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Prospecting with Central Scouting

by Mike G. Morreale
The wizards of Central Scouting
04.07.09, 8:00 a.m.

TORONTO - Before I hit the friendly skies, I wanted to touch upon the fantastic job that computer genius Dave Gregory and information technology specialist Jack Gerien have done throughout the weekend here at Central Scouting.

Just as a side note, in year's past, this particular meeting - set aside to project the final 210 skaters and top 30 goalies in North America - went on for two weeks. It now takes just one! The boys were forced to use an antiquated paper-vote system, calculators, administrative assistants and actual place cards of each player that were slapped on Velcro on a big board in front of the room to actually give the scouts a visual picture of what exactly was going on. Geez, and I thought I had it bad way back in 1989 during those fun-filled college years when my professor told me our thesis had to be produced on a typewriter!

Anyway, for the last three years, they boys here at Central Scouting have used an application called 'Meeting Manager', which has certainly made all their hard work within this meeting flow seamlessly. It really is an amazing process as the boys sit at the 'U' shaped table with laptops and are able to vote on players with the click of a mouse, but not before debating and discussing EVERY player they rank. Don't forget now, we'll dealing with the top 210 players in North America! And the boys certainly get it right as, at last count, 7 of the 30 picks they had ranked in the first round of 2008 have already had a major impact this NHL season.

I'll let the two big men on campus explain:

Dave Gregory

"We're running what we call our 'Meeting Manager' through my computer. Everybody sees the same thing on their screens (much like a network at the office), so we have our lists that we bring to the meeting where we've personally ranked the guys we've seen. There are 9 full time scouts who have lists on our own system and we rank every guy we've seen and decide if (that scout) needs to be here at the meeting.

"The first part of the meeting is putting together league lists and not just one league but a category of leagues in a region of the country. We have the OHL, WHL, QMJHL, US-Hockey East and US-Hockey West, the NTDP and Canadian junior and midget players.

"Once we have all the players in each of those categories in an order we agree on as a unit of scouts, we arrange a conference call with the guys in each region. They get their regional areas locked down and in the order they want. We have about a week's time to find out what the results of those conference call meetings are and they bring those lists to the first day of the meetings here in Toronto. The rest of the scouting fraternity here decides on if that order if accurate and we discuss and debate and we really get down to an order that we agree as a group for each of the seven regions we've divided.

"It's tough. Everyone can't see every player on the list, that's impossible. So you have to seek similar guys or see as much cross over games when you see guys in other regions. Because of time and budget, you can't completely integrate your list or see everybody in a cross-over, so we then have to count on each other's opinion and that's when it gets tough. But we're serious in what we do because we know the NHL relies on us for the most accurate reports possible."

Jack Gerien

"Every time I come to this meeting I take away something else and we're fortunate enough that the League has made a commitment to pushing technology as a whole and we're in this room and have staff monitoring this meeting remotely so we're able to invoke changes and enhancements to the system as we're sitting here.

"We started out actually with developing an automated player profile which tracks a lot of the statistical components and personal things on each player so that as the scouts go to games they can record what you've seen as far as game reports. In other words, how 'Jimmy' played and what kind of grade he was assigned.

"We have 31,000 individual player profiles locked in, not just in North America but from all over the world. What you see here, scouts in Europe are also using to attain information. The 31,000 profiles goes back three years.

"These game reports they talk about where they are referring to reporting individual games being reported have reached the 9,000 mark all total this season. In the three years we've been doing this, we've gotten 29,000 individual game reports that scouts have filed.

"The checklists you see this year on each player -- 3,000 of them have been filed and that goes all the way back to November. In total, we have 9,500 checklists on players over the last 3 years.

"The dedication that these guys have to their profession in what they do is in a small part mirrored in the numbers presented. From my perspective as an IT guy, this is nothing more than a tool. When I sit in this room, it's just flabbergasting to me the knowledge they have. You sit in this room and you can pick any name off that list and they know everything about the kid.

"The best thing about this is not only do we gather historical information that we could use moving forward, but the 'Meeting Manager' application that Dave runs, allows the meeting to go smoother, easier and faster. It allows the scouts more time discussing individual players and really making sure that they can put as much effort into refining the product they distribute to the League as they can. My objective, fundamentally, is to make the computer end of this as meaningless as possible (in other words - no freeze ups). That allows them to do their thing!"

