School House Rock, Draft Style
If you are of a certain age, you remember this lyric.
I'm just a bill.
Yes, I'm only a bill.
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill.
Well, it's a long, long journey
To the capital city.
It's a long, long wait
While I'm sitting in committee,
But I know I'll be a law someday
At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill.
School House Rock, a multi episode educational cartoon series set to music, was a Saturday morning staple for over a decade that sought to explain many, many topics, including how a bill becomes a law.
John Bishop is the beat writer for BostonBruins.com. He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room. A graduate of Boston U. and Northeastern, 'Bish' grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Hub of Hockey in 1993. Since then he has made all four rinks at the Beanpot schools, as well as both Gardens, his icebound homes away from home. Prior to joining the TD Banknorth Garden staff in 2005, Bishop had written for several publications, with his primary focus being college hockey. He coauthored the book Bygone Boston in 2003 and hopes someday to pen a bio of Hobey Baker.
Today, in that spirit, but without my awful singing, I sat down with Ryan Nadeau, who, after several years as the Boston Bruins Media Relations Manager, recently became the B's Manager of Hockey Administration.
Now Ryan can't rhyme and I've never heard him sing, but he can explain how a simple hockey player goes on to be picked by the Boston Bruins on draft day.
"The first step usually begins with a scout that is in charge of a particular region," said Nadeau from his office at the TD Banknorth Garden. "Whether it's the Quebec league, the USHL or the Western league, we usually have a set scout in a particular region.
"At the beginning of a season, he will see every team and will pinpoint certain players of interest.
"Those players have to be draft eligible and there has to be something that the scout sees in the player, that he likes initially, or thinks that the player can develop," he said.
Similar to the 'tools' bandied about when talking about baseball -- hitting, fielding, throwing, etc. -- Nadeau explained that hockey also has a set of qualities that teams look for.
"I think that you always look at skating, puck skills and shooting. You also look at their hockey sense and vision on the ice. Then there are always things like intensity, toughness and other intangibles," he said.
Those things plus eyewitness accounts are the pieces of a player's mosaic, which fill in to create a picture of the player. And that picture, when complete, will determine a player's future.
"You look at all of those things," said Nadeau. "And certainly, and ideally, you like the player to be good at all of them.
"But obviously that's not always the case."
Hockey is a business, and before a club invests its future in a prospect, more than one scout has a look at his game. They ask themselves questions about the player: Will he develop? Why doesn't he skate (shoot, pass, defend) well? Does he have "hockey" smarts?
"Obviously, it is not an exact science, but you try and look at a player (initially), get a good feel for his current game, and then project his development from there," said Nadeau, before introducing the next step.
"Next we have scouts that are considered 'crossover' guys who will look at a bunch of different leagues. Usually, at midseason, your scouts begin to switchover and look at other leagues.
"The person who is usually identifying the players in the Quebec league will then go see the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League and compare their players (with his prospects) and look at players in that league.
"Around the new year, they might go over to the World Junior Tournament and get a good look at some of the European players so that they have an idea about the overall field," he said.
In essence, when scouts do their job, they are not only scouting a player, they are scouting his place in an overall draft year and must be familiar with how a particular year's prospects compare to his prospects.
That's how an overall list of Bruins prospects is then cobbled together.
"We always share the list (amongst other Bruins personnel) and when another person goes and sees our pinpointed players, they are evaluated again, look at the list and refine it," said Nadeau. "So there are different opinions (because) our full-time scouts will pretty much see everyone.
"A guy who we might pick will be seen by six or seven of our scouts over the course of a season.
"That way we have a good 'feel' on the player from a bunch of different people, so then we feel like we really know these guys," he said.
Then, there are a series of meetings to further refine the overall Bruins list.
"We met (midseason) to go over all the lists, because each scout has the players in their own order," explained Ryan. "Some are more concentrated on their region because they know those players better.
"So then we actually sit down as a group and come up with one main list.
"Some scouts will be pushing for certain players, for them to be higher or lower, but what it comes down to is Scott Bradley -- he's our Director of Amateur Scouting," he said.
And then the scouting staff goes out and reevaluates the players on the B's listing and its order as Bradley determined it.
"We have a targeted list going forward, for the remainder of the year, of guys we need to see again," said Nadeau. "And anyone that we are projecting around our (top) picks, we certainly want to see as often as we can and we want to have as many people see them as possible."
Now, in the last five or six weeks, the B's will determine the direction of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
"Our next step is going to be the scouting combine in Toronto," said Nadeau. "That happens the end of this month."
There, much like the highly-publicized NFL combine, teams will see the top prospects perform in a central location.
"The prospects come in, they get tested physically. John Whitesides, our Strength and Conditioning Coach will be there to witness the testing. We also have the opportunity to meet privately with the individual players and ask them questions in our own environment, with our scouts and front office, and get to know them better off the ice."
Nadeau said that post-combine the Bruins scouting personnel with go away, again, and meet to finalize the draft list by putting together all of the opinions, facts, video and observations about the players and determining a final course of action.
"We'll go into Columbus a few days before the draft and we'll meet again," said Nadeau. "The list, at that point, is pretty much finalized."
So, besides handing over the ball cap, jersey and shaking hands, that is how a prospect becomes a pick.
We'll make sure to give as much insight as to the process as we can over the next few weeks, and yours truly will be at the draft to cover the Bruins doings in Columbus.