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Scouts year-long workload pays off at draft

by Jason Pirie / Calgary Flames

We pride ourselves in digging for information and really trying to find out about the players. Who’s going to be a Calgary Flame and who do we want? It’s not only the on-ice performance. It’s finding out about the player and their personality and what their makeup is, what their family situation is, previous injuries … you really dig, dig, dig for information.Brad Pascall

CALGARY, AB -- It is one thing to search for and uncover the best and brightest players in one specific region.

It’s another having to compare and rank that crop of talent with those playing in various leagues across the amateur hockey landscape.

That is precisely the task facing Calgary Flames’ management and scouting staff as the 2016 NHL Draft draws closer.

“We pride ourselves in digging for information and really trying to find out about the players,” Flames assistant GM Brad Pascall said. “Who’s going to be a Calgary Flame and who do we want? It’s not only the on-ice performance. It’s finding out about the player and their personality and what their makeup is, what their family situation is, previous injuries … you really dig, dig, dig for information.”

To understand the entire process, though, you must put it in reverse.

For Flames’ director of scouting Tod Button and his staff, first and foremost, there is the ever important identification stage.

Simply put, where they separate the studs from the duds.

“That’s usually for the first six to eight weeks of the season,” Button said. “That’s when the scouts are in their own area and identifying the players they want to follow up on or make further evaluations on in respect to drafting them.”

Once players matching the organization’s needs and wants are identified, the travel weary birddogs congregate mid-season to assess, compare and make a case for which prospects to covet.

It’s a debate-filled meeting to say the least.

“We start drilling down,” Button said. “In the early stages of the year we’re more concerned with identifying the players for the draft, but as the year progresses the number of players we watch in a game dwindles. We’ll hone in on three or four guys, sometimes only one guy.”

From there, scouts begin crossing over to various leagues for second and third opinions.

“By April there will be 40 to 45 players that six or seven of our scouts will have seen play after we cross over,” Button said. “We try to get more specific with players. After identifying weaknesses and strengths we’ll go back to make sure they are strengths and to see if there is any progression with their weaknesses.”

Pascall says management has full confidence in its scouting staff and will always lean back on where it ranks prospects.

“You’re always looking at your draft list and you’re going to have players in order from one to 50, or one to 10, or whatever it might be,” Pascall said. “We’ve had good discussions on how we place these players in order. You always go back to that.”

While on the clock, however, it’s not uncommon that last minute tweaks occur from the draft table, especially when there is an opportunity to reverse your team’s fortunes with a single pick.

“On the draft floor the winds can always change,” Pascall said, “but I think we stick to where we saw the players all year and where we have them ranked.”

That’s because with 10 selections at this year’s draft, including four within the first two rounds, the Flames are exceedingly confident that their scouts have put in place a well-orchestrated list.

“Our amateur guys have done a great job in really digging for information,” Pascall said. “We had four or five days here in the office with them prior to the combine and had really good discussions in putting our list together.

“I think looking at our goals and objectives and what our attributes are, there was really good discussion throughout every round, every player that we have a good liking to.”

The 2016 NHL Draft takes place June 24-25 in Buffalo, NY.

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