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The Future of Talent Identification in Hockey

A small glimpse into the future of scouting and drafting moving forward.

Stan Bowman Chicago Blackhawks

As most readers may have figured out by now, scouting is ‘my thing’. It can be a cruel and thankless world, but for those hyper-observant individuals that enjoy a challenge, scouting can quickly affix itself to your way of life. Heck, scouting short circuited my brain into thinking that going back to university and earning an entirely irrelevant master’s degree would be a good idea!  

Like the rest of the world, the talent identification business has never been more uncertain. For example, the Western Hockey League pushed back a season start date (for a third time) to January 8th. This announcement was made as many minor hockey leagues throughout Western Canada have slowly started to begin their respective seasons. Of course, this creates all kinds of ‘complexities’ that will undoubtedly effect levels below and above the junior hockey ranks.

NHL Scouting

Now that the 2020 draft is over, the Score’s John Matisz pieced together a great account of what NHL amateur scouts are thinking as their focus quickly shifts towards the 2021 draft. While the situation is developing like everything else – day by day – the complexities seem endless. 

As previously noted, a primary issue is the diversity of amateur schedules. Matisz noted, “of the five most prominent junior leagues in North America, the QMJHL is the only one that has launched a 2020-21 season, though it has already gone off the rails.” A spin off effect of the disparity in scheduling can be seen in early 2021 draft rankings where more than several players have not played a single game since March.

More Questions Than Answers

So far, the World Junior tournament is scheduled to be held in the now infamous Edmonton bubble. One glaring question that stands out in my mind is: how well prepared will North American players and teams be for that tournament? What about other international tournaments like the U-17, or Hlinka Gretzky events or all-star/top-prospect games? At this point, one question leads to another and another.

The scouting business is normally driven by timelines, schedules, and routines. That is all changing by the minute. More video scouting and technology. Trying to find innovative ways to gather information about player intangibles. More analytics (if you can find the input data). More flexibility in general. Yes, scouting staffs at every level of the game will now have to adapt or perish.  

NEXT: Ranking the Canadian Teams by Their 2020 NHL Free Agency Moves

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