Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Don't Expect BCHL or WHL in Wenatchee

Out here in the Pacific Northwest, there's a lot of talk about the $45 million dollar arena project that has broken ground in Wenatchee, Washington.

The conventional wisdom is that the city must have it's eye on a BCHL or WHL hockey team.

But I don't think that is what's happening.

The Wenatchee arena project is being managed by Global Entertainment, the parent company of the Central Hockey League.

I've got to think there's zero chance that Global is spending all this money/effort just to give a big franchise expansion fee to the WHL or BCHL. Nor are they spending all this money to give away the arena to some existing WHL/BCHL owner. I also doubt that they're helping the city gamble $45 million on a new arena in the hopes they can buy some WHL/BCHL team that currently isn't for sale.

So forget all the speculation about WHL or BCHL in Wenatchee. It's not happening (at least for now). They are either putting a Central Hockey League team in there or it will be part of splitting some existing CHL teams into another new league. It either case, it looks like Wenatchee is the first step in a plan for geographic expansion of Global's professional hockey holdings.

The CHL has had some amazing success planting new arenas and new teams in some very strange and impossibly small markets (like Hidalgo, Texas, population 7,300). So these guys do know how to sell hockey in small markets.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Second Chance for Knackstedt

Well, here's one trade that needed to happen to perhaps help Jordan Knackstedt's draft prospects.

Knackstedt was high on my list (2nd/3rd round range) going into this season, but has not looked anywhere near the player he was 2005-06. To my eye, his skating has gone significantly backwards this season.

Add that to the fact he's been buried on an awful third line for the Rebels, and Knackstedt has been dropping like a rock on some lists (read: my list). Despite all that he's still putting up decent numbers.

Now, I suppose being traded to Moose Jaw doesn't immediately improve one's skating, but we can at least expect Knackstedt to not be relegated to third line duty for the Warriors.

UPDATE: Central measured Knackstedt at 195 lbs this year, vs. 168 last September. So perhaps the big bulk up has hurt his skating.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What's Wrong With Thomas Hickey?

At this point of the scouting season, I expected Thomas Hickey to be moving up my list. But instead he's moving down after two viewings I've had the last 3 weeks.

Two things look bad right now: 1) Something's definitely off with his skating. 2) He's just not rushing the puck like he did before.

While updating my rosters this week, I noticed Central measured Hickey at 190 lbs this fall. Last September he was 177 lbs. That might be clue #1 on why his skating has regressed. He definitely lacks some quickness and overall speed versus the 2005-06 version of Thomas Hickey.

As for his lack of puck-rushing - perhaps that's also a symptom of the skating. But he's passing up chances to carry the puck that he didn't before. Looks like a conscious effort to play better defence. Memo to Thomas: being a 5-10 stay at home defenceman is not your ticket to the show.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Kyle Turris Show

It's the sort of performance amateur hockey players dream about: dozens, perhaps even a 100 or more NHL scouts in attendance, and you ring up four goals and a couple of posts.

That's what Burnaby's Kyle Turris did here in Yorkton last night, in Canada West's opening game against Russia at the World Junior A Challenge. It's one of those rare moments that sometimes occur in the scouting business - a player does more to help himself in one single night than he probably will the rest of the season.

Look for Turris to be on the rise in the rankings, "with a bullet".

This is also a good opportunity to clear up a misconception that I often hear about games that have a large number of scouts in attendance. Often, that sends the fans and media abuzz with wonderment - "I wonder who they are all here to see?" - but it's not really who is playing, as who isn't playing that causes this.

If you see a big group of scouts at one game, take a look at that night's schedule for the rest of the league. Odds are, you'll see it's a sparse night for games in that particular league. Scouts try to work 7 days a week (or, if you're in Ontario, 9 days a week) when they can, and if there's only one or just a handful of games on a Thursday night, that's where the scouts will go. Prospects or not.

And that's part of the reason why last night's game in Yorkton was so well attended. It was the double-whammy of 1) the beginning of an important international tournament, and 2) the only game going on out on the prairies on a Monday night.

