Coz for Thought: Evolution of NHL Central Scouting

Seth Jones with officials from the Nashville Predators after being chosen fourth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Dan Marr had big shoes to fill when he was hired on as the director of NHL Central Scouting in October 2011. He was taking the place of the late E.J. McGuire, who had passed away some six months earlier. McGuire was a tireless worker, well respected in the industry and helped bring NHL Central Scouting into the computer age. When he passed, he left the bureau in great shape. Marr has continued McGuire’s vision and evolution of NHL Central Scouting.

Ultimately, it is the role of the bureau to serve each of the 30 NHL teams — to provide each team with equal access to player information in addition to what each individual team does on its own.

There are three main elements covered by the bureau: 1) The list (players to watch and rankings); 2) information services (email alerts, tweets, website maintenance, tournament and event dates etc.), and 3) the NHL Combine, which precedes the NHL draft.

Not long after Marr was hired, he drew up a restructuring plan in order to improve the aforementioned elements. That plan was presented to the NHL brass and was approved prior to last season, but the plan was put on hold because of the lockout. In the meantime, Marr called a meeting of the directors of scouting for each NHL team during the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Saskatoon. The meeting presented a forum for NHL teams to voice their concerns and requests, and for information sharing.

Right around the start of this season, Marr’s restructuring plan was put back into motion. The first move was to create a new position in the NHL offices. The video manager/website manager’s position was filled by Luke McGoey, who had previously worked as the information co-ordinator. McGoey’s position was filled by Jan Egert.

Of the three previously mentioned elements, Marr was focused on vastly improving information services. This requires constant communication amongst the bureau’s scouting staff. Injuries, suspensions, when a goalie may start are all things scouts need to know before seeing a game to ensure the player(s) they are going to see will be in the lineup or at least fairly scouted. It also required a full-time video expert (McGoey). In order to streamline video content, Marr’s vision was to acquire video from individual teams as opposed to each NHL team seeking video on its own. Instead of a CHL team constantly sending video clips or DVDs to NHL scouts, the CHL team now has a place to upload video to a centralized area, accessible by all teams. This also aids the stress put on CHL video people, sending one set of clips on a player to one spot as opposed to sending those same clips to several different scouts.

Biggest Change

Marr also sought information from the CHL’s brass. One of the topics that continually came up from both the CHL and NHL was the November preliminary lists. Previously, Central Scouting would release a preliminary list for leagues in North America and each country in Europe. The list would contain players ranked 1-25. Taking feedback from the NHL, CHL and player agents, Marr implemented a change in the November listing. Moving forward, and beginning this November (likely during the week of Nov.11), Marr’s staff will continue the league/country format but instead of a ranking, it will be an updated “players to watch” list. The first list was released in September.

Many felt November was too early in the season to rank players. Furthermore, agents, parents, CHL member teams and others were concerned about how the lists affected players. The “players to watch” list is a more inclusive list and is less intrusive in terms of ranking players in numerical order. You will be able to find the list at or here in Coz for Thought during the week of Nov. 11.

Central Scouting stresses it is not in competition with other scouting services such as Hockey Prospect, ISS or McKeen’s, reiterating that it’s the bureau’s job to serve each of the 30 NHL teams in a manner recommended by those teams.

Having said that, Coz for Thought will release its top-10 players by league, rotating leagues each month beginning in November.

Ottawa @ Guelph Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013

I had a chance to spend some time with the Guelph coaching staff (Scott Walker, Todd Harvey and Bill Stewart) before their game against Ottawa on Sunday. While Guelph’s record indicates a great start to the year, the coaching staff is yearning for more consistency. Walker claims he’s learned so much as a person and as a coach since taking over the Storm bench in December 2010.

One of the topics that came up was Garrett Sparks. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect would be eligible to play as an over-ager, yet has just one game under his belt (the lone Marlies loss). Over the last two seasons, Sparks played in 119 games for the Storm. Interesting in that Sparks is coached by Steve Spott, the former head coach for Guelph’s Midwest Division rival Kitchener.

Brock McGinn is the third brother of the McGinn family with NHL aspirations. Older brothers Jamie (Colorado) and Tye (Philadelphia) are currently in the show, while Brock was a second-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2012 draft. McGinn is currently tied for 10th in OHL scoring with 19 points in 12 games. He was brilliant on the penalty kill Sunday, and was all over the ice creating havoc for the Ottawa 67’s.

Scott Kosmachuk went off for a career-high four goals and five points. The Winnipeg Jets prospect has world junior aspirations.

I also got my first live look at top OHL pick Travis Konecny, and he was brilliant. Although he didn’t record a point and was minus-1, I was really impressed with his puck patience and ability to get to good areas on the ice.

Joseph Blandisi looks like the real deal in Ottawa, centering the 67’s top line with Ryan Van Stralen and Konecny.

With just two OHL games on Sunday, the place was crawling with NHL scouts, most of whom would’ve had to leave a bit early in order to hit the start of the Sault Ste. Marie-Oshawa tilt about 1 hour and 40 minutes away with a 6 p.m. puck drop. Oh how the scouts miss the Brampton Battalion’s 2 p.m. Sunday games.

Hockey Canada was also represented with Bruce Hamilton and Ryan Jankowski in attendance. The Hockey Canada selection committee is currently seeking out players to participate in the Subway Super Series, which gets underway Nov. 18th in Gatineau, Que. Regular season viewings, selection into the Subway Series and ultimately invites to selection camp map out the process in order for a player to make Canada’s world junior team.

Stat Trick: Most shot-at goalies

Western Hockey League

Name Team Shots Faced GP/Team GP
Eric Comrie TRI 444 13/14
Patrik Bartosak RDR 402 11/13
Corbin Boes LET 392 10/13

Ontario Hockey League

Name Team Shots Faced GP/Team GP
Alex Nedeljkovic PLY 439 12/13
Charlie Graham BEL 426 10/12
Philippe Trudeau OTT 392 11/13

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Name Team Shots Faced GP/Team GP
Alex Dubeau MON 404 15/16
Jacob Brennan ACB 386 12/15
Sebastian Auger STJ 384 11/14

Don’t forget, Friday Night Hockey returns to Sportsnet on Nov. 8, when Jonathan Drouin and the defending MasterCard Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads play host to projected first-rounder Ivan Barbashev and the Moncton Wildcats.

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