Coming up on May 4th the Moose Jaw Warriors will look towards the future when they take part in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft in Calgary.
The draft marks the culmination of a yearlong process for Warriors Director of Scouting Doug Gasper and his team.
“A typical scouts schedule starts in September looking at WHL, Junior A and Midget AAA teams. Bantam hockey starts a little later so we concentrate on possible list players,” said Gasper. “As we enter into mid-October we will start to look at this year’s draft eligible players. As the year goes on we start to concentrate on a smaller group of bantams we feel match what we are looking for in future Warriors.”
Gasper has been with the Warriors since 2007 and was promoted to Assistant Head Scout in 2012, in 2015 he was named the team’s Director of Scouting, and earlier this month he agreed to a contract extension.
“The elements I enjoy about scouting the most are the friendships and comradery that you develop with your hockey staff as well as with scouts from other teams,” commented Gasper on why he enjoys heading out to rinks as a WHL scout. “We spend a lot of time away from home and you really develop strong friendships with other scouts. I also enjoy finding that next generation of Warriors. It is pretty special to watch players you scouted and drafted work their way onto the team and develop as future leaders for the Warriors.”
“The biggest challenge is balancing home and work through the season. Scouting requires a lot of time away from family and most major tournaments occur on holidays so the players are out of school,” he said when asked about the challenges of being a WHL scout.
“Unfortunately for scouts that means missing out on family holiday time such as Thanksgiving, shorter Christmas time, etc., but it’s a job we love to do and our families understand that and their support is really important to a successful season. Our wives take on a heavy work load at home during the hockey season, their contribution really goes unnoticed.”
Gasper is based in Saskatchewan and has scouts throughout western Canada. Tyson Ramsay is the Warriors Manitoba scout, Jeremy Ebbett and Tanner McCall are also based in Saskatchewan, Dale Britton, Don Stanton, and Jason Pashelka cover Alberta, and Brendan Wust is in British Columbia.
Although there is a lot of mileage between the scouting staff, Gasper explains how they’re able to stay in constant contact throughout the year as they prepare for the Bantam Draft.
“We stay connected through my travel in their area on a regular basis, we will meet at games and talk about players throughout the year. All the scouts have a players list on Rinknet which is shared with me and I can access it at any time,” said Gasper.
“Our scouts all stay in their province and attend all major tournaments and we will get together there as well to discuss players. We come together as an entire group in January to start identifying players as a group and start to put together a master list,” he added.
“We have a real good mix of younger scouts with 1-3 year’s experience as well as veteran scouts with many years of experience. It is a well-balanced group that really understands what we want in a Warrior player.”
What WHL teams “want” in a player can vary, Gasper explains what they “want” when identifying potential future Moose Jaw Warriors. “We have five key factors that we look for in players. The game today has really shifted from big players only to players that can think the game well, skate, and compete hard. It is a fast game now that requires players to anticipate and react quickly and be able to play with speed and skill.”
Warriors’ scouts will spend countless hours in rinks across western Canada watching hundreds of players over the course of the season. Notable events that they will attend include the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament, Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) showcases and championships, the John Reid Memorial Tournament, the Western Canada Bantam Hockey Championships, and the four provincial camps held in April.
“It can be difficult comparing players from different provinces as well as from different levels of competition,” commented Gasper on the difficulty of identifying and separating players throughout the year. “Major tournaments that bring teams in from different provinces help with comparing players but it really is important to put the time into getting to as many games as possible. The more viewings of a player we can get the better our evaluation of the player is. There really is no magic shortcut, just getting out on the road and getting to games.”
Coming up on Thursday, May 4th Gasper and his team will sit at the Warriors draft table and use their yearlong preparation to select players. When they come together in Calgary Gasper says it’s hard to put in to words how proud he is of his team for all of their hard work and dedication.
“I am really proud of the efforts and time our guys spend in the rink, they put a lot of time into their scouting and care about the success of the Warriors as much as anyone in our organization.”