David Conte is a legend in the NHL. Not because of his goalscoring or coaching but for how established and respected he is as a scout. He got his first assignment with the Washington Capitals in 1979.
In 1985, he was appointed Director of Scouting in the New Jersey Devils and later moved up to Executive VP of Hockey operations in the organization. He left the club in 2015 but wasn’t unemployed for long.
A year later, he returned to the NHL as a scout, this time for the Vegas Golden Knights, and today, he works for the Islanders. Few people have been around longer, and few people have seen as much regarding young prospects as Conte.
Conte was the scout behind the selection of Brendan Shanahan in second overall in the Entry Draft 1987. And it wasn’t a coincidence that the Devils picked Shanahan. Shanahan would become one of hockey’s greatest of all time, and he was a great talent as a young man.
But it wasn’t just because of his abilities on the ice that he was selected so early in the draft. All teams meet with the prospects before drafts, where they get to know the person sitting before them.
Conte says the questions may seem silly, but the answers can tell a lot about a player. And that was the case with Shanahan. In fact, his response was so good Conte claims he’s never heard a better one in all of his years in scouting.
”The one question I asked him was, ’Why would you want to come to a team that’s struggling?’” Conte said in the book “Tales from the Devils Ice.”
”He looked at me like I had three heads. He said it wasn’t a consideration. He just wanted to play.”
Conte then asked, why? Why Brendan Shanahan?
”Well when there’s one potato left on the plate,” Shanahan said, ”my fork’s in it.”
Conte was stunned.
”To this day, it’s the best answer I’ve ever heard,” he said.
Brendan Shanahan went on to play 1,524 games in the NHL, recording 1,354 points.