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Scouts' challenges: rough winter, unpredictable draft

by Mike G. Morreale

TORONTO -- As if the life of a scout isn't unforgiving enough, the tireless job of viewing the hundreds of prospects eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft in June was made more difficult this season with the brutal weather that hovered over most of North America like a dark shadow.

It's something NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr acknowledged when asked for his final assessment of the meetings at the NHL offices here this week to determine the final rankings of the top North American skaters and goalies eligible for this year's draft.

"This has proven to be an exceptionally difficult winter," Marr told "All travel was affected. Storms left scouts stranded and unable to get to viewings or games. We have a job where we have to try and maintain our coverage, but it was a struggle and guys had to go the extra mile to make sure they got to the games and saw the players.

"So when our final list is determined and we dot the I's and cross the T's, it's going to be a job well done because when you think about it, the winter that hit all of North America never seemed to subside. It's a credit to our staff."

Despite the hazardous travel conditions and cancelled games, the scouts delivered. They were able to get the viewings needed to determine the final rankings, which are scheduled for release next month.

The 2014 draft is considered one of the most unpredictable in recent years. Just because Samuel Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League was given the No. 1 spot among North American skaters in Central Scouting's midterm release in January doesn't mean he's the frontrunner to maintain that position on the final list.

"You can look at the stats and the size of the player, since those are things we might try and factor in, but when all is said and done it's about the projection and where a player will be 3-5 years down the line," Marr said.

Central Scouting's David Gregory was asked if it would be unusual for Bennett to remain at the top, considering it is such an unpredictable draft to determine.

"I think it would be unusual and quite an accomplishment, if nothing else because we have a core of solid players up to six deep in this draft that probably could challenge for the No. 1 spot," Gregory said. "You have a wide range of experts within this room and outside of this room saying a whole bunch of different players. If Bennett were to earn the No. 1 ranking at the final release and hold up to the scrutiny of a large scouting staff like this and the hockey world in general, I do think that would be quite an accomplishment."

In the end, Marr feels NHL teams might go for need earlier than expected since players might seem interchangeable to those particular clubs at a certain point in the draft.

"The teams will stick to their philosophy in what they believe and we try to stick to our general philosophy on what the player brings on the ice, his contributions, his production, his skills, intangibles, and we present it," Marr said. "But there is a point where it's like dropping marbles on the floor. This is a good opportunity for those team regional scouts to voice an opinion, step up and make their voice heard over what could turn out to be a diamond in the rough or late-bloomer."


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