Uncertainty and the UnKnown: Scouting in 2020-2021

“Do you know any of these Bantam kids Craig?

“You must watch some of their games right?”

Those were two questions I was asked in late August during a preseason jamboree tournament by a Midget AAA coach.

My reply was pretty clear.

“To be honest with you if I scouted Bantam, my wife would probably divorce me.”

I love the game, but if I’ve learned anything early on in my journey covering the game from a broadcasting, writing and scouting perspective that family always comes first.

With all the uncertainty and unknown the burning question remains what’s the scouting world going to look like in 2020-2021?

You would have to be the Amazing Kreskin to answer that one and many others for that matter.

Are those that follow Bantam aged hockey going to have the upper hand?

Are scouts going to rely on word of mouth from Bantam coaches?

How are scouts going to project when we don’t even know if there’s going to be season?

The abrupt end of the season due to the horrific COVID-19 pandemic sent the scouting world into minor and temporary disarray.

Everything changed due to COVID-19, scouts that always relied on the ultimate eye test had to take a leap of faith and watch video or game replays to finalize their reports and lists.

You see every viewing in 2019-2020 was incredibly important.

A vast majority of the scouting world rely heavily on video.

That element of the business continues to evolve rapidly.

Nevertheless, for me there’s no substitute to evaluate, assess and project than being there in person.

I don’t care if you watch 300 games online a season, there’s still value in seeing a player in person.

Clearly that won’t be an option for me and many of my colleagues this season.

How are we going to do our jobs?

How are we going to rate and evaluate?

The scouting world will start thinking outside the box.

With all the summer programs and camps currently running some scouts may elect to watch players in that environment, but that will only tell them so much.

What about talking with coaches?

Some may consider that to be a double edged sword.

While some coaches are brutally honest, some are the complete opposite and showcase promote and perhaps exaggerate their players’ performance and ceiling.

Everything is going to be different in 2020-2021 when it comes to scouting.

A few months back I had a very interesting conversation with an NHL scout about coaching interviews.

Let’s just say that conversation was extremely fascinating, off the record, but extremely informative.

So how are we going to do our jobs without seeing any games?

Well everyone is in a holding pattern, but summer camps will no doubt be very very well attended.

Bantam AAA Level Coaches and team officials phones will undoubtedly start ringing off the hook as we get closer to the start of the season.

One would also assume informal and formal team practices will be very well attended once the fall approaches.

With the “Atlantic Bubble” now open, scouts from across the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada will have the option to watch draft eligible players practice with their peers, but that still won’t be good enough.

Obviously the scouting business is constantly evolving in many unique ways, but when it boils right down to it, you have to watch players play.

There’s no magical formula, the eye test reigns supreme.

Word of mouth, video and a coaches interviews can only take you so far, at the end of the day you have to watch the player.

For now we all anxiously awake the return of the game we love.

Hockey is life for many of us, but let’s make one thing very clear it’s not everything.

The health and well-being of our entire society should be at the forefront of every decision right now.

Hockey is hockey, it’s still just a game.

No matter what our role is within the game, we should never lose sight of that.

The game will return and so will the scouts.

For now we all spend time with what matters most our families.

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