Every young player and his parents want to know what the junior coaches want from their young man. "My son has skills, he can score, he is big and tough, and his team is ranked in the top five in the country. Why don't the junior coaches call us? Why hasn't my family advisor placed my kid?" It can be frustrating in this "results now" society. All these leagues, all these teams, and all these coaches! Drafts, future drafts, affiliate lists, tenders and protected lists. Man, what are they looking at?
It's January and believe it or not the coaches and scouts are out watching players, making phone calls, and asking questions. Every organization has a network of contacts to pull information from in all areas of the USA, Canada, and even Europe. Scouts and coaches usually have a few criteria they use as a basis of analyzing players on the ice. I have talked to many of these coaches over the years as a junior and midget aaa coach. Talented, top end players are not hard to identify on the ice but the qualities of a future junior, college, and pro player can be tough to find and identify.
The number one thing I have found most coaches are looking for is "compete level" or how hard a player competes in all situations. Does the player want the puck, battle for it, and possess it strongly? Is a player willing to go to the tough areas to get a loose puck and score? If a player doesn't compete hard the scouts move on. If a player is a competitor, coaches and scouts look for skills, hockey sense with and without the puck, and whether or not they impact the game. In my opinion, the on ice part is the easiest.
Here is where the phone calls and the digging comes in; intangibles. You need good contacts to answer these questions. It is also where many lose objectivity because they have something to gain personally if a particular player gets to the next level. Some of the questions a coach or scout may ask are: Does this kid spend time in the gym? What's his family like? What is his timeline and growth rate? How big are his parents? Were they athletes? Yes they want to know about genes. Does he have any problems off the ice with alcohol, drugs, or the law? What kind of student is he? Does he or has he played other sports? Is he an athlete? Of course, there are those that lie and fabricate for various reasons. Remember once you lose credibility you never fully get it back. Coaches and scouts that lie lose the trust and respect of the junior and college hockey community. Hockey is a small world. I can't move a player next year if I lie about players this year.
Last but most important in my opinion is a coach or scouts ability to predict the future. Has a player reached his peak? Is he getting bigger and better or has he leveled out? Maybe the kid had 100 points as a pee wee but everyone grew and in turn, as a bantam, he had dropped to 50 points. On the other hand, a pee wee with 20 pts suddenly grows and is a six foot bantam scoring the 100 points now and knocking the wind out of every kid on the ice that has a squeaky, high voice. Low and behold, this same kid has hair on his chest, a full beard, and a receding hair line as a minor midget and his game has leveled out. At the same time the little speedy, talented, squeaky kid shoots up six inches and is coming on strong. You tell me who the scout needs to talk with. This is where patient and thorough scouts and coaches show their talents for predicting the future. Maybe they both work hard on and off the ice and excel at the next level.
The message for you players is improve yourself on the ice and off the ice, in some area, every year no matter what level. You are never too skilled, never too strong, never too fast or too smart. Remember, somebody is always working harder than you. Some drink their way out of the game, some smoke their way out. Many players hang out instead of workout and some take shortcuts. If you think the scouts and coaches won't eventually dig up the truth, you are seriously mistaken. How bad do you want that call? Do you want answers to all those leagues, drafts, tenders or where you go to school? Can you see yourself in the college jersey and locker room you dream of? Hey maybe it's a call to a stage someday to put on an NHL jersey on draft day. It takes some luck yes, but really most of it is on you!!