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Expansive View: Looking Toward 2021

NHL Seattle adds five pro scouts to help formulate the 2021 roster, including Cammi Granato as the league's only female in that role

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

SEATTLE -- When NHL regular season pucks begin to drop Oct. 2, the Seattle franchise will be ready. General manager Ron Francis announced Wednesday five pro scouts will join the fold to begin the process of evaluating which players to select in the 2021 Expansion Draft. 

The group includes a two-time Stanley Cup winner, a 16-season NHL player with four more years as an assistant coach, a long-time NHL scout, a former leading scorer at the elite juniors level and a U.S. Olympic gold medalist. Ulf Samuelsson, Stu Barnes, Dave Hunter, John Goodwin and Cammi Granato will all be helping Francis and assistant GM Ricky Olczyk scout NHL games this season. 

The emphasis on pro-level scouting-both NHL and American Hockey League games-is directly related to NHL Seattle anticipating the 2021 Expansion Draft in which players with two seasons of NHL experience and beyond will be on the eligibility list.

Samuelsson was traded along with Francis from Hartford to Pittsburgh in March 1991; they went on to help the Penguins win two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. He played 15 seasons total and most recently was an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks. Samuelsson will be scouting in Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego (AHL).

Barnes will be located in Dallas, where he served as a Stars assistant coach and finished his playing career that included stops in Winnipeg, Florida, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Hunter will be based in Boston. He worked for Francis in Carolina as a pro scout and has significant experience scouting amateurs. 

Goodwin will be from the Toronto area, where he has coached for Ontario Hockey League teams and notched 168 points (56 goals and 110 assists) in a glorious season with the OHL's Sault St. Marie Greyhounds franchise. 

Granato, an Olympic gold medalist who captained the 1998 U.S. women's team to victory in Nagano, Japan, is breaking ground as the only female pro scout in the NHL. She will be based in Vancouver. 

"I've had other NHL opportunities to get back into hockey," said Granato during a phone interview earlier this week. "Seattle is the right fit for me and an exciting organization to join. It lined up as the perfect opportunity."

Granato said when she heard Seattle was awarded the league's 32nd franchise last December, she mused to her husband, former NHLer and current broadcast analyst Ray Ferraro. 

"Ray and I looked at each other," she recalls. "I told him I would love to get involved."

Granato dreams big. Her childhood aspiration living in suburban Chicago was to play for the NHL's local Blackhawks, "same as my brothers." 

One of those brothers, Tony Granato, played for the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks from 1988 through 2001. He is currently head coach for the University of Wisconsin men's team. Brother Don is an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres with a resume bursting with coaching roles in the NHL and AHL. 

"Don has been my primary mentor over the years," says Cammi Granato. "I feel like I can ask him anything about the game and get great advice. Of course, I talk with Tony and Ray too."

When Francis and assistant GM Ricky Olczyk were considering names for a West Coast-based scout, Granato was a natural choice. 

"I want to stress that Cammi's resume is why she got the job," says Francis. "She knows the pro game and its players. When we talked about the role and how it is going to work, I mentioned the [Seattle] organization's overall commitment to diversity. It probably didn't hurt that Ray and I are friends and former [Hartford Whalers] teammates. Plus Ricky knows Cammi from their Chicago connection." 

Granato says she is excited to get going. She knows Francis and Olczyk are looking for players with high hockey intelligence or IQ.

READ: NHL Seattle grows front office with addition of five pro scouts

"For me as a player, I recognized hockey IQ when I would give up the puck to a teammate and it didn't go into a sort of black hole," says Granato. "That high-IQ player would make the right decisions with the puck. They know what to do with the puck and without it. They anticipate plays to be made and see peripherally."

One example from Granato: Pavel Datsyuk, a former Detroit Red Wings star and two-time Stanley Cup champion who was a magician with the puck. But what Granato admired about the Russian center (now playing in his home country) is his ability to anticipate opponents' moves and "pickpocket" pucks with regularity to turn a threat into an opportunity for Detroit. 

Granato says she will be looking for those types of players, especially ones who play with "tenacity." One gut check: What effort and drive is that player exhibiting when down by two goals or maybe the second of two consecutive nights on the road.  

Francis and Olczyk will also be scouting, the boss in Carolina while he transitions to full-time Pacific Northwest residency in 2020 and Olczyk in hometown Chicago before his own move to Seattle. Francis has said more than once that "everyone can show character when they are winning" and that facing adversity such as back-to-back game nights out West or maybe a losing streak is what tests character. 

As five new pro scouts start attending games and filing reports, Francis, Olczyk and Director of Hockey Administration Alexandra Mandrycky will be guiding the process with regular conference calls to advise what should be in those reports, how to use the team's software platforms to view video of players and collectively build out the standards and prototypes for ideal players to add to the team's first roster and seasons to come.

There is one dream realized that even Granato couldn't imagine as a young skater in Downers Grove, IL. She was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010 for her many achievements as a player--including participating in every world championship from 1990 to 2005-and for championing women and girls to play the sport. 

"What a time in sports right now, seeing all sorts of ceilings shattered by women," said Granato. "If I can inspire someone to become a scout or work in an NHL front office, that's amazing."

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