Observations From the Rink: Time On Ice, Bad Games vs the Same Mistakes and Do Draft Rankings Really Matter?

Time On Ice

Ice time is and will always be an issue for hockey players and parents at every level of minor hockey and beyond until the pro ranks. TOI issues only gets magnified when it’s a player’s draft year. Time on ice shouldn’t be the measuring stick when comparing young draft eligible prospects, but ultimately it is. That’s the reality of it. Unfortunately, some players get more ice time than others, hence more opportunity to showcase their talents and role on the team. At times scouts have a tough time to evaluate and project when young players at the CHL level are in limited roles, or healthy scratched during their draft year. It’s really unfortunate, but that’s part of the process and part of the business for players and scouts.

From a U-18 Major AAA perspective, time on ice is also highly scrutinized, and it will always be. Extra ice time and an expanded role on a team should never be promised, it should always be earned. There’s no sense of entitlement when things are earned. Draft year pressure, high expectations and extra ice time sometimes clouds a lot of players and parents’ perspective, the competitive nature of the draft year should never divide a team or teammates, but in a lot of cases it does, which is really sad.

Sometimes it’s all about the opportunity a player is given when it comes to ice time and showcasing their talents. Again, ice time should always be earned, but there comes a time where earned and fair shake takes a massive turn. On some occasions draft eligible players may see their TOI vary from game to game, that doesn’t mean that their being buried in the lineup or not showcased properly, but it probably feels that way. One could only imagine how that must feel for any draft prospect especially given the pressure of the year. It’s easy to say control what you can control and trust the process while playing to your identity and that they will still get noticed.

Some players rankings or ratings do take a hit because of their role and opportunities that they are confronted with. Again, that’s the reality of it.

In some cases, some prospects are getting played way too much. Yes, it’s possible to play too much. That’s where poor habits and lack luster performances begin to surface. Scouts will have to really drill down and project for both cases, players that perhaps don’t play enough or play too much. It might hurt their draft ranking or where they do get selected in the draft, but all that matters is what players do after the draft.

Bad Games versus The Same Mistakes

Every shift, every period, and every game matters. You hear that all of the time. In a way it definitely does especially when it comes to consistency, but at the end of the day, one bad outing or game doesn’t or shouldn’t make or break a player. Nevertheless, it’s their reaction to that adversity which reveals perhaps the biggest question mark of all, their character and resolve.

One bad game doesn’t matter, the way you handle it sure does. A less than stellar performance in one game doesn’t define a player’s path. You see every player handles adversity differently. Young players need to let their character, resiliency and work ethic guide them. You can learn a lot about a draft eligible player’s character and resolve when they don’t have their “A” game.

From a scouting perspective you can always tell when players grind it out or just go through the motions. I’ve seen players literally give up on a play, a battle or a back check when they screw up or make a mistake. The energy they took to give up on the play or show their poor body language or attitude could have propelled them back into the play. I’ve learned more about highly touted draft prospects when they have a bad outing or haven’t had their “A” game then when they do.

Even if some prospects have a bad outing or performance their attitude never changes or varies. Draft eligible prospects that don’t have their “A” game should ask themselves the following. What aspects of their game are they bringing to help the team? What type of teammate or leader are they? Have I worked hard enough in practice and is my maximum effort there in games?

A bad period or game should never define a player only if it keeps happening over and over and over again. Bad games or subpar outings are perfectly normal, they happen, but if a player is making the same mistake over and over time after time that’s a massive cause for concern.

Obviously, making the same mistakes raises a lot of concerns from processing, to questions with regards to their receptiveness to perhaps the coaching they are receiving or the fact that they aren’t ready to make the jump to the next level just yet.

The character and the intangibles a player possess can propel them to any level in the game. It can also ground their ascension within it. It’s one game, but that one bad game or outing can reveal a lot about your character, attitude and how you handle and cope with adversity. There’s a big difference between a bad game or one off versus making the same mistakes over and over again.

Do Draft Rankings Really Matter?

I received this message from a draft eligible player last year.

 “Hey Craig, my draft ranking just got demoted I tought I was playing good, is this something super important? My reply, “Don’t pay any attention to that stuff at all.” Many draft eligible players feel unbearable pressure throughout the season. Obviously, everyone understands and is fully aware of draft year pressure going into the season, but many don’t understand the scouting process and that’s why there’s so much confusion around lists. Are draft rankings really important? What do draft rankings mean? How are draft lists put together? Why are these lists so fluid throughout the season? Are draft rankings important? Yes, well sort of. Come draft day, it’s the teams list that are the most important. Central Scouting and other scouting services all have their lists, their opinions and projections on players. Are they the be all end all of rankings? Sometimes they’re close and sometimes they are off when draft day rolls around, that’s the nature of the beast. It is what it is. Those scouting entities will always evaluate their processes and look at percentages and where they had players ranked and where they went in the draft.

That’s how they hold themselves accountable and show credibility, but at the end of the day every team or organization are going to have their own list, their own draft rankings. So what happens if Player A slips in their draft rankings, what does that mean? Well, they could have had the player ranked too high on their first ranking, that player could have had a tough stretch of games or they might not have been ranked by the same scouts over that that time. Different scouts, different opinions, different projections, different rankings. What does all this mean? Well, one group might have you ranked in the first round and the second group might have you ranked to go in the third or fourth. Is that important? Is that the be all end all of rankings? No, it’s just their opinions and projections. To get back to the player that reached out to me with his question. He was playing very well. A matter of fact he’s playing some of best hockey of the season, but that’s just my opinion or perspective. Draft rankings are so subjective, that’s why draft lists are so fluid throughout the season. Scouts might see 30 players and make their first list based off of those 30. In the next two months they might see 20 more players and evaluate and project them. So their original 30 now turns into 50. Their supposed Top 50 will look a lot different than their Top 30. You see lists are supposed to be fluid, but when players, their families and the general public have access to these lists or rankings that’s when things get a little sketchy especially if the rankings or placement changes. How are these lists put together? Well, it’s team of scouts that usually put these lists or rankings together. Final say where players end up on those lists usually fall on the Head Scout or there’s a vote taken between the team of scouts where the player ends up. That’s how the list or rankings are made. Each scout has their region and obviously there’s instances where there’s crossover. These conversations or the voting process is always quite intriguing especially when scouts don’t see eye to eye on a player and where they should be ranked. Do regional scouts get overruled? Yes at times they do.

That’s part of the process, but potentially also part of the problem. Regional scouts usually see the players in their zone more than others, they know them inside and out. That’s why it’s healthy to do crossover to see what’s on the other side so to speak. Nevertheless, when it comes time to vote, those that might be watching from a far or have seen the player only a select few times might vote differently. That’s where the confusion sets in and that’s where scouts dig in and go to bat for certain players that they believe to be wrongly placed on the list or rankings. Those tough conversations are often resolved, but it takes time, but that’s why there’s also fluidity within the list.

These rankings and projections change due to the amount of viewings.

Are draft rankings misleading?

Depends on what you see in them or make of them. There’s countless surprises come draft day, especially over the last several years. It’s those “surprises” which brings excitement and intrigue to the game and draft day.

My message to all the players wondering about their rankings or lists or lack there of is simply this. As difficult as it might be, try to control what you can control. I know this can all be confusing and that the pressure has been crazy, but at the end of the day you shouldn’t have any regrets if you left it all on the ice every time you laced them up.

Control what you can control, keep working hard. If you get drafted, remember it’s not where you got selected, it’s what you do after that matters most. If you don’t get drafted, the journey is far from over. Do draft rankings really matter?

 Well, I guess that all depends on the eye of the beholder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.