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Mike MacPherson: The art of scouting a prospect

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The John Labatt Centre, home to the OHL's London Knights, has seen its fair share of prospect pass through. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Mike MacPherson: The art of scouting a prospect

Hockey News
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Hockey season is nearing, which means it’s the time of year when you will start to see the appearance of scouts at all the rinks.

As a scout who covers the Ontario League for both the NHL draft and for minor pro, there are several things I do in preparation for scouting an OHL game. Many of these things begin before the puck even drops. For me, it is a nightly routine that includes the following steps:

1. Arrive at the arena early.
2. Pick up game lineups and rosters, including any scratches.
3. If they are available, complete the line combinations in your scouting log or notebook.
4. Watch the warmup with an initial view towards the prospects you are interested in learning more about.

In coordinating the above steps, it provides me with the best mindset in preparation for scouting a game. As the game begins, I try to make a few initial notes on players based on how their shifts are progressing, which will include what they are doing with and without the puck in all three zones. I will also keep track of who is playing in key situations like the power play or the penalty kill.

All of these notes are used to gauge the strengths, next steps and suggested areas of growth I have seen in a player.

For the purpose of scouting with the International Scouting Service, usually within 24-48 hours, these notes are typed and uploaded into RinkNet, a scouting software used by many NHL teams. This database of information is used by our head scouts when they begin to assemble lists for monthly reports.

This process also allows each of us to track a player over time and determine whether they are making positive strides or not.  As a scout, it is rewarding to go back and review notes about a player who has really developed well.

There are three things in particular I like to watch for in a player:

1. What are they doing during warmup?
2. What are they doing on the bench?
3. What are they doing when they don't have the puck?

This is a quick snapshot of some things I do in advance of a game, during a game and after a game. It helps me try to accurately assess and learn as much as I can about these young men over one game, as they strive to move forward to another level.

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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Mike MacPherson: The art of scouting a prospect