So, as you can see, it's a lot more involved than just a dozen men congregated inside the Conn Smythe Boardroom here at Air Canada Centre in April each season -- It's a job well done!

--Mike G. Morreale

Calling it a day
04.06.09, 5:00 p.m.

TORONTO - The boys at Central Scouting have officially called it a day after another productive session here at the Conn Smythe Boardroom at NHL offices.

Adam Kimelman is currently conducting a podcast with Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire and I just finished up a podcast with Western scout Jack Barzee. Both interviews might be available on either before or after the release of the Central's final list, which is scheduled for public consumption on April 14.

It was a real pleasure covering the scouting meetings here in Toronto. The boys are fantastic and funny. But, most importantly, they are all business and that was very evident over the course of the weekend. Much credit to all involved, including E.J. and his staff.

Adam has a long drive back home tomorrow and, well, who knows when my flight to Newark will finally take off. The weather doesn't sound promising, but we'll see.

For now, at least, signing off from Central Scouting offices. Good night!

--Mike G. Morreale

The NHL Combine is coming!
04.06.09, 4:00 p.m.

TORONTO - Central Scouting Coordinator extraordinaire Nathan Ogilvie-Harris has informed us that the top 75 rated North American skaters and 8 goalies, along with the top 21 European players, will be invited to this year's NHL Combine at the Westin Bristol Place Toronto Airport Hotel.

The European players will begin the week-long Combine on May 24 with their testing and interviewing throughout the hotel. The North Americans will arrive two days later. Central Scouting's final draft list, consisting of 210 skaters and 30 goalies, will be released April 14.

--Mike G. Morreale

Is Patrick Roy ready to coach in the NHL?
04.06.09, 2:45 p.m.

TORONTO - I had a chance to speak with QMJHL scout Chris Bordeleau and asked him if he felt the time was right for current Quebec Remparts coach Patrick Roy to make the jump to the NHL. Roy is the current co-owner, general manager, and head coach of the Remparts.

With the way the Colorado Avalanche have struggled, would it at all be surprising?

"He'll end up (in the NHL) eventually and it's just a question of when," Bordeleau said. "I think he's going to be good but I'm not sure whether he's ready or not because he's in control of Quebec City. He enjoys what he's doing but he's definitely going to be a plus for the league down the road."

--Mike G. Morreale

Getting a list and checking it twice
04.06.09, 12:35 p.m.

TORONTO - They've hit lunchtime here at the Conn Smythe Boardroom but not before starting checklists for each of the players projected to go in the first round by the Central Scouting Service.

The checklist includes a players' skating, passing, checking, physicality, playmaking, anticipation, decision-making, back-checking and, believe it or not, fighting ability. But it goes much deeper than that. Each scout assigned to a particular region of North America is responsible for announcing the positives and negatives of each player that has been rated. Those responses to each category are then punched into the Meeting Manager application so that scouts are able to read the advantages and, in some instances, the disadvantages of each player.

The boys will continue to do this for all of the 210 North American players. "Hey fellows, if we spend an hour on each player, we'll be here for 210 hours," Central's director E.J. McGuire said. That obviously didn't go over to well with the guys.

It seems as though the average time spent on each player is about 10 minutes; perhaps that will change with each passing round.

--Mike G. Morreale

Reaction to selection of USA Olympic coach Ron Wilson
04.06.09, 10:10 a.m.

TORONTO - When informed that USA Hockey officially announced on Monday that Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson would be coach of the U.S. Olympic team at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire offered this assessment.

"Ron's a good ambassador for the game and it goes without saying he's a good coach and has plenty of experience on the international stage," McGuire said. "The 2010 Olympics should be fun and, if the rumors are true that it may be under scrutiny in future years, we should enjoy it."

McGuire, who considers himself 'old school', wouldn't mind seeing the amateur players back in the Olympic mix.

"I go back and I think it could be a great tournament without the pros unless they move it to summer time," McGuire told me. "I think it's not about giving kids an opportunity or college kids an opportunity. Perhaps my memory is 1980, where it was pretty neat but unless they go to the summer, I think it's too disruptive of the national League and everybody's mind set, so, for now, let's just enjoy this as much as possible."

Wilson led the Americans to a gold medal in the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and then coached Team USA at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano. Wilson also coached the U.S. entry into the 1994 and 1996 IIHF World Championships as well as the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, the last time it was played.

--Mike G. Morreale

Looking ahead to 2010 -- Taylor Hall's the man!
04.06.09, 9:30 a.m.

