Thursday , 9 July 2020

Tales from the Timekeepers Box: September 6th, 2016

What do the scouts look for?

It’s that time of the year, again to dig out your hockey gear and hit the ice for the hockey try outs. All the AAA and AA peewee, bantam and midget teams will be getting on the ice sometime this coming week. The Junior A squads have been having their tryouts for the last a couple of weeks now. Some of the players have been sent packing already, some are obviously going to make the team; but others are still sitting on the bubble waiting and wishing.

What is the coaching staff waiting for? Well it’s like this, it’s a ripple effect. The WHL do their cuts, and those players come to the Junior A teams for a try out, and then some young player  gets called into the office…and are nicely told their services are not needed. But many of those players getting cut are still midget age so they go and bump a kid off a AAA team and so on, and so on. Reality can be cruel pill to swallow.

For quite a few years, at this time of year, I sat in the stands with the Bonnyville Pontiacs coaches and scouts at their fall camps and helped evaluate players for their team. You watch a scrimmage then go into the little room and talk about who  you liked and why. I used to send them some names of the local kids who I thought might have a chance to play there one day. They gave me a AJHL game pass and business cards with the title scout on them. I felt pretty important like a secret agent.

It all started with  my son Jordan, because I had this dream of him making the team, so  I  phoned the coach one day and told them about these talented kids who had just won a gold medal in bantam provincials. About six of them got invited to spring camp the next year. The coaches liked what they saw, because those kids were a very talented bunch,  and all of them got invited back to the fall camp.

I did this for a few years, sent in some names of kids in our local minor hockey association and players I saw in the league. They would get invited to camp, along with paying $50 or $100 for the privilege of skating and getting a tryout.

Loren Kozicky was one of them from our Thunder team who actually made the Pontiacs team a couple of years later .But he was still in school in grade 12.  He stuck it out for about two months then decided to quit the Pontiacs to finish his final year of high school. No matter what they tell you, it’s  really tough to play at that level and go to school too, even though they may insist to the parents that its possible, practice is in the middle of the afternoon every day.  Then on game days, they leave on the bus for road trips in the morning and get home at 2 or 3 the next morning. Or sometimes be gone for in two or three days on the weekend to Fort Mac or down south around Calgary. That doesn’t work all that well for kids who are actually trying to study for school. Plus another big factor is getting very limited ice time when you’re a rookie. Sitting on the bench when you could be with your girlfriend is sometimes a little more appealing. But if your finished your high school,  it’s a terrific  place to play and maybe make it on a U.S college team someday.

Seems like more and more of the junior players are getting scholarships down there. And some of them, like our good friend Mark ‘ the Marksmen’ Letestu, make it to college and then all the way to the big league from there.  So, you never know,  if a kid really wants to do it and is talented enough to make the team, he should give it a go .

Back to the question what do the scouts look for?

  • Strong skaters: guys who can accelerate, move in traffic, are strong on their skates, able to battle and protect the puck.
  • Players with Drive: they play the game with passion, they want to compete even when things aren’t going well, they play with intensity and emotion, they love the game.
  • Players who are Disciplined: yet tough enough to fight when necessary.
  • Positive kids: team players, team leaders.
  • Skilled players: goal scorers, players that can control the puck in open ice and in traffic, can give and receive a pass, can shoot the puck under pressure, have good hockey sense, can read the play and react.
  • And here’s a big one….play without the puck: driving to the net, finding open ice, back checking, picking up the open man, blocking shots, angling.

And what about size? In today’s game size  is still a big factor, just look at the size of these monster kids who play hockey. Maybe not quite as much in the Junior A League, they still have a lot of  smaller, speedy, skilled players. The league is known for its speed.

What about goalies?  Concentration: is he focused, communicates, makes the first save, is he a gamer or does  get down on himself after giving up a weak one. Anticipation of the play, puck handling, rebound control, Movement: agility, speed, balance, lateral , forward, backwards, up down.

To be honest, I would hate to be a parent of a goalie trying out for any Junior team. Only two spots available, sometimes only one, and usually they had about 10 goalies trying out. I think  the best odds is to be a defenseman. Never enough good D Men to go around. No glory for the unsung heroes!

And now for the K.A. Campbell quote of the week. ‘ You have to dream dreams to live dreams.’ – Eric Lindros.

About Doug Bassett