what do hockey scouts really look for? It’s a question every serious
hockey player will ask as he or she approaches Bantam and beyond. Scouts
rate players in five main categories: skating, size, game sense,
character and skill.
Glen Williamson, a former scout with the Los Angeles Kings, tells our players every summer at Prep Camp that it is a rare occasion when one player is a perfect “5 out of 5” in every category. Rather, players need to play to their strengths and be a 5 out of 5 in their strongest categories. Every player is unique. Intangible attributes are often the ones that can prolong a career or open up new opportunities for a player.
Scouts and coaches are always looking for players who can skate and read the game, and who are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win and add to team chemistry.
Young players need to realize that someone is always watching. Consistent behaviour and performance day in and day out are keys to success. They must do something to “get noticed.” That “something” can come from a wide range of plays — something that catches the eye of a scout, and makes the scout take notice enough to remember the player once the game is over.
The following list will shed light on just some of the subtleties of the game that scouts and coaches look for in identifying good players.
- block shots
- shoot the puck
- head-man the puck well
- pass the puck unselfishly
- communicate verbally on the ice and from the bench
- finish checks
- minimize turnovers in high risk areas
- identify defensive responsibilities
- drive the net
- create offensive-zone scoring chances
- use their sticks to take away passing lanes
- keep their bodies in the shooting lanes by staying between their checks and the net (also known as defensive-side positioning)
- stay on the defensive side in battles for the puck
Extra position-specific cues include the following.
- support the puck
- keep a forward high in the offensive zone
- backcheck through the middle of the ice
- minimize turnovers
- cover for pressured or pinching defensive players
- get up-ice with the play to minimize gaps
- keep attacking forwards to the outside
- stay between attacking forwards and the net
- use their partners instead of throwing the puck away under pressure
- get shots past shot blockers
- minimize rebounds that bounce into the slot
- battle to make second saves (rebounds)
- communicate with the defense in the defensive zone
- play the puck on dump-ins by setting it behind the net for a teammate or by passing it to the defense
- never quit until the puck is covered or is in the net
- deflect saves to corners
- skate hard to the bench on delayed penalties
- be square to shots by moving well in the crease and anticipating the play
- challenge shooters with appropriate depth, depending on shooter position and other scoring threats
The most skilled players in the world will always find a team that wants them, even if their attitude is not the best. However, these players are few and far between, and they often bounce from team to team until their luck runs out. Every team needs a player who can lead the league in scoring or stop the puck. However, they can only deal with a poor attitude for so long.
Beyond pure skating and puck skills, the above-listed characteristics all relate to a player’s ability to read the play and to make decisions that are best for the team. The best players in the world are not always the best skaters, and they don’t always have the hardest shot or the fastest glove. To have the best chance to move on to the next level, a player needs athletic instincts, a team-first mentality and a passion for improving physical and mental skills.