2007-08 was the first season with Stu MacGregor as head scout for the Edmonton Oilers, taking over from VP of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast. With that change comes some differences in the scouting process.
“Stuey’s a lot harder on them than I am,” Prendergast chuckled. “It’s been a little bit different for me, being on the outside looking in. He’s taken over that group. It’s his group now; they’ve done a great job and worked extremely hard this year.”
The 2008 NHL Entry Draft also differs from 2007 since the Oilers only have one pick – a selection later in the opening round to boot. However, with the potential for a trade on the horizon the scouting staff needs to be prepared for any situation.
“From a scouting department’s standpoint you’ve got to be ready for anything. We could move back in the first round, we could move up in the first round or we could get extra picks,” said Prendergast.
The VP of Hockey Ops said that one thing that will remain the same is the meetings leading up to draft day. The scouts already met in Salmon Arm, BC to determine their top 150 and starting this morning in Ottawa they will evaluate those selections to come up with a final ranking.
“They’ll go into the meetings the same way we’ve always gone. We’re going to put the top players available all the way through to 150 on our list and be ready for anything that happens at the draft.”
Stu MacGregor, who was previously a member of the scouting staff before earning a promotion to head scout, doesn’t feel things are all that different this season.
“I’ve had to coordinate some of the travel and the focus of players that we’re following. That’s about the only difference really,” he said.
So who are the Oilers’ scouts? There is certainly a sizeable number acting as the team’s eyes and ears all across the planet.
Chris McCarthy lives in the Boston area and covers the Tier II junior leagues and colleges. He also travels to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) as well as the junior-aged United States Hockey League (USHL). Bill Dandy also primarily covers the QMJHL.
Brad Davis and Kent Hawley cover the OHL as well as Tier II junior in both Ontario and Quebec. They also cross over into Western Canada for the WHL, the USHL and Minnesota High School leagues
“They get a considerable cross-over and see a lot of the players,” MacGregor remarked.
Bob Brown covers the Western Hockey League and Tier II Junior in Western Canada for the Oilers and is based out of Surrey, BC just outside Vancouver. He also keeps an eye on Minnesota High School as well as the USHL in the United States Midwest.
A new scout for this season is former NHL player Mike Peluso.
“He lives in Minneapolis and he covers Minnesota High School Hockey as well as USHL. He comes periodically into the Western Hockey League,” said MacGregor.
Over in Europe, the Oilers have a pair of scouts in Kent Nilsson and Frank Musil. Nilsson lives in Stockholm, Sweden while Musil resides in Jihlava, Czech Republic.
“Frank gets into Russia a little more than anyone else because he’s able to speak Russian and has an easier time to travel into that area, although most of us travel into that area as a follow-up and cross-over to give further evaluation.”
FROM BEGINNING TO END
So how do the Oilers utilize this scouting staff in order to maximize their return and ultimately select the best prospect available? The simple answer is plenty of travel for the scouts to see as many prospects as possible.
However, with so many draft-eligible players there needs to be a narrowing-down process and that’s where each scout’s home region comes in. MacGregor chatted about the process, using Western scout Bob Brown as an example.
“He lives in Surrey and at the start of the season he’ll cover the Western Hockey League, covering most of it himself. He’ll evaluate the prospects then give us the top prospects,” MacGregor began.
“He’ll do that in the Western Hockey League then he’ll do that in the Tier II leagues in Western Canada followed by US High School and USHL. He’ll come out of those areas after watching the prospects and give us a pared down list of players he feels we should be zeroing in on.
“Once he’s cleared through those leagues, Bob will go to the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Junior Hockey League as well as Tier II in Ontario because Brad Davis and Kent Hawley have narrowed that process down. Bob will do a cross-evaluation.”
After each Oilers scout has done their due diligence in their home region, cross-evaluation occurs everywhere.
“Brad and Kent head west into the Western Hockey League, USHL and Minnesota and look at the prospects that Bob indicated we should focus on and then we get that cross-over process working.”
“Same thing with Chris McCarthy, he and Bill Dandy – who’s our resident Quebec scout – would source things out in the Quebec Junior League and have a prospect list for us. Chris would also have input on college players, USHL and Minnesota High School.
“After we’ve identified players in all these certain areas, Chris would cross-over to the west as would Bill Dandy. “
Later on in the year, each scout makes his way over to Europe to catch some international tournaments and observes some of the prospects overseas.