Amateur scouts' decisions vital to future success
Oilers Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor discusses his team's year-long agenda
Although the surface at Rexall Place has been ice-less for more than two months, the hockey season continues for most involved in the team's in-depth prospect evaluation process. MacGregor has been the lead man since the 2007-08 season. Since that time, he's been able to secure high-end talent and allocate duties across North America and Europe to acquire a stable future for the Oilers.
Last summer, Taylor Hall was the team's prized takeaway. This season, an extensive selection makes up the batch, providing options as the team looks to further establish its role as one of the NHL's up-and-coming organizations.
And really, that's been the team's mantra; establishing a group of talented scouts to properly assess the league's future talent, all the while keeping an open mind to second opinions and further evaluation.
Bill Dandy is Edmonton's QMJHL eyes, keenly watching Jonathan Huberdeau, Zack Phillips, Sean Couturier and Nathan Beaulieu. His work is supported by Kent Hawley, who primarily covers the OHL with Brad Davis.
Hawley and Davis spent much of the 2010-11 season covering the OHL as well as Tier II Junior leagues, both in Quebec and Ontario. While Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome and Matt Puempel have been the showstoppers, MacGregor insists there are other standouts beyond the obvious names.
"There's a lot of skill out east," he said. "It's a good setup because we're getting multiple views on certain players, as well as additional views on other guys that we maybe wouldn't have focused on so eagerly. It's good to branch out and see other prospects.
"[Kent] crosses into Quebec all the time. He lives on the eastern side of Ontario, so that makes it easy for everyone. He'll go in and support Brad by watching the same players."
Covering the WHL, USHL and any relevant Tier II Junior leagues nearby, Bob Brown and Jim Crosson have been watching Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Duncan Siemens and Mark McNeill.
In New England, Scott Harlow covers the Boston area and spent much of this past season watching 6'7", 244-pound blueliner Jamieson Oleksiak, who plays for the NCAA's Northeastern University Huskies.
Former NHL players Frank Musil, Pelle Eklund and Robert Nordmark have assembled in Europe, making up the Oilers' international contingent. Top-ranked European skaters Adam Larsson and Joel Armia have been the group's go-to duo across the pond.
Overseeing everything, MacGregor helps to provide a second opinion in all circles.
"I'm everywhere," he chuckled. "Wherever the guys indicate there are higher-end prospects in the players that we would rank in the Top-75, then I would go and see them play. I travel a lot over the course of the season."
MacGregor's presence and support helps to guide the successful crossover method across the continent.
"Everyone crosses over into other leagues, and once we've narrowed our list down in the second part of the year, they'll travel into those leagues and get a cross-evaluation so you can get a second opinion—a fresh opinion on a particular player. It also allows us to watch the players properly when we put our list together."
Putting that list together is lengthy process that ultimately requires an entire season's worth of homework. Along with hundreds of scouting opportunities, MacGregor and his team coordinate with each other on several occasions to help streamline the decision-making process.
"We have three conference calls before Christmas and then we have a sit-down meeting with everyone before the CHL Top Prospects Game," MacGregor said. "We have several other conference calls later on, making sure we're following the prospects we want to follow, and then we'll have our final amateur scouting meetings in May."
That has since passed and MacGregor is now looking ahead to next week's plan where the list will be written in permanent ink. Between May's meeting and the moments leading up to the podium march, opinions can sway.
"We'll meet again when we arrive in Minneapolis to make our final, final decision," MacGregor said. "Things change. We do further research and questions come up as we have our final meetings in regards to certain aspects of a player; his attitude, his health, his season in general. Any type of information that we can source, we'll continue to dig down and see if there's more we can learn.
"Things can change some, but the bulk of our list has been completed."
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com