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What Recruits Need to Know About the NHL Central Scouting Bureau

Image by s.yume via Flickr Creative Commons

NHL Central Scouting

The NHL Central Scouting Bureau or NHL Central Scouting is a department within the National Hockey League that ranks recruits for the NHL Entry Draft at specific times during the hockey season. Players are ranked based on how well they will translate to the professional game in the National Hockey League. Central Scouting was founded by hockey executive Jack Button in 1975 to establish a centralized database of NHL prospects.

Eligible players for the upcoming draft are ranked as North American Skaters, North American Goalies, International Skaters, or International Goalies. The players are either North American or International based on where they are playing going into their draft year. For example, the Czech forward, Jakub Voracek was ranked as a North American prospect, because he played with the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Today, Central Scouting has staff at the NHL Offices in Toronto, along with eight full-time scouts, and fifteen part-time scouts throughout North America. To report on prospects playing in Europe, the NHL employs the services of Goran Stub and his staff of six scouts at the European Scouting Services based in Finland. All twenty-nine scouts reporting for Central Scouting will combine to see approximately 3000 games each year.

The NHL Central Scouting Checklist

NHL Central Scouting sets the standards player’s skills are measured by (or at least tried to be measured). They publish a separate scouting checklist for forwards, defencemen and goalies.

For forwards and defencemen the checklist includes seven main categories. Each main category is then broken down into different skill sets, which include:

  • Skating;
  • Puck skills;
  • Competitiveness;
  • Physical Play;
  • Hockey Sense;
  • Defencesive Play; and
  • Psychological Factors

Scouts will then try to pigeon-hole you into one of five different types of players; a power forward, skilled forward, role player/checker, skilled/offensive defenceman or a reliable stay at home defenceman.

NHL.com has a great video shedding some light on Central Scouting’s ranking process. Before each draft, NHL Central Scouting publishes their rankings for each NHL franchise to serve as a recommendation. At the beginning of each season NHL Central Scouting also publishes a list of “Players to Watch” from each major league around North America. Getting on the list is key to getting recruited by NCAA teams. Most NCAA scouts use the list early in the season to determine who they should watch and who has already committed to the CHL or another NCAA program.

Sort Out the Skills You Need To Work On

Of the seven categories, when you show up at the rink for practice, chances are you’ll only be able to work on three or four; your skating, puck skills, your defensive play within your team’s system and your physical play.

Rarely are players coached (and rarely do players consciously work on) the other categories; competitiveness, hockey sense and the ever so important psychological factors.

To a large extent, competitiveness isn’t coachable to begin with. Most players are either fiercely competitive or not. You’ll know them when you see them, the guy who will dig for a puck in the corners even when losing 5-0 in the third. They hate losing and will do anything to win. If you want to make it to the next level it should be abundantly clear to anyone watching you on the ice that you are serious and competitive every minute. Often scouts also get a sense of your competitiveness by your off ice behaviour and ultimately your character.

At team practices there isn’t a whole lot of time for developing individual skills. A lot of practice time in minor hockey is spent developing systems, positioning, working on break out drills, flow drills, running the powerplay or PK. At the minor hockey level it doesn’t make sense for the entire team to work on taking face-offs. These types of skills (see the Central Scouting Checklist for more) are your job to develop on your own time or with instructors after a team practice.

Identify the skills you need to work on from the Checklist and develop them as often as you can.

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