So Mr. Turris picked a good night to score four goals.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sorry kid, but you're only 5-11.75

I see now NHL Central Scouting is doing player height measurements in quarter inches. Speaking as someone who appreciated it when Central started with the half-inch increments, I gotta say...transcribing quarter-inch increments into my scouting database feels silly.

I've done these type of measurements before and players will always try to cheat to get that extra bit on their height. They stretch their necks up, lift their heels off the floor, etc. (I found that a sharp poke to the stomach seemed to get those heels back on the floor.) Players perceive that there's a world a difference in NHL scouts' eyes whether you're listed at 5-11.5 or 6-0.

Well, it ain't necessarily so, and especially in recent years with the skill/size pendulum swinging back towards smallish and skilled players. Being 5-11.5 won't knock you off any draft boards (anymore).

Even with the half-inch increments, you'd always get players who complained "hey, but you measured me at 6-1 last year!" Yeah, well, you're 6-0.5 now. Yes, I know 18 year old kids don't get osteoporosis, and that one of those measurements was wrong. Too bad. Latest measurement wins, and that's final. And no, I won't play you a round of rock-paper-scissors for that half inch. That 0.5" (or 0.25" this year) ain't gonna sink your NHL career, kid.

The classic measurement mystery was Pavel Brendl in his draft year. It was like his body was sculpted by MC Escher. Central measured him (multiple times) in his draft year at exactly 6-0. But to watch him on the ice, he looked a sure 6-2 or 6-3. Many NHL scouts were certain Central just hosed the measurement, as was I. That combination of long limbs and short torso just made him look bigger than 6-0.

It wasn't until the WHL Finals of his draft year that I got the opportunity to stand next to the Czech wunderkind. He was suspended for Game 4 of the 1999 WHL Finals, and was on the top shelf in Kamloops (the area up near the rafters where scouts and scratched players typically watch the game from). I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him, "stand up straight". He just gave me a very puzzled look that indicated to me that his brain probably translated my spoken English request into Czech for "I have onions growing out of my head". My further attempts to communicate via simple English and hand motions the request "stop leaning on the table and just stand up you Czech goal-scoring freak" failed, but he eventually stood up anyway. And sure enough, standing directly next to him, I could see he was just a shade under my height (exactly 6-1), so Central did have it right. He was 6-0.

But did it matter? A lot of mental energy on the part of scouts and metrological energy on the part of Central Scouting was spent on trying to figure out whether or not he was 6-0 or 6-2 or whatever. Surely it's not those 2-3 inches that have been the difference between him being an NHL star or perennial AHL underachiever.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"All Things Considered, I'd Rather Be In Moose Jaw"

I expect the fantastic success of the Everett Silvertips franchise in such a short amount of time has owner Bill Yuill and VP/GM Doug Soetaert (and welcome back to the Dub, Doug) thinking about the 2010 Memorial Cup. That is, I'd expect they're thinking Everett should be one of the early favourites to host the next time the WHL's turn comes up.

And no doubt they should be - the building is wonderful, the fans are faithful, and the revitalized downtown Everett area would be a nice backdrop to Memorial Cup week.

But right now the city has worse complement of hotels than Moose Jaw. No, really.

The best least worst hotel in the city is a Holiday Inn that appears to have been built during the Eisenhower administration and uses "early Guantanamo Bay" as a decorative theme. When a city of about 100,000 doesn't have anything better than that, it's safe to say it's a bit behind the accomodations industry curve.

Here's hoping for Everett's Memorial Cup bid's sake that some of the big hotel operators recognize the big oppotunity for expansion in Snohomish county before then...or else I recommend saving up for that really nice tent at REI by May 2010.

Welcome to NHL Draft Notes

Welcome to NHL Draft Notes. I hope to use this space to bring you news and views about the NHL Draft, the NHL scouting community, and prospect/player development - stuff you can't find anywhere else.