Blackhawks amateur scout Ron Anderson answers your questions on the eve of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Ron, in your line of work, do you keep in close contact with other scouts regarding prospects? --Sean Furlow, Naperville, IL
We're so exposed to each other that it's hard not to. You obviously are very careful about what you say. We don't share information. I would never talk to a scout about a player; I listen to them a lot, and it's interesting to hear what different scouts have to say. But I never address players with any other scouts.
I have been a Hawks fan all my life and year after year I have been disappointed. Is the scouting department looking to get that impact player that usually turns around a team, or are you guys looking for someone who would rather wait to develop? --Zach Gossett, Jacksonville, FL
We always want to get the player that'll have the most significant impact, unless we're in a situation where we're position specific. If there's an impact player there -- a guy that's going to make a difference right away -- you'd like to have him. Why wait if you don't have to? But sometimes it's in the best interest of the player and necessary for a little more developmental time.
Smaller players tend to disappear in the high-intensity games of the playoffs. Does this observation enter into the decision-making process of your draft selections? --Mel Sarachuk, Lethbridge, AB
Well, everybody wants big, strong, smart, fast, skilled players... sometimes you don't get it all in the same package, so obviously you have to address your needs as an organization. There are some very productive smaller players. If you can have size too that's a bonus, but we don't close our eyes to one thing or the other. We want the very best players and if they include size, that's a plus.
What skills are most important when judging goalie prospects? Are there any goalies that stand out to you in this draft? --Norris Hopper, Cincinnati, OH
Yes, there are four or five that come to the front of the pack. I think everybody has their personal preferences. I have what I like, but I talk to our goaltending coach (Stephane Waite) to make sure that we're drafting guys like he likes as well because he will ultimately have to work with them. Stand-up, angle-playing, non-rebound yielding goalies who make all the routine saves and give you some gamebreakers are the prototype. Size is also an advantage there, but not necessarily a requirement.
The Hawks need someone who can step right in and play at the NHL level with the No. 1 pick. Why would we think a 5-9, 162- pound center is ready to take the daily punishment of the NHL? --Chris Freeman, Grayslake, IL
We're looking at a handful of guys and they all have the potential. Whether or not they're ready to play right away we'll decide over the next few months. We're trying to identify the best prospect for us both short-term and long-term.
I know the Hawks have a lot of picks... any chance of using some of them to trade up into the latter part of round 1? --Andrew Bard, New York, NY
I think that's always a possibility. As a scouting staff we prepare ourselves for that possibility, and that's what we've been doing. If we're told that a trade is about to happen, then we adjust on the play.
Wouldn't the Hawks rather go for a player like [Kyle] Turris, who is more of a pure scorer, instead of a playmaker type player like [Patrick] Kane? --J.D., Orland, IL
The top handful of guys all have some real strengths to their games and not necessarily flaws but some areas they maybe aren't as strong in as the other guy. You need some balance in your organization and we'd like the playmaker who can also score. That's the guy we're targeting and we're trying to make that decision. Turris is a good player with legitimate big-time assets. We'll have to see if he's the guy we decide on.
With the new NHL rules, and how the game is changing, are the Blackhawks putting more focus on size and skill, or speed and skill for a front line scorers? And how much do you focus on what a draftee's attitude will do to our team chemistry? --Kurt Engelbrecht, Palatine, IL
Attitude, commitment and character are all things we factor in. There are some great kids too that can't play, so we're trying to get the most talented player and the guy who meets our needs. But the intangibles like character, commitment and willingness and ambition all enter into the process.
I still think you need both (size and skill, speed and skill. If you had all the attributes in one package you wouldn't need a staff to sit there and discuss it. You need skill... you need speed... you need guys to set the table, guys to cash in and guys to fill other roles as well.
Hi Ron, thanks for the time! Are we proactively looking for a goalie in this draft, even though it is said to be a weak crop, or will it be more of a passive/BPA choice? --Matt F., SJ, NB
I wouldn't necessarily say it's a weak crop, but there isn't that one standout guy. There are some talented kids though and I think it's good to try to take a goalie in every draft. If one of the guys we like is there where we'd like him, I'm sure we'll consider taking a goalie.
What do you first look for when scouting a player?? Scoring, Hockey IQ or speed?? --Adam Leonhardt, Guelph, ON
Personally, I put value on instinct and hockey sense. Skating will buy you time; I think hockey sense and common sense ultimately make the difference as to whether you can learn the different things you need to learn along the way. So the mental aspect to me is really important. If he doesn't have that it's really a stretch to think that just because a guy is big who can skate that he'll transition to the next level. I think the guy who can process what is going out there and make adjustments, those guys tend to get better in all of the physical aspects of the game.
What Junior league is producing the best prospects? For instance, If you had equally talented/ranked prospects in each junior league, which prospect would you lean toward because of the league he was in and why? Thanks for your time and good luck! --Joshua, Sacramento, CA
We wouldn't lean toward one league or another; they're all good. Good players are good players no matter where they're playing. Just look at the superstars in the NHL; they're from all different backgrounds. Good players are good players.
In regards to Pat Kane, I have heard a lot about his passing and scoring ability, but not a lot about his speed. How would you rate his skating? I hear from one scout that it's good, but not sure if good is just decent. --Kyle Stewart, Toronto, ON
I think he's just so extremely talented in other areas that you tend to look at his skating and say, well, that's not a strength for him. It may not be his number one asset, but there's nothing wrong with it. You don't have the kind of success he's had at every level he's played at without being to adjust and compensate and play a well-rounded game. I don't think his skating and size are issues; they're just not his strengths.
When you are looking for players in later rounds, do you see what spot the Hawks are picking and evaluate players in that area, say the 10 rated above and 10 below that slot, or does the staff make their own entire list of players through all the rounds and go by that list. --Nicholas Chiocca, Chicago, IL
We're employed to locate, evaluate and rank. That's what we do, and then we try to follow the work that we've done. If the question is, do we do our own lists and rankings of the players, the answer is yes. Other rankings don't have any bearing on what we do.
All the talk among fans has been about the 1st pick. Will we still pick the best available player in rounds 2 and 3, or try to fill organizational depth? If it's depth, what positions are we looking to strengthen? --Keith W., Palo Alto, CA
It depends on what happens in the 1st or 2nd rounds. If we stick with all of our picks, I think we have some needs that we'll try to address first and then try to balance our draft after that.
Hey Ron, I was wondering how North American, mainly American, prospects will play out not only in the first round, but the entire draft. I have noticed a trend in less and less N. American Skaters going, but an increase of American players at the same time. I just wanted to know how it would look this year. --Zach Gossett, Jacksonville, FL
The North American sector of the draft is going to be very well represented. It's not a real deep year with Europeans. I think you're going to see probably a majority of the first round will be North American players, and you're going to see some high draft picks with the American kids this year. It's very much a possibility they could be the first couple (James van Riemsdyk, Patrick Kane). As you progress through the first round I think you're going to see a lot of Americans and it could be pretty much split between U.S. and Canadian kids.