TORONTO - A quick break from the action here. I spoke with OHL scout Chris Edwards recently and asked him if Windsor's Taylor Hall will be the 2010 equivalent of this year's John Tavares -- a sure-fire, bona-fide No. 1.

"Yes," Edwards told me. "Taylor is a better skater but they both are real high-end point producing guys. Taylor's done it for two years in the OHL and John has done it for four years. Hall has really good hands, puck skill and playmaking ability so there are those similarities."

But why isn't Hall receiving the type of hype that Tavares received, it seems, for the last 3-4 years?

"I think he will be as well-known as John but the thing is John has had this hype for four years now and none of it was his fault," Edwards said. "No offense to the media, but it was the media which touted John as the No. 1 pick the last four years. He probably will be the No. 1 as well but Hall, I guess, is a little more under the radar right now. I do think by the time it rolls around next year, Hall will be very well known and it'll be nationwide."

--Mike G. Morreale

Day 3 at Central Scouting
04.06.09, 9:03 a.m.

TORONTO - So we're off and running in Day 3 of the meetings here at the Conn Smythe Boardroom at Air Canada Centre. The boys are already in deep thought and conversation -- debating players in the third, fourth and fifth rounds. Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire is like a hawk. He walks the perimeter around the 'U' shaped table that consists of the 12 scouts and IT experts.

Fortunately, E.J. won't break out the yard stick if anyone speaks out of turn. Really, though, there is none of that as the boys, as I've mentioned countless times before, have a great deal of admiration and respect for each other and never was there a moment when one scout speaks above the other.

There's an interesting piece on Dr. Ralph Tarter's involvement with Central Scouting on right now, in case you haven't seen it. The story involves Tarter's determined effort to get inside the head of the scout in finding out what exactly is meant when they claim a prospect has "heart" or "leadership" or even the phrase, "comes to play."

Adam and I are back in the thick of things and I'll try and maintain the blog as best I can when new information becomes available. By the way, it's raining, snowing, thundering and very wet here in Toronto.

On Sunday night, Adam Kimelman and I entered a local establishment for some grub and to witness Wrestlemania 25 and the Panthers big victory over the Penguins.

Again, we're discussing the bottom of Round 3 and start of Round 4 right now.

--Mike G. Morreale 

Respect your goalie!
04.05.09, 4:30 p.m.

Toronto - What's this? Goalie scout Al Jensen finally getting his moment in the spotlight? Yes sir! While the projector is switched over to Jensen's side of the room, the boys are anticipating a lesson on the goalie prospects around North America.

Here are the numbers for the top 5 goaltenders that Central Scouting had listed on their Midterm rankings.

1-Edward Pasquale, Saginaw, 3.02 GAA, .911 save percentage
2-Scott Stajcer, Owen Sound, 3.57, .906
3-Michael Lee, Fargo, 2.40, .918 - committed to St. Cloud State
4-Olivier Roy, Cape Breton, 2.83, .906
5-Jean-Francois Berube, Montreal, 2.87, .905

Keep an eye on Plymouth's Matthew Hackett in the OHL. The 6-2, 170-pound goalie was rated No. 8 at the midterm mark. His uncle is former NHLer Jeff Hackett, currently the goalie coach in Colorado.

Hackett played 55 games this season and finished with a 3.04 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Jensen presented an extremely detailed and statistically sound report -- he didn't hold back anything and, as expected, is regarded as the goaltending guru of the group. Amazingly, he had a spreadsheet consisting of 86 goalie prospects!

--Mike G. Morreale

A waiting game?
04.05.09, 2:55 p.m.

Toronto - Now that the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Men's U18 Championship has been slated for Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., from April 9-19, it begs the question -- should the NHL's Central Scouting Service have delayed its final meeting in determining the final draft list?

The 10-nation tournament – including the United States, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Russia, Finland, Slovakia and Norway -- features the world's best players under 18 years of age. One important fact, however, is that the tourney has never before been conducted in the United States.

"I'll answer this question with a sarcastic answer," Central Scouting director EJ McGuire told me. "Sure, it would be a benefit, but it would be even more of a benefit to have this meeting three years from now as well! The later we do it, the more accurate we can be, yet we serve the 30 NHL teams and they press for us."

McGuire points to the fact that the Canadian Junior A league is asking for a list now for a tournament in November "but our focus now is on the '91 borns," McGuire said.

