#FRB2012 Opening Up My Scouting Notebook, Part I

It was roughly a year ago I was approached by Dan Stewart, Chief Scout for Future Considerations, to be apart of his scouting staff. What an experience- already a self-professed Draft/prospect junkie (as you can tell with the niche that FRB fills), I took in a lot of hockey over the course of the season, including many different levels: Bantams, Midgets, High School, NAHL, USHL, NCAA- watching players (and learning on the fly) almost nightly and sending in reports for FC's product; a digital magazine devoted to the NHL Entry Draft and Prospects.
I was there to watch Lakeville South's gargantuan upset over Duluth East, the Inaugural USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Muskegon, and at Mariucci when the Gophers clinched the WCHA regular season title. No stranger to U of M games, I can flat out tell you I have never heard that place louder than that night (ask Nate about it.)

So with that being said, I'm going to open up my notebook and share some thoughts and observations on players I've seen during the course of the year.

But first, in the name of self-promotion, I'd like all the readers of FRB to at least entertain the thought of purchasing our NHL Entry Draft Guide, if not more products from us. I got their Guide last year (before my affiliation with them) and it was awesome. All of the staff is extremely proud of the work we've put into the year, and we hope it will show in the end product.

Please make sure to give it a look, or at least visit FC's site daily. Preferably a couple times a day.

Ok, so- here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to do two posts, one that is more relevant to my region (Upper Midwest) and another which I'll talk about other players I've seen during my travels.

Here is my Regional Top 10:

1. Jake McCabe, D, University of Wisconsin
2. Samuel (Hunter) Fejes, W Shattuck-St. Mary's
3. Zach Stepan, C Shattuck-St. Mary's
4. Jared Thomas, C Hermantown HS
5. Jake Montgomery, W Shattuck-St. Mary's
6. Matt Pohlkamp, W Brainerd HS (re-entry)
7. Teddy Bleuger, C Shattuck-St. Mary's
8. Ian Janco, D Bloomington Jefferson HS
9. Jake Bischoff, D Grand Rapids HS
10. Dominic Nitti, D Cretin-Derham Hall

Obviously the group at SSM is carrying the Minnesota crop this year, and defenseman John Draeger just misses out on the Top 10. In many ways Minnesota/Upper Midwest is a microcosm for what is being described as a weak Draft in terms of depth, because there very well may be a chance that very few players on my list get drafted- or conversely, in what is essentially a crap shoot after the top 60 or so players, teams may opt to take someone out of this region because hell, they stand just as good a chance to pan out as anyone else around the world.

- I'll talk about McCabe in part II.
- What sold me on Fejes was that he produced without having the same ice time opportunities that Stepan, Montgomery, and Bleuger had; he basically played 3rd line minutes, but led the team in goals (38). He reminds me some of Nick Johnson, who had 26 points in 77 games this year in a Wild sweater. Works extremely hard, great size and skating ability, and I think he's got untapped offensive potential. Heard from a couple people he's a great kid too.
- Re: Stepan...I (and I'm not the only one) just don't see where the offense will come from going forward to the next level(s). Kind of a "what you see is what you get" type of player. Was told that he will now head to Waterloo this Fall, instead of Penticton.
- After the State Tournament, folks were atwitter about Justin Kloos and Grant Besse. To be honest, I'd be surprised if either get Drafted, but I'd lean more toward Besse than Kloos. With Besse, his game has two sides to it. In the Fall Elite League, he was proactively physical (I think I said "whoa" out loud when he put 6'6" Jay Dickman on his ass on one hit), fought for every inch, tried to make an impact every shift...then I catch him in a BSM sweater and its like he just tried to outskill everyone. Now, you can get away with that in HS hockey, but it was disappointing to see. Another added dimension was his decision to return to BSM for his senior year- don't get me wrong, I think its noble, loyal, and shows some perspective in terms of realizing you're only a HS senior once (for the most part) but he has literally NOTHING left to prove at this level- a case could be made that he should have been in the USHL this last season.
It's a nice story, but NHL teams will look at it from the stance that he doesn't want to be challenged, and based off what I heard this last weekend, perhaps a shot for the USNTDP.
As for Kloos, his game works well at the HS level because he's hard to contain; he does a good job of keeping his feet moving. However, he doesn't have a particular asset that stands out- shot, hockey sense, skating, etc. Some people I talked to mentioned Kyle Rau, and how he'd literally die to get that goal, the space around the net, whatever it is, and you just don't see that in Kloos, who is similar in size.
- One of the problems I encountered was that there is a dropoff from The Elite League, which is the best of the best, to the HS level. So players I thought should have dominated because of their play in the EL failed to do so once the HS season started. A few did though- Thomas, Pohlkamp, Judd Peterson to name a few.
 - Coldest rink I was in all year was Shattuck's new rink. Go figure that one out.
- Also, I saw every single one of the important Minnesota Wild scouting types at a SSM game this year. Brent Flahr, Craig Channell, Paul Charles, Guy Lapointe, Shep Harder, Ernie Vargas...

