Observations from the Rink: Monctonian Edition “The Final Day”

What’s up with the list?

With the Monctonian over, it’s that time of year where draft eligible players and their families stress out about the release of the first QMJHL Central Scouting List. Speculation will be at all-time high now and there’s always a lot of buzz about the top-secret list and its subsequent release date. 

Why is it so important?

Why is this particular list the be all end all?

Yes, the list is supposed to be top secret. So how the hell do parents, players and agents find out all about it?  Well, like a lot of things in the game of hockey, it leaks like a sieve.  Let’s face it, if young players don’t make the list they are devastated.

Players that don’t end up on the final QMJHL CSR list of the year are ineligible to get drafted, that’s why these lists are so important.

Clearly there’s a lot of attention on these lists even though there’s a lot of subjectivity to them.

Let’s get one thing straight, this article isn’t about taking anything away from all the hard work that the QMJHL’s “19th” team does creating the list, all of the scouts that work for the CSR are great people and tremendously passionate about the game and the process. This is about messaging and communicating and how a slight adjustment in that aspect could change things for the better.

Parents, coaches, agents and most importantly players just want to know about the process, how they are ranked and the criteria behind it. That’s why the first list is supposed to be top secret. Hell, all the lists are supposed to be top secret except for the final list. Should it be up to the QMJHL CSR to communicate the process clearer? Is it up to the coaches to discuss what scouts are looking for? Is it up to the agent to discuss what scouts are looking for?

You see that’s where this process gets quite murky, that’s the disconnect! No one knows what to expect, it’s all so damn speculative.  Why is the entire scouting process and ranking system so secretive? Well, that’s easy, because it’s so competitive! 

Teams don’t want other teams knowing who they are interested in, that’s why everything is so hush hush. What if the scouting fraternity would be willing to discuss the process that goes into ranking and selecting players. Why should that process be so top secret?  Why aren’t more scouting agencies discussing how they rank players?

Obviously, scouts wouldn’t have to get into the specifics, but just imagine if the CSR or any scouting group for that matter gave an in-service to players at the first of the year discussing the process and clearing the air when it comes to all the misconceptions about Draft rankings. Could you imagine the caliber of hockey we would see then? Just imagine if players didn’t have to speculate about what the people that are ranking them are exactly looking for? 

Players would relax and play to their identity rather than worrying their ass off about some list, about getting points and looking and playing a certain way to impress scouts.

If parents and players knew going into the season, what to expect would there be the same amount of controversy surrounding the release of the list? 

Obviously, there would still be disappointment if the player doesn’t appear on the list, but at least they would know that perhaps they aren’t meeting the criteria. There’s no question there would still be confusion around their absence or positioning on the list, but it would be a good start.

“There’s No Top Six Anymore”

“There’s no top six anymore,” said one QMJHL scout yesterday at one of the U-18 semi final games.

“There’s no top six, anymore, it’s top nine.”

Clearly everyone refers to top six, or top four on the backend, but let’s think about that phrase for a second. There are so many young players that become fixated about earning a top six position at the next level, they lose sight on the fact that teams are looking for more than just one dimensional talent. Obviously, if you look at any of the past President Cup or Memorial Cup Champions, it’s their depth that allowed them to capture their titles. Don’t get me wrong, every organization are looking for skilled players, but they are also looking for players that fulfill a role, that play to a certain identity. That’s how winning gets done at the junior level or any level for that matter.

“There’s no top six anymore,” should be extra motivation for young players vying to land a coveted spot on a Q roster. It’s not all about scoring goals, or getting a shit ton of points, it’s about contributing and playing to your identity and becoming tough to play against.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see young draft eligible players striving to get better, but the goal should be to become a complete two-way player so you can fulfill any role on the team. At the end of the day, it all boils down to identity and knowing your identity as a player and not getting hung up on being entitled or narrowing your focus. There’s definitely a process when it comes to finding your way and your place at the next level, that’s why players need to understand their identity and place in the game well before they land on a Q roster and have no idea why they aren’t logging the minutes they think they are entitled to earn. It’s a process, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon when it comes to players finding their way in the Q, let’s hope every player understands and embraces that. It’s clear that if a player is on the top two lines at the U-18 level that they don’t think that will automatically happen at the next level.

It’s ok to be a top nine forward, it’s ok to be on the “4th line” checking or energy line. Everyone across the hockey world are so driven to define players roles or identities, but it appears that the last ones to know these roles or identities are the players. It all goes back to communication, transparency from a coaching or advisory role and most importantly buy in from a player perspective.

“There’s no top six anymore, it’s top nine now.”

What type of player are you?

Where do you see yourself fitting in at the next level?

What does the game mean to you?

Where do you see yourself going in the game?

What are you doing to get better every day?

You can bet your arse those questions will be asked when QMJHL teams start reaching out to conduct pre-draft interviews.

Let’s hope every player knows who they are and their place in the game!

How did they do it?

As I was sitting there yesterday going between semi final games on Rink A and B, one question kept coming to mind. How are these players doing this? 

They should have been exhausted, they should have been gassed, how are they doing this, how are they competing this hard? The compete level was off the charts yesterday. All four teams should be incredibly proud of their accomplishments during the Monctonian Challenge. There’s a misconception out there that kids these days don’t care or take things for granted. When it comes to hockey players, many believe that entitlement runs rampant and in many cases it does, but what I witnessed yesterday was the complete opposite. Every kid emptied their tanks and would have done just about anything to win. You can tell a lot about a kid’s character by their compete level or “give a shit factor.”

There’s an extremely fine line between winning and losing, especially with so much parity in the NB/PEI U-18 Major AAA Hockey League and at that level across this region. Every single player should be very proud of their effort yesterday. Sadly, many scouts don’t always attend games on Sunday during showcase events due in large part to travel. Nevertheless, the scouts that were in attendance yesterday were blown away by the compete level that was on display.

How did they do it? Well, they gave a shit, they wanted it, and they were willing to empty their tanks for it, they wanted to win more than anything for each other, that’s what it’s all about, that’s what makes our great game so special.

Here’s to all the teams and players that attended the 41st Monctonian Challenge, best of luck moving forward with the rest of your season, keep giving a shit about every aspect of you life and good things will continue to happen!

See you at the rink,

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