Thirty two hours of scouting in three days at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine Minnesota over the weekend. Am I tired? You bet. Excited? Very excited about the state of hockey within the NAHL, NAPHL and HPHL after attending Blaine this weekend.
It is hard to describe the experience of the NAHL showcase in Blaine. I say it’s an experience because it is something I would hope every player and hockey fan could one day be a part of. More than one thousand players all in one place for what is arguably the greatest showcase event of the year in the United States.
The sheer magnitude of scouting that takes place with this event each year is awe-inspiring. The comradery within the scouting community at this event is one that keeps all scouts coming back and new scouts coming every year. Information is shared and player evaluation conversations can take place into the late evening hours.
Arriving on Thursday, after ten hours in the car, I went to the rink right away. Two of our TJHN scouts had arrived earlier so that we were able to see at least a part of every game throughout the weekend. If your going to scout the event, you either need a team of scouts or you have to identify the players you want to see before the event takes place.
With eight sheets of ice, and game action taking place on each sheet all day long, there is a lot of ground to cover and time management can become an issue.
I was personally able to cath parts of twenty-six Midget games, and parts of twenty-three NAHL contests. I had several games highlighted as must see events, and tried to catch at least a half a period of as many of the other games as I could. One of the Coaches with me estimated that he walked six miles per day just going from game to game.
While everyone would love to watch every game, most scouts try to identify players to watch the rest of the season based on a limited sample of what they may see at this event. This is exactly why Coaches always tell players to never take a shift off, and you never know who is watching. I am sure some of the U-16 players would be shocked at the amount of NHL scouts that watched many of those contests.
Not to be left out are the Major Junior scouts that were watching closely. The WHL was very well represented, as was the OHL.
With the WHL’s first over all pick of 2013, fifteen year old Tyler Benson playing in the NAPHL this season, there was a lot of buzz around the arena about how the NAPHL level of play has risen in the last few years. Benson is playing U-18 as a fifteen year old this season and is expected to play in the WHL next year with the Vancouver Giants.
Benson delivered on the pre-season hype. Accounting for 9 points in his first five games against players that are older and more experienced, many were saying that we were seeing a future NHL star. Having a player like Benson make the choice to play in the NAPHL this season tells everyone just how far the Midget AAA loop has come in the last few years.
If there is one word I would have to use to describe the talent on display this past weekend it would be, “deep”. The depth of talent on display throughout the event was exceptional. From top to bottom there were players on nearly every team that were worthy of additional looks throughout the 2013-2014 season.
The NAHL, and its affiliated leagues and teams have much to be proud of.
I would personally like to thank the NAHL Owners I had the pleasure of meeting, Mark Frankenfeld, Denny Scanlon, Alex Kyrias, and all of the Coaches for their hospitality and assistance in making this another great event to attend. There is simply no substitute for being there, and without the commitment to excellence these people bring to the table, this event would not be possible.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher