3 ProTips from an NHL Scout

By Jeff Finley, Chief Amateur Scout of the Detroit Red Wings

I see the game differently now.

Playing in the NHL taught me how to think the game. Assistant coaching in the WHL taught me how to teach the game. Now in the third stage of my hockey career, NHL scouting has taught me how to observe the game.

As a father with 3 boys all playing minor hockey, I get an opportunity to see many kids mature as hockey players. I’ve noticed that there are certain qualities that all the elite players have beyond just talent. Outlined below are the three biggest factors that I take into consideration when scouting a player as a potential NHL draft pick. 

1. Hockey IQ

  • Do they rush the pass or take the hit?
  • Do they make another move or advance the puck?
  • Do they take the shot or pass it off?

Hockey IQ, or hockey sense, is how well a player can think the game, especially in pressure situations. This skill is not taught but rather obtained through trial and error of unsupervised and uncoached hockey (shinny, road hockey, etc.). Small area games are a great way to become a smarter hockey player. The reduced time and space forces players to make quicker decisions than they would otherwise in a game, which fosters better decision making during competition.

2. Competitiveness

  • 50/50 puck; what is the likelihood they’ll gain possession?
  • Tied game; will they do whatever it takes to win?
  • Game is getting chippy; how do they respond?

These are all examples of competitiveness and I consider all of these things when watching prospective draft picks. At a young age, competitiveness is fostered by the player working hard and establishing work ethic. Not every player naturally has this but it can be developed with the correct environment. This can be done by adding incentive to practice with drills like relay races and battle drills, where the losing team must do some extra skating.

3. Skill Development

  • Am I the first on and last off the ice?
  • Am I putting in extra time at the gym?
  • Do I play other sports?

Elite players that take this game seriously are doing something every day to make themselves better at hockey. This can be getting on the ice early, staying late, off-ice stick handling, or extra strength & conditioning at the gym. And they don’t need to play hockey 12 months of the year! There are plenty of transferable skills acquired from playing other sports that make well rounded athletes perform better at hockey than just pure hockey players alone.

If you are truly serious about a career as a professional hockey player, make sure you apply these three factors every time you are on the ice. Good luck!

I'll be watching,

Jeff Finley


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