Maritime NHL Draft Hopefuls at A Disadvantage?

Will 2021 NHL Draft eligible Maritimers be at a disadvantage heading into this years draft? One scout thinks so.

It’s hard to believe because the QMJHL have actually played meaningful games all season long. One NHL scout reported that Maritime based players could be at a disadvantage due to the lack of live viewings. If that’s the case one can only imagine what all the players in the OHL are thinking after not being able to take to the ice at all during the 2020-2021 season.
In a year of uncertainly, constant change and unknown, the scouting world has had to adapt. Scouts ultimately had to modify their craft, they like the rest of the world had to go virtual, but that still might not be enough for some players to get a legitimate chance to be drafted given the lack of live viewings.
What’s so important about live viewings?
What do live viewings reveal?
One longtime hockey executive had this to say about the matter. “Craig, if I were a NHL GM, this would be the year I wouldn’t mind trading away a first round pick.”
Rest assured NHL scouts have been working around the clock to ensure they get things right when it comes to draft day, but as we all know there’s really no substitute for live viewings.
Live viewings do reveal tons about the player, it’s the subtle nuances of their game and style of play that video might miss or can’t capture. However, one would think that shouldn’t be the deciding factor in a player getting drafted. Another obvious question would be, how many NHL scouts are based out of this region?

Graphic Content Courtesy NHL

Well, that number has certainly climbed this season with some NHL teams understanding and adapting to the current landscape.
Several teams have hired well known “hockey lifers” from the region on one-year contacts to ensure they have “eyes on” all the top prospects from this area and Quebec born players playing in the Maritimes. Those organizations are certainly ahead of the curve when it comes to the topic of live viewings and the impact these prospects could have on their respective organizations. It all circles back to “live viewings”, the frequency of those viewings and ironically word of mouth.
Word of mouth in 2021?
Yes, this year like no other, word of mouth will be another reason why some prospects are potentially selected or passed over. It probably shouldn’t be that way, but rest assured it will.
Some NHL scouts and certain organizations have done their homework and due diligence. They no doubt already have a dossier on all the top prospects from this region. If they were forward thinking they would have had it formulated last year and rely on countless hours of video footage from this year to cement their projections even more.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot can change in a year, but it’s a start and clearly those organizations that are forward thinking are probably pretty damn confident in finalizing their lists in preparation for the draft.
One could also speculate that some 19’s and overagers that have shown well this season will also be considered as potential late round picks or free agent camp invites.
“For that to happen they needed to have an “Egor Sokolov” type year,” said another NHL scout.
Another potential issue scouts have to consider this season was competition or lack thereof. Given travel and border restrictions teams in the Maritimes and Quebec were forced to play within their division or province for almost the entire season. There might not have been a large variety of intriguing matchups, but there was still hockey and that’s what matters most. Teams in all divisions within the QMJHL were all at different stages and phases of development. With that being said the overall quality of hockey was extremely exciting, competitive and intense. Even after several long pauses due to COVID-19 numbers and restrictions the players left everything on the ice.
Obviously, scouts had the opportunity to project, identify and evaluate the character, mental toughness and resolve of players during a very unique and difficult year, which could prove invaluable heading into the draft.
It’s unfortunate to think that the lack of live viewings could be detrimental for some NHL Draft hopefuls, however, it’s the harsh reality of the year.
“Doing the best, we can” has become a well adopted phrase by many in the hockey world. The QMJHL and all of its franchises need to be applauded for their tireless work during the pandemic to get so many games played and potentially reward a President Cup this season.
With all that has gone on this season, it’s been great to see so many NHL Draft eligible players passionately push through all the adversity and continue to reach for their dreams.
Scouting isn’t an artform or an exact science. Players will be drafted, some won’t, that doesn’t make their sacrifices and love for the game this season mean any less.
The NHL organizations that have put the extra time, effort and finances into their scouting departments this season while taking a leap of faith and trusting video views and advanced statistics will ultimately be the winners in this year’s draft and in the years to come.
It all comes down to trusting the new era of scouting, Scouting 2.0 or shall we say Scouting 2021.
Time will tell if the lack of live viewings come back to bite NHL draft eligible players from this region and all across the hockey world for that matter. Let’s hope every NHL team have done their homework while thinking outside of the box to land the best prospects and people available.

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