I'm open to questions here, or you can always ask me on the Twit: my handle is @ShraderD. Make sure to check out Future Considerations too. A couple times a day.


  1. Good try... but you're way off on your analysis of the Shattuck players. How many games did you actually watch? You can add these notes to your "notebook files".

    Fejes - nice kid... big...can score... but is only a north/south skater and lacks hockey sense. Doesn't pass the puck enough and can't see the open ice. But he can score when in the right situation. He had just as much playing time as the others... the Shattuck coach does not showcase any players and allows equal playing time most of the time. When special circumstances arose, he played.

    Stepan - nice kid...big enough... can do EVERYTHING. Averaged one and half points per game, plays defense first, wins faceoffs, can shoot like a pro, pass like a pro, and has incredible hockey sense, etc. I could go on and on with this kid. This is the kid every coach wants and needs on his team. You can put this kid in any situation and he will produce. Not enough offense for you? Put him with some guys who can finish and you'll see more points.

    Montgomery - nice kid... big enough... great hands. Smart hockey sense. Is hurt a lot, but hopefully that's behind him now. Put him with someone who can finish and your team is winning some hockey games.

    Blueger - nice kid... big enough... this kid can make plays. Great hockey sense. Put him with someone who can score and you've got some points... wait... he WAS with Montgomery the entire year. That line scored a heck of a lot of goals this season. It was a bit tougher for Blueger to score when that line was broken up, but he's a great player... and everyone knows it.

    Anyone else want to chime in?

  2. I saw roughly 12-15 SSM games this year, and could probably make the drive to that rink with my eyes closed. If you disagree with my thoughts, then by all means man- its all opinion anyways.

    My knock on Fejes is a lack of creativity too, but I see the same issue with Stepan, who doesn't have the shot that Fejes has (who has good goal-scoring instincts, and it shows in his total imo). Stepan never showed any growth in his offensive game during the year, and he looked like the same guy in February as he did in October. Good defensively and in puck pursuit, but pretty ordinary in the o-zone.

    Bottom line is that I feel if Fejes got the ice time opportunities the other three got, more people would be talking about him.

    I agree that Montgomery's injuries are worrisome, especially when he started to show some ability to finish, instead of looking to defer to someone else despite being in prime scoring areas.

    Bleuger should have probably played up a level, but he was predictable in terms of what he would do with the puck, and tended to stay away from the center of the ice. I like his skating, and his ability to be a pest/draw penalties, but I think he's a bit of a boom or bust guy because he isn't gritty like the other three where he could fill a bottom six role.

  3. I respect your opinion on Kloos but disagree, I didn't see a single player in high school this year that went to the hole any harder than he did. Got the chance to catch his game in Waterloo and he lit it up there earning first star of the game. Tend to agree that he does not warrant a draft pick but if ,as you say , the elite league was the best of the best he dominated there as well. Justin is a very good skater with good hockey sense who is only held back by his lack of size.