From the Press Box: The Life of a scout

Special To FC2015 Draft Center

The job of a hockey scout is a challenging and very rewarding one.

As someone who lives and breathes hockey, this is the dream job — and the beginning of my career goals. Evaluating, projecting and ranking teenage hockey players proves to be a challenge at times. We are talking about kids who have devoted their life to the game and ones who mature at different stages in life. This process takes a lot of comparing, evaluating and self-assurance. In order to have success it is imperative that you continually evaluate yourself to ensure you are removing any present bias, are making the best decisions and understand why you arrived at your decision.

When the time comes to rank these young players, there is a great deal of internal debate that goes on in your head. Recalling nearly 100 games of views on key players and tracking a player’s progress all come into play when accurately ranking a player. I do everything in my power to not weigh later views (playoffs, U18’s, etc.) more heavily than regular season performances; although, it is important to see who takes their game to another level when there is something big at stake.

I also take note of those who have been passed over in previous drafts, or in the OHL draft for example, as these players often tend to be late-bloomers or are playing with a chip on their shoulder, out to prove people wrong. It is all about finding the “hidden gems” and the kids who will work hard to be a better player. In the end, it is the kids with the greatest work ethic, no matter how great or little skill they possess, who make it the furthest.

As a university student studying sport management, it is my goal to progress to the NHL and work in a team’s hockey operations department. While I am a student first, my life revolves around the game of hockey and I do everything in my power to be up-to-date on current events happening in the game throughout the world. This makes working as a scout one of the greatest jobs I can imagine.

Balancing scouting, school and a part-time job proves to be a challenge at times, but it is something that I tackle head on. A typical day sees me doing one or more of the following things: attending class, writing papers and reading textbooks, working, attending junior hockey games, writing scouting reports, and continuing my development by reading articles, books and magazines about the game of hockey.

It is a busy life, but not something I will ever complain about. Sometimes it gets to be a lot to juggle, but as I look forward to spending my Thursdays, Fridays, and/or Saturdays in the rink, I realize that this is what I want to do, and what I need to do to reach my goals.

My weekends from September through May start this way: when I finish class on Thursday afternoon, I quickly return home to get ready for that night’s game at the Meridian Centre, home of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. I grab a bite, watch a bit of Sports Centre and it’s off to the rink I go.

When I arrive at the rink on game day, typically 60-90 minutes prior to puck drop, I head down to the scout/media room where I grab a copy of the lines. I take the time to analyze the lines and see who is playing with who, who is scratched and why. From there, I quickly jot down the lineups in my book and highlight the players I will be keeping a closer eye on.

After that, it’s a quick trip up to the concourse–club level or press box, wherever will give me the best view of the ice, usually in the corner seats or up high enough at the blue line–just in time for the start of warmups. Here, I take in the warm-up and closely watch some of the focus players for that night’s game. While watching the warm-ups and before puck drop, I often chat with some local and/or visiting media, and maybe a scout or two from around the league, and then get to work. Many of these individuals are some of the nicest in the game and will take all the time in the world to talk hockey, the OHL and the journey of moving from school into the game in some capacity.

Personally, I take a lot of notes over the course of the game; at every whistle I furiously jot down my observations from the previous shift, before looking back up to take in the rest game. Unlike a fan, who watches the game as a whole, I focus solely on the players I am observing, following their every move, analyzing their tendencies, questioning why they did a certain thing, and admiring their work ethic or critiquing their lack of effort.

The next morning, it is back to school and time to begin compiling all the notes I took from the previous game when I have some free time. I type out my notes and then begin to form them into a structured scouting report. It is here where I recall all the plays I jotted down and get into more specific details on a player’s skill set and overall impact on the game. These reports range from 200-700 words, give or take, and depending on the player, some are more in-depth than others.

This is usually a time commitment of an hour or two, depending on the game and how many players I am reporting on. I send these reports directly to my scouting director, who adds my scouting reports to the database of those from the rest of our scouts across the globe.

Sometimes, my scouting director will task me with video assignments or ask that I attend a specific game to watch a player we have an eye on. Here I focus all my efforts on watching these players closely as it is important we get all the views we possibly can in order to properly rank these players by the end of the season.

Seeing plenty of games this season, I have been lucky enough to scout a majority of the 2015 NHL Draft’s top players, covering the World Juniors, CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, CCM/USA All-American Prospects Game, and covering OHL games from Niagara to Ottawa, live. In addition to this, I have watched many of the USHL’s best in league play and Europe’s top players in multiple U18 tournaments via video.

This is the life of a part-time hockey scout: one full of coffee, taking countless notes, battling through snowstorms, having little personal time and spending hours on end in rinks across the province.

This is the life. The life that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

By Daniel Deschenes — OHL Scout for Future Considerations