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Scouting and draft process

By Chris Ackroyd

AAA hockey always has a high level of intensity, but the minor midget season is unique. With the OHL Priority Selection on everyone’s mind, the quality of play elevates as players look to impress scouts. With the Scotiabank GTHL Top Prospects Game upon us, Breakout caught up with Jan Egert, assistant general manager of the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads and former member of the NHL’s Central Scouting department, to learn more about the evaluation process.

breakout: HOW FREQUENTLY DO YOU SCOUT GTHL GAMES? 
I personally see a minimum of two or three GTHL games a week. Our scouting staff will have upwards of 10 to 12 individual viewings of GTHL teams, at both the minor and major midget levels

breakout: AT WHAT STAGE IN PLAYERS’ DEVELOPMENT DO YOU FIRST START EVALUATING?
We start at major bantam to identify talent and then allow for progression to take place until their OHL draft year. We won’t rank major bantam players in a list, but we create “pools” of talent levels to measure the depth of the draft. We never want to pigeonhole a player when he’s 14 years old; that’s a bad evaluation tactic and not fair to the hockey player either.

breakout: DO YOU HAVE A “TYPE” OF PLAYER YOU LOOK FOR?
Competitors. Everyone can skate, pass and shoot – but if you have a high compete level, then you often separate yourself from the pack. That goes for anything in life, not just on the ice.

breakout: DO YOU PUT MORE STOCK ON A PLAYER’S LATE-SEASON PLAY IF THEY HAVE IMPROVED OR REGRESSED?
Progression and regression are very important when evaluating a prospect; but there is more to it than just the on-ice performance. A player may be dealing with a nagging injury or is finally playing pain-free; so I don’t think putting “more stock” is accurate, but [late-season performance] is definitely considered.

breakout: HOW MUCH DO YOU WEIGH OFF-ICE BEHAVIOUR COMPARED TO PURE HOCKEY ABILITY?
It is of utmost importance. The moment you are drafted by Mississauga, you become a member of the Steelheads family. That brand resonates in the community, the schools, and the arenas and on the ice. We seek players of strong character that have an equally positive impact on the ice as they do off the ice.

breakout: ARE THERE ANY SKILLS OR HABITS THAT ARE “DEAL-BREAKERS”?
It is tough to fall in love with a player that does not compete but expects for things to just happen.

breakout: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BANTAM AND MINOR MIDGET PLAYERS?
Go play the game, work hard and focus on your personal development.Don’t worry about the evaluation process in your OHL draft year, it’s not something you can control – so don’t stress about it.

breakout: WHAT DOES THE WORD “INTANGIBLE” MEAN TO YOU?
To me, the “intangibles” are the important aspects that a player can contribute to a hockey club that don’t show up on the game sheet at the end of the night. It can be a player’s leadership qualities, his work ethic, the ability to control his emotions or his drive and determination to compete and succeed. There is no advanced stat to measure the sheer drive of a player to achieve his goals.

breakout: WHAT SHOULD (OR SHOULDN’T) PARENTS, FAMILIES AND/OR AGENTS DO TO HELP PLAYERS?
I think it’s great that parents, families and agents have their own son’s interest at heart during the OHL draft evaluation period. However, at the end of the day, everyone – including all hockey personnel – needs to remember that these players are 14 or 15 years old and are still children. Let them play the game they love, because they love to play the game.

breakout: WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF THE JOB?
Seeing Owen Tippett arrive at Hershey Centre last year smiling from ear-to-ear after we selected him fourth overall. That’s something I won’t soon forget.
 
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BIG GAME, BIG NAMES
The GTHL’s top 40 minor midget players participated in the 7th Annual Scotiabank GTHL Top Prospects Game on Dec. 15. Over the years, many of the NHL’s current and future young stars have showcased their talents at the event:

January 21, 2010
Mississauga Rebels captain Sean Monahan (Calgary Flames) suited up for Team Clark against a Team Flatley roster that featured Adam Pelech (NY Islanders) and Scott Laughton (Philadelphia Flyers).

December 14, 2010
Hulking Toronto Marlboros forward Nicholas Ritchie (Anaheim Ducks) led Team Flatley against budding NHL prospect Jordan Subban (Vancouver Canucks) and Team Clark.

January 11, 2012
A contest bursting with future NHL talent included Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), Sam Bennett (Calgary Flames) and Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues).

January 8, 2013
Two of the top four selections in the 2015 NHL Draft – Dylan Strome (No. 3, Arizona Coyotes) and Mitch Marner (No. 4, Toronto Maple Leafs) – led Team Kypreos against Team MacLean.

January 7, 2014
Michael McLeod and Adam Mascherin led Team Clark to victory over a Team Graves roster that featured Jakob Chychrun and Travis Barron. All four players are eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft.

December 16, 2014
Now teammates with the Mississauga Steelheads, Ryan McLeod and Owen Tippett squared off for Team Kypreos and Team MacLean, respectively, before becoming top-five picks in the OHL draft.
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GTHL manger of Hockey Operations Peter Kourtis – and co-host of the GTHL on Rogers TV – shared his list of players to watch for the upcoming OHL Draft:

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