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Confessions Of A Junior Hockey Coach – How Scouting Works

It is every where I go in the rinks.  The question that the people ask every day is how the scouting of a player actually works.  What happens?  Who does it?  What do the scout look for?  How do I know if I am scouted?  How do I get to be scouted?  Any the question can go on for hours.

The scouting is a complicated process.  It is not simply to be a player at a good level to be scouted.  The scouts work in their own ways.  Every scout is different in the criteria they look for in the player.  But one thing is common with all the best scouts; they work hard to be at the games to watch the players in person.

I hear too much “we sent the video”, “we sent the email”, “we sent the resume”, “we called” to the team or the coach or the general manager of the team.  This is all nice, and to be sure it is part of the process, but you must understand the process to know what is or is not effective.

There is no professional scout or person working in a high level of hockey that will rely on the video, email resume or phone call from a parent or a player.

The most important part of being scouted is being seen in person.  There is not a substitute.  Anyone saying there is the substitute and that there is a simple solution to generate the scouting has no clue about what they are saying.

Recently I was told about the people who say that video scouting is going to get the players to the next level.  I am sorry to say that any player or parent who believe video scouting will do anything for the player beside generating the player to pay for many fundraiser camps, that you are crazy.

The proof as they say is in the pudding.  One only need to look at the NHL Buffalo Sabres to see how successful video scouting is when looking at the years 2003 to 2010.  From 2003 to 2010 when the Sabres relied almost exclusively on the video scouting, they drafted a total of 63 players.  To be fair, the 2003 draft for the team was a good one, but the scouting for the draft was done in the person and not on the video for that draft.

Out of the 63 players drafted in that seven-year, 39 players have never played a game in the NHL.  62% of the picks.  Out of the 24 players that have played in the NHL only 12 have played more than 100 NHL games, and only 6 would be seen as major contributors.  Less than 10% success, and if you remove the 2003 draft that was scouted in person, the number drops to 3 player.

Starting in the 2011 draft the Sabres have picked 25 player they have seen in person because of the new Sabres scouting staff.  4 player have already played in the NHL, that is 16% already in three-year.  8 other are considered to be NHL player in the future because they still play AHL, junior or NCAA hockey now.  That is the 50% mark, and a big change in success.

To make it simple, it is easy for anyone to look good on video.  I can make video of player hi lights and he look like a star.  But the same player is not really the star in person.  Having such focus on one player can lead you to miss other important parts of the game and style of the play and the level of the competition faced that is the critical factor for future success.

In the video, you can’t see other players and how the player react to the competition. If he’s in or out of traffic, is he tough on the puck? Beating players in the battles and the races to the puck?

The video slow the game down, like the game is slower on the television screen when you watch.  It is not true representation of the game speed or the competition level.  This is what cost the Sabres for 7 year, and those years are still talked about much in scouting circles.

So what do team actually rely on for the scouting?

Real team rely on in person scouting reports.  They get the report, then they watch some more.  Some time they will use the video to confirm their thought on a player, but the video will be complete games video not hi lite video made by player or player parent.  Hi lite video only show what person making video want to be seen and not the whole player package.

So how to be seen and scouted then?

To be scouted you must produce.  Produce meaning play to your strengths.  If you are goal scorer then score the goals.  If you are stay at home defenseman then block the shots and have good plus minus.  If you are goaltender then stop the puck.  If you are play maker, make the assists.  It is simple in that you must play every shift as if someone is watching because many time you may not know when someone is watching.

In the business of scouting, there are team scouts, centralized scouting for leagues, advisers, agents, and “bird dogs” that all influence the scouting of the player.  Not every scout will be wearing the team track suit or jacket.  Not every scout will be in the suit and tie.  You never know who everyone is that may be watching you so it is best to always assume someone is watching you.

It is good to send the resume and the emails too, but do not expect the response because the coaches, and scouts only have a limited amount of time and get a lot of these things from many players.  With so many player it is impossible for the people to respond to each email and resume.  This is why it is critical to be producing in games.  It is the game reports from the right people that will get you noticed.

Be sensible in your goals.

If you are average player do not expect to go to above average programs.  If you are not producing do not expect to go to higher levels.  Nothing should be expected, everything is to be earned.  The third line Midget player is not going to be the first round draft pick.  The last year junior player in the Tier III or Junior B is not going to go play at the University of Minnesota.

Scouting and being seen is to be complicated.  The path to the hi levels of hockey is not meant to be easy and it is not meant for everyone.  To get there you must work hard, produce, and always be aware of your surroundings.  You never know who is watching.


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