Here's the twist.

"NHL teams bring their staffs to this U18 tournament and they like to use our final rankings list as a second opinion," McGuire said. "Sure, we're at a disadvantage (having the meeting now instead of waiting). But for anyone who wants to take a cheap shot at us, I'd like to say it's a valid criticism but a cheap shot."

While scout B.J. MacDonald can see the advantages of holding the final CSS meeting after the U18 championships, he's also confident that the group is confident in their selections at this point in the season.

"We do have a pretty good book on all the kids already," MacDonald said. "We have a pretty good idea of their tendancies and how consistent they are, but having said that, personally, it would be more advantageous for us to see the kids play in the U18 tournament and even a couple of playoff rounds. It would give us a better idea on how they perform at a higher level, under pressure with every game on the line."

--Mike G. Morreale

Computer connoisseurs
04.05.09, 2:15 p.m.

Toronto - Well, the boys at Central Scouting are into the Fourth Round right now. Scouting headmaster EJ McGuire has been receiving a show of hands for a majority of the players moving up or down within the ranks. I would approximate that the scouts spend about 45 minutes each round, which isn't bad and a result of such an advanced system.

A hearty thanks goes out to Northeast scout David Gregory, who seems to have assumed the duty of computer manager this week, and NHL information technology specialist Jack Gerien. Gregory and Gerien collaborated on the 'Meeting Manager' application that the scouts use during the meetings here in the Conn Smythe Boardroom.

Perhaps McGuire said it best when he said, "The computer is here to split hairs!"

I intend to put together a short story on how far the boys here at Central Scouting have come with regard to computer technology in putting together these informative lists. The numbers and figures are staggering, as told to me by both Gregory and Gerien.

For some of you youngsters out there, David is the son of one of the first NHL managers to recognize Europe as a talent pool for the NHL -- Jim Gregory. The elder Gregory emerged as a strong executive, and in 1979, was hired by the National Hockey League as Director of Central Scouting -- a position that McGuire now holds. In 1986, Jim was named Executive Director of Hockey Operations for the NHL. Under his management, the implementation of video goal reviews was introduced.

"The dedication that these (scouts) have to their profession in what they do is in a small part mirrored in the numbers presented," Gerien told me. "From my perspective, as an IT guy, this is nothing more than a tool. When I sit in this room it's just flabbergasting to me the knowledge they have. You sit in this room and you can pick any name off that list and they know everything about the kid.

"The best thing about this is not only do we gather historical information that we could use moving forward, the 'Meeting Manager' application that Dave runs so well, allows the meeting to flow smoother, easier and faster. That allows the scouts more time to discuss individual players and really making sure that they can put as much effort into refining the product they distribute to the League."


--Mike G. Morreale

Holland - Palmieri discussion
04.05.09, 10:18 a.m.

TORONTO - Really good discussion on NDTP product Kyle Palmieri and the Ontario Hockey League's Peter Holland right now. The boys are struggling to come to a unanimous decision but it finally happened -- oh, wouldn't you love to know! Something to remember when the NHL Entry Draft takes place June 26. By all indications, it seems both players should be drafted in the opening round. 

At the midterm report, Holland was rated No. 9 and Palmieri 19th.

--Mike G. Morreale

The Despres - Cowen debate

04.05.09, 10:15 a.m.
TORONTO - There's heavy debate right now over the placement of Simon Despres of St. John and Jared Cowen of Spokane -- the run-and-gun Quebec Major Junior Hockey League vs. the gritty Western Hockey League. It's been going on for the last 20 minutes, in fact. Director E.J. McGuire complimented the boys for the job they are doing in making sure all the I's are dotted and T's are crossed.

--Mike G. Morreale

Day 2 at Central Scouting
04.05.09, 9:30 a.m.

TORONTO - Hello again fans. Back here at the Conn Smythe Board Room here inside Air Canada Centre for the second day of debate on those prospects expected to be ranked on Central Scouting's final draft list for 2009.

The boys here will be at it all week, but Adam Kimelman and myself will be here through Monday to get a feel for the early rounds and how these esteemed scouts come to their conclusions.

There was about a 45-minute debate over the final few slots on Saturday prior to calling it a night at approximately 6:15 p.m. But the boys were able to rank the top 45 players in North America. Central Scouting is using an elaborate computer program to help smooth the process and I hope to speak with Central Scouting's David Gregory and information technology expert Jack Gerien to comment on the system in place.

