The Islanders' Ontario scout tells us about his last month
by Doug Gibson
For crossover amateur scouts like myself, the last part of October and the month of November is one of our busier times during the hockey season. We have all made our initial swings through our various leagues in September and October to identify prospects for this year's draft and it is now time for our second evaluations.
After conferring with Mario Saraceno (Quebec League ) and Tony Feltrin (our head scout), I was able to join the two of them for a quick weekend trek through the Maritimes in eastern Canada.
Friday, October 14 - After an early morning flight to Moncton, New Brunswick, Tony and I check into the Chateau Moncton Hotel and grab some lunch before heading back to the airport to pick up Mario and finally make the two-hour drive to Saint John for the game between the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and the first-year Saint John Sea Dogs. The QMJHL has instituted most of the new NHL rules for this season leading to some very good and exciting hockey as we enjoyed the overtime and shootout win by Cape Breton. After I endured quite a bit of verbal abuse and a couple of stops for directions because my shortcut to the hotel was not so short, we did make it back to the hotel in time to talk hockey as a staff.
Saturday, October 15 - Great to be back in the usual routine: down for some breakfast, then back to the room to complete my report on last night's game, pack up, check out and head for tonight's game in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Easy drive listening to the constant chatter of Tony and Mario until the rain started around Truro (halfway) and continued right to the hotel in Halifax. Check in, grab a bite to eat and head for the rink for the game between the Halifax Mooseheads and the Val d'Or Foreurs. Then we found an establishment where we could watch the final period of the Islander game.
Sunday, October 16 - Mario and I were up and at it early again to get our reports done before heading back to Moncton for an afternoon game: Lewiston Maineiacs vs. the Moncton Wildcats. Then it was off to the airport for the last flight back to Montreal and Toronto. A quick but necessary trip as we were able to see some of Mario's top prospects from the QMJHL.
As is the case for most of us if we do get a couple of down days it is Monday and Tuesday, valuable days to complete reports and work on our prospect lists. Next up a trio of OHL games - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs the Sudbury Wolves in Sudbury, Owen Sound Attack vs the Barrie Colts in Barrie and the Barrie Colts vs the Mississauga IceDogs in Mississauga before heading out on the road again with a trip to the Michigan area.
Saturday, October 22 - Michigan State Spartans vs Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Disappointing because one of Jay Heinbuck's US prospects is out of the lineup with mono, but also valuable to watch a couple of other top prospects as well as some already drafted players to see how they are progressing in their college careers.
Sunday, October 23 - Back to the OHL for a game in Saginaw between the Belleville Bulls and the Saginaw Spirit. For this weekend I was able to base out of a hotel in Livonia, Michigan which at least eliminated the pack up and change hotel every day routine from the previous trip.
Monday, October 24 - No games today. Time to complete reports and get in a good workout. Maybe even have a good meal at the regular time.
Tuesday, October 25 - Head for Lansing and a chance to see the USA Under-18 development team in a game against the Michigan State Spartans. Kind of disappointing as Michigan State dominated from start to finish but a chance to see a possible first round draft pick in Erik Johnson from the USA 18 team.
Wednesday, October 26 - Time for another drive, this time from the Detroit area through Cleveland to Erie, Pennsylvania and a chance to see our first round draft pick from last year - Ryan O'Marra. Can't remember the last time I drove through so much construction! Ryan did not disappoint with two goals and two assists to help lead his team to an easy win over the Mississauga IceDogs.
Thursday, October 27 - Head out early, with a stop in Fort Erie, Ontario for lunch with my brother who is a golf pro in the area, then home to Peterborough for a game between the Belleville Bulls and the Peterborough Petes. Another opportunity to see a top prospect in the Petes' Jordan Staal, who is hoping to follow his two brothers as first round picks in the NHL draft.
Not much down time but a chance for a couple of home cooked meals, visits with some family and four OHL games in three days to complete the weekend. Bonus - first time in five years to be home for Halloween and help giving out the candy to the trick or treaters.
No time to relax yet as it is time to pack a suitcase for my first trip of the year to see the WHL in western Canada and follow up on some of Harkie's prospects with a ten-day trip. It may sound hectic at times but it is exciting when we get to rink to look for a future New York Islander. Then even more exciting when we jump in the car after the game, flip on the radio and find out that the Islanders have won another game! Life is good.