This is Del Wilson. He was part owner of the Regina Pats for a time and GM for a long time (he was the General Manager when they won the Memorial Cup in 1974, that was the Clark Gilles-Greg Joly team) and he was the Montreal Canadiens chief scout during some of those years too.
An exceptional group of players came out of the Pats organization from the mid-50’s until the universal draft made the sponsor program obsolete.
Former Pats who made their way to Montreal through sponsorship were Red Berenson, Terry Harper, Bill Hicke and Ernie Hicke.
Among those who made their mark in the draft era are Clark Gillies, Dennis Sobchuk, Garth Butcher, Dirk Graham, Barret Jackman and Doug Wickenheiser.
Del Wilson was a pretty valuable guy for the Habs, but after the universal draft began in 1969 Montreal didn’t draft many Regina Pats. Doug Wickenheiser of course is a famous Pats player drafted by Montreal, but since then they’ve avoided Regina except for a three pack late in the 1994 draft.
Since 1969 and the dawn of the Universal draft, Montreal has drafted only 4 Regina Pats. I imagine Del Wilson kept sending in scouting reports but the world had changed and Clark Gillies name had been called before Montreal reached the podium.
The universal draft represented a huge change for NHL teams, easily the biggest of my lifetime. Other events, like the development of Central Scouting had sweeping impact, but there was nothing in the world like making Gilbert Perreault available to the Buffal Sabres.
I believe scouting is about to see another universal change in the next few seasons. The latest article on the subject is in the Hockey News and shows one side of the equation (the Gare Joyce side of the equation) where scouts can’t possibly get a read on a player without seeing him live in the rink. Among the interesting quotations:
- “You know where you find the answers? In the rink.”
- “It’s something about being in the building, getting a feel for their body language, their shift length.”
- “You can hear them barking out orders or helping their teammates, calling for reverses or telling his partner to get his head up.”
- “You can get to some places live in a building where you can see (if) a player goes into a corner with fear or whether they go in without any fear.”
My questions about these comments are:
- Fine. Wouldn’t video, tracking things like EV TOI and special teams minutes add to the picture of each player?
- Shift lengths are measured in the NHL and I suspect the AHL (although not published). Why not do the same for all junior leagues and Europe?
- So, a little research would not uncover things like leadership, the tests that all top prospects go through wouldn’t expose weakness or strength? You’re actually relying on what your scouts hear at the rink? Lordy.
- And you can’t get that on video?
The Buffalo Sabres track all kinds of things from video, we know this to be true. If the Sabres 2007+ drafts prove to be successful, will other teams adopt a similar system?
I think they will. Scouting is unlikely to leave the business but it’s probably headed in a whole new direction. “Saw him good” is losing ground to the “Desjardins” group and the gap is closing. What does it mean? Those teams who adopt the new ideas quickly will have a window that could last several years when they are running circles around opponents in terms of procurement.
At least that’s what I believe.