If you haven't seen it already, Adam Kimelman put together an interesting piece on how injuries might effect the placement of some of the bigger names figured to go in this year's draft on June 26 at Bell Centre in Montreal. Adam's piece focuses on Jared Cowen, the 7th rated player on Central Scouting's midterm list.

I was able to put together a piece on New Jersey's Kyle Palmieri, who had spent the last two seasons with the USA National Team Developmental Program, before his sudden dismissal earlier last month. The piece focuses on Palmieri's current status following that dismissal -- would it affect his draft eligibility? The majority say, "No!"

Anyway, I plan on speaking with Dr. Ralph Tarter today following his interesting conversation with the scouts at the tail end of the scouting meetings on Saturday evening. I think you will find the piece interesting as it deals with not only words used to describe these exceptional athletes, but how they interpret those words. In other words, what is the players' body language. We all know that many prospects will be characterized as having "heart", but what physical trait do scouts notice to describe heart.

I'll blog as often as I can. There's not much more I can really offer as far as players as the CSS's final list will be released April 14. But I can tell you that the Top 45 North American skaters have been determined -- not officially -- but at least they're on the board. Of those 45, 11 are from the Ontario Hockey League and 11 are from the Western Hockey League.

Stay tuned ...

-- Mike G. Morreale

The big guy rarely mentioned
04.04.09, 5:15 p.m.

TORONTO - Sorry, been conducting some interviews so haven't had an opportunity to catch up. Still, since 2 p.m., the crew here at Central Scouting has been involved with projecting how the first round of the 2009 Entry Draft may look -- unfortunately, that's information I cannot release.

But, what I have found interesting on Day One here at the Conn Smythe Board Room, was the fact John Tavares was rarely mentioned and the reason is simple -- there was no need because it's a foregone conclusion.

"Let's talk about Sidney Crosby, since Joe Smith should be ahead of Sidney Crosby -- not really," Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire told "The point I'm making is that John Tavares is No. 1 - it's easy for us to make that decision because the only challenge to him is a guy who's several miles away in Stockholm. Tavares will be our No. 1 and probably will be the No. 1 team's overall No. 1, but I can't put words into the mouth of that team selecting first."
--Mike G. Morreale

Hockey in the East

04.04.09, 1:34 p.m.

TORONTO - Hockey East scout Gary Eggleston was on board following lunch -- discussing those prospects along the eastern border.

New Jersey's Alex Velischek of Delbarton was given a thumbs up after leading the parochial school, which captured its second straight state title, along the blue line this season.

Velischek, like his father, Randy, will attend Providence College in the fall. The NHL's Central Scouting midseason report had Velischek rated No. 112 among North American skaters -- the 15th best high school player on the board. In 30 games with two-time and defending champion Delbarton (27-2-1) this season, the captain posted 16 goals, 51 points, 85 hits and an astounding plus-61 rating.

--Mike G. Morreale

On to the NTDP
04.04.09, 12:00 p.m.

TORONTO - It's lunch time here at the Conn Smythe Board Room but not before a good healthy discussion of the top four players ranked from the USA Hockey's National Team Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Those players included Kyle Palmieri, who was actually dismissed from the team last month, Drew Shore, Chris Brown and Jeremy Morin. All the players are considered fine prospects.

Said one scout, who covers those skaters within the USHL, "this group might be better than last year's group. There's a lot more depth on this team."

Interestingly, despite the fact NTDP product Ryan Bourque will be headed to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the boys discussed the similarties between he and his brother, Chris Bourque, who is property of the Washington Capitals.

Ryan Bourque, a Boxford native and son of Bruins legend and NHL Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, forgo a verbal commitment to the University of New Hampshire to suit up for the Remparts next season.

Bourque, 18, was Quebec's seventh-round choice in last year's junior draft. He was ranked 61st among North American skaters in this year's NHL Central Scouting midseason rankings. He will have up to three years of junior eligibility. The Remparts' owner, general manager and coach is NHL Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, a former teammate of Ray Bourque's with the Colorado Avalanche.

--Mike G. Morreale

Processing the 'Q'
04.04.09, 11:30 a.m.

TORONTO - So the boys are now onto the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and 'Q' expert Chris Bordeleau has basically been doing most of the talking.

"This process is not very old (going league by league and debating players)," Bordeleau told during an intermission. "This is only the second year we've been doing it and it's really good because we get that process done and, on top of all the other work we've done during the year, it makes these rounds easier; we're able to just slide players into slots, so it goes relatively smooth."

