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Mike MacPherson: Tournaments scouts must watch

Nashville's Joel Ward is suiting up in the NHL this season after spending four years at the University of Prince Edward Island in the CIS.(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Nashville's Joel Ward is suiting up in the NHL this season after spending four years at the University of Prince Edward Island in the CIS.(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New Year can be a busy time for a minor league scout. Let's take a brief look at some of the major events in Canada where an ECHL scout can benefit.

Memorial Cup
This tournament provides an opportunity to not only watch teams from all three Canadian Leagues, but more importantly it is an opportunity to network with agents and make that initial contact.

Chances are the teams that have qualified for this event will have some great 19- or 20-year-old players. Making a connection with agents is important. Even though the players have goals to play at the highest level, starting their careers in the ECHL can be a good thing for them.

CIS Championship
Probably one of the most under-scouted championship tourneys, but one that can be very important for minor league scouts. With the educational packages now offered by CHL teams, it is a great thing to see so many talented players going to school.

I speak to many of them at the end of their junior careers and I always encourage school first; the ECHL will always be there for them at the end of their degree. As a result, I try and watch as many CIS games as I can because the various leagues across Canada are filled with great players.

One only has to look at recent CIS grads like Joel Ward (UPEI) and Darryl Boyce (UNB) as two examples of players who have made it all the way to the NHL. As such, I hope to join some other scouts in Thunder Bay, Ont., in March as the top team’s battle for the University Cup.

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Royal Bank Cup
As a scout, you always want to find that diamond in the rough. No better place to look than at junior A in Canada. The many leagues that fall under the umbrella of the Canadian Junior A Hockey League are made up of aspiring young players who are looking to further their hockey careers.

Each year the Royal Bank Cup is another chance to maybe watch a player who was overlooked by major junior or who was considering his school options. If anything, it provides a glimpse into the future of major junior and NCAA prospects.

Occasionally, this event will contain a few 20-year-olds who are looking for an opportunity to try and make the jump to pro. In the salary cap world that rules even the ECHL, having rookies at the bottom of the pay scale willing to battle for a lineup spot is a good thing; you just never know who that player might turn into.

As scouts gather at the many games, tournaments, festivals, playoffs and championships, these three events are certainly important in my planning for next season.

Mike MacPherson began scouting in 1999 for the Chicago Blackhawks and was responsible for the ECHL. He is currently the director of scouting for the Phoenix Roadrunners, NHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks and also scouts the OHL for the International Scouting Service. MacPherson also coaches in the OMHA within Guelph Minor hockey. 

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