Scouts go the extra mile
Check out other NHL teams' prospects at world juniors
By David Hutton, The StarPhoenix
December 31, 2009
Volunteer Rick Hill (right) is on staff at the scouts lounge at Credit Union Centre for the world junior hockey championship. More than 150 scouts, as well as senior management from NHL teams, are in Saskatoon for the eventPhotograph by: Richard Marjan, The StarPhoenix, The StarPhoenixIt turned out to be one of the great hockey trades of all time.
Jarome Iginla, an unheralded prospect of the Dallas Stars, was playing for Canada at the world junior hockey championship in Boston in 1996 when he has shipped off to the Calgary Flames with Corey Millen for star Joe Nieuwendyk.
The headline on the front page of a Calgary newspaper the next day read, "Jarome who?"
Nieuwendyk went on to win the Conn Smythe Award as NHL playoff MVP for Dallas following his team's 2-1 triple-overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup final.
Iginla, of course, was named the junior tournament's most valuable player in Boston and is now a household name in hockey-mad Canada and the stabilizing force behind the Flames' recent success.
Blair Mackasey, an assistant coach for Canada at the 1996 tournament, remembers the trade well but finds it pertinent to reflect on this week in his new role as director of scouting for the Minnesota Wild following a stint as head scout with Hockey Canada.
"These are the type of trades that if you're not up on it and if you're not following what other teams have as a scout maybe you don't look at a Jarome Iginla and you let it go and you make a deal for somebody else," Mackasey said in between periods in the scouts' lounge at ice level at Credit Union Centre.
"It's important that you know what other teams have."
The scouts who seek out NHL prospects are explorers, travelling to arenas in search of what distinguishes one treasure from another.
In the course of the world junior tournament more than 150 scouts will find their way to Saskatoon and will be joined by senior management from most NHL teams later in the week.
For the scouting fraternity, the world juniors is a chance to evaluate what other teams have and continue to amass in-depth profiles on the world's best prospects.
"Most of the really good players here have already been picked, so in a sense, really, we just keep tabs on them," said Bert Marshall, a Carolina Hurricanes scout and former defenceman with the New York Islanders.
"Are they developing as you thought they were when you scouted them? I always compare notes on a player when they were in their draft year and see what I missed or how they've improved or what area they are getting better at.
"It's pretty tough to say to your boss, 'Well I saw them four years ago and I really like him.' "
Wayne Meier, a veteran scout with the Pittsburgh Penguins, said the tournament allows scouts to see prospects play at a higher intensity with greater scrutiny and pressure than in junior league play.
"You want to see the top players perform so you can get them in the right order," Meier said. "We usually don't know who's going to be No. 1, so it's going to be hard to figure out who's No. 2. So you're here all the time watching that."
While the primary focus, most scouts agree, isn't on the upcoming draft, Carolina's Marshall said he also has his eyes fixed squarely on standout Canadian Taylor Hall, who is projected to go first overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft.
The Hurricanes have been wallowing in the NHL's basement all season, making it a distinct possibility they will have the first overall selection in Los Angeles in June.
"For a player at that age to make a good team and be a force on that team at this level, that guy is a pretty good player," Marshall said.
"Most of the time you don't want to in a position of picking that guy, but we're in that position this year and the way it's looking we want to be as up on those guys as we can."
SCOUTS ON SCOUTING THE WORLD JUNIORS:
BLAIR MACKASEY, DIRECTOR OF SCOUTING, MINNESOTA WILD: "There's no doubt that especially for the European teams, like the Latvians, that maybe don't get the exposure from over here they get in the limelight. It's a chance to see how they can do. And you also want to see how the top end guys perform in the big game."
BERT MARSHALL, SCOUT, CAROLINA HURRICANES: "There has been times where guys (like Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg) have been picked in one of the last rounds and turns out to be an NHL player and sometimes that's just luck, because if you knew he was going to be that good you wouldn't have let the other guys have a shot at picking him before you."
WAYNE MEIER, SCOUT, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: "We don't have anyone in the tournament but you're always watching almost every player here. We've seen most of them, but there's always transactions going on, so you're keeping in mind players that fit with your team. And enjoy watching some great hockey."
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