I asked Bordeleau how some players, such as Philadelphia's prized rookie Claude Giroux, can go undrafted in the 'Q', but then excel after opting for a tryout.

"Claude didn't get drafted into the Q because he was a smaller guy and size always seems to enter the discussion," he told me. "Of course, you always want a player with the size of Mario Lemieux, but that doesn't happen very often. Claude took off once he began developing and he's done the same thing in the NHL. He's a fun player to watch."

After being passed over by all the Ontario Hockey League clubs at the 2005 draft, Giroux accepted a tryout with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for 2005-06. He excelled, posting 39 goals, 103 points and a plus-30 rating in 69 games in that rookie campaign. He earned Rookie of the Month twice and was named to the All-Rookie Team.

The Flyers took notice and drafted the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Ontario native with the No. 22 overall selection in 2006. He would register 112 points, including 20 power-play goals, 10 game-winners and a 26.1 shooting percentage as a sophomore. He was called up by the Flyers for two games in 2007-08 before returning to Gatineau for a third season.

"I think (Gatineau) did prepare me for the NHL, especially my last year (2007-08) because I played almost 30-35 minutes a game and was used in every situation," Giroux told "I was playing the power-play and on the penalty-kill and was playing against the top line on the other team. I knew I had to learn how to play defensively and, right now, I'm trying to work on that part of my game."

Giroux would amass 38 goals, 106 points and a plus-40 rating in 55 games for the Olympiques that final season. He was named to the QMJHL All-Star Team and was a Canadian Major Junior First Team All-Star. He also represented Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, notching 2 goals and 6 points in 7 games.

In 37 games with the Flyers, Giroux, who has received praise for his defensive play away from the puck, has 8 goals, 26 points and a plus-10 rating.

Bottom line -- Don't count out the 'Q'!

--Mike G. Morreale

Valentine's day
04.04.09, 11:00 a.m.

- One of the skaters sent to Oshawa in the John Tavares trade in January was just discussed -- defenseman Scott Valentine.

If you'll recall, Tavares was dealt to the London Knights on the eve of the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline earlier this year. Defenceman Michael Del Zotto and goaltender Daryl Borden were also dealt to London in exchange for forward Christian Thomas, Valentine, goaltender Michael Zador, along with the six draft picks - London's four second-round picks for the next four years, and the Knights third round picks in both 2010 and 2011.

Valentine (6-2, 194), incidentally, wasn't even rated on Central Scouting's mid-term report. In 26 games with Oshawa of the OHL, Valentine had 1 goal, 9 points and 51 PIMs.

--Mike G. Morreale

Too close for comfort
04.04.09, 10:35 a.m.

- Ok. Now the boys have switched gears to comparisons between defensemen Matt Clark (ranked No. 58 at mid-term) of Brampton andd Jesse Blacker (62) of Windsor.

Clark has shown good physical attributes and a good first pass, and has impressed with his hockey instincts. Blacker is a good puck-moving defenseman. Both skaters are pretty close and judging by the talk this morning, it doesn't appear much will change.

-- Mike G. Morreale

You wanna play rough..!

04.04.09, 10:25 a.m.

TORONTO - Discussion has now shifted to comparisons between London's Nazem Kadri and Peterborough's Zack Kassian, both wingers. What was the great debate -- Kassian's power and strength or Kadri's smarts and skills.

Kassian, rated No. 24 at the mid-term rankings, has been compared to Todd Bertuzzi but with "more of an edge to his game." Kadri, rated No. 11 by CSS, has good playmaking and stickhandling ability.

Both players were discussed in detail by many of the scouts, including Director E.J. McGuire, who always tries to stir the pot a bit and get his boys going with healthy debate. There's a lot of respect in this room.

--Adam and Mike

Break in the action at the Conn Smythe Board Room
04.04.09, 10:15 a.m.

- The men took a brief water break and are now back at it here at the Conn Smythe Board Room!

The topic right off the bat is something any fly hanging on the wall would stick around for. The boys are discussing which players should make the cut prior to the seventh round of the Entry Draft from each of the three major junior leagues. This is something new to the discussion, according to E.J. McGuire. The talk is obviously serious.

