams that can stay healthy and avoid opponents that give them trouble often find their way through the draw. This year, the Ducks and Rangers, the top seeds in their respective conferences, are relatively healthy and they both have the benefit of a favorable draw. We will see if they can take advantage.
Is there a player we should be watching this year? Anything we should keep an eye on?
This has been the season of the goalie. So many of them have played so very well. Now, in the postseason, there are questions to be answered. Can Devan Dubnyk continue with his great run? Can Carey Price carry the Canadians to their first cup since 1993? Will Henrik Lundquist benefit from the two months that he missed due to injury? All three seem poised for a great spring.
You once worked on the inside as a scout. What did you learn on the other side of the game?
As a scout, I learned that you can never have enough information about a player or team. Players and teams are constantly changing and evolving. Players are getting better or declining on a daily basis. The best scouts understand this, and they don’t get set in their opinion or evaluation.
When you were a scout, what did you look for in the players, and how did you decide someone was worthy of interest?
Obviously, skating ability and puck skills are something that stand out. Physical size and body type are another. How smart is the player? Does he have the ability to see the game and make plays? That goes to his level of hockey sense. What is the player’s “compete level”? Can he be a core player or a complementary asset? Where would he fit on a good team? Does he fit the philosophy of our organization? What is his personal background? As I mentioned earlier, when you are evaluating professional hockey players, you never have enough information.
Besides hockey, what other sports do you spend time watching? Any TV shows that regular make it onto your watch list?
I enjoy most other sports. I’ll spend time watching baseball in the late summer after the NHL Draft and free-agent period ends. And I’ll watch football on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall. As for television shows, there have been so many great series over the past several years. Too many to count. I loved Breaking Bad. And I am sad to see Mad Men come to an end. It really is a golden age for TV drama.
For the most complete coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, watch NHL Network (Ch. 215). Pregame coverage starts weekdays at 5pm ET with NHL Live Powered by Constellation, followed by NHL On The Fly at 7pm ET. Cap off the night with highlights and postgame reactions with NHL Tonight at 10pm ET.