McGuire asks his scouts who they feel is capable of making the cut in the fourth round, fifth round, sixth and so forth. There's plenty of debate and the boys are discussing amongst themselves while E.J. keeps the process rolling along. Amazing how each scout knows so many skaters and their skill level right off the top of their heads. Each scout has a laptop in front of him and continue to study their notes and statistics as the names are mentioned.

--Mike G. Morreale

Elliott vs. Ellis
04.04.09, 9:17 a.m.

- Discussion on Saskatoon defenseman Stefan Elliott turned into a talk on who the better prospect was -- Elliott or Windsor's Ryan Ellis. The talk raged for a few minutes until E.J. McGuire tabled that talk for later in the day, when all the players from all the leagues are mixed for the final list.

-- Adam Kimelman

What about Brennan Yadlowski?
04.04.09, 9:15 a.m.

- Said one scout on Brennan Yadlowski (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) of Lethbridge.

"He skated well and moves the puck well and he was very steady." Yadlowski was ranked 153rd on Central Scouting's mid-term list. Yadlowski's father, Warren, was actually drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the 10th round of the 1983 Draft. Brennan compares himself to Edmonton's Tom Gilbert and Chicago's Brian Campbell.

He's a puck-moving defenseman with the capability of joining the rush -- two qualities any NHL team would relish.

--Mike G. Morreale

Heavy discussion on Cowen
04.04.09, 9 a.m.

- Well, the boys are in heavy debate right now on Spokane's Jared Cowen. This is great stuff and interesting debate.

Cowen, who has compared himself to Florida's Jay Bouwmeester and Philly's Braydon Coburn, was ranked No. 7 on Central Scouting's mid-term list. He appears to be a hot topic this morning. The boys spent almost 10 minutes on the hulking defenseman, who lists his favorite NHL blue liner being Nicklas Lidstrom.

Cowen has shown consistency and is an extremely well-rounded player. There's a lot of potential there and it goes without saying that he will only improve.

--Mike G. Morreale

E.J. McGuire preparing his troops
04.04.09, 8:15 a.m.

- Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire is in the house and a scouting staff of 12 is on hand to partake in their version of fantasy hockey where players from every major amateur league will be discussed.

"Guys, thanks for starting at this ungodly hour," McGuire said to open the meeting. "We're going to hit the ground running."

McGuire introduced the guests at the meeting, including myself, Adam, Jennifer Raimondi and Dr. Ralph Tarter and his son, Greg. Dr. Tarter, in addition to being a professor of pharmaceutical sciences, psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, has done tremendous work for EXACT Sports.

EXACT's work is grounded in research and science. EXACT Sports is a sports science organization committed to understanding the complete athlete. EXACT's player diagnostics provide athletes, coaches, and scouts with the best available information about an athlete's potential.

Dr. Tarter has expertise in neuropsychology, psychometric measurement, and statistical methodologies. He has published 300 scientific articles and 10 books. He directs a research center funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) aimed at longitudinal prediction of outcomes from childhood to adulthood. Dr. Tarter is a graduate of Concordia University [Montreal, Quebec] (BA), Dalhousie University (MA), University of Pittsburgh (MPA), and University of Oklahoma (PhD).

--Mike G. Morreale

Central Scouting grabs weekend spotlight
04.03.09, 11:00 p.m.

TORONTO - My goodness! Think the boys at aren't determined to find out what those fine gentlemen at the Central Scouting Service in Toronto are thinking?

After waiting five hours in Newark Airport before finally boarding my flight to Toronto, I arrived in beautiful downtown at approximately 10 p.m. on Friday night in preparation for my four-day stay to witness the meetings to determine the final CSS rankings to be released later this month. My partner in crime the next four days, Adam Kimelman, made the 10-hour trip via automobile from Philadelphia International Airport -- that's right. Adam's flight was canceled, but neither rain, sleet nor ice kept the amateur hockey guru from making the trip.

Of course, we're here to watch and listen to the NHL Central Scouting officials as they finalize a list of 210 skaters and 30 goalies that will make up Central Scouting's final ranking of North American prospects for this year's Entry Draft, to be held June 26-27 in Montreal. We don't expect the top two players to change, however, as center John Tavares and defenseman Victor Hedman, ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, on Central Scouting's mid-term list, should remain entrenched in those spots.

The list will be released April 14.

Led by E.J. McGuire, director of Central Scouting, each draft-eligible player will be reviewed and scrutinized multiple times. Adam and I are here to give you the inside scoop.

Keep checking back for more information.

--Mike G. Morreale
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