Scouting is a profession. Like any profession, it has developed its own lexicon. When evaluating a prospect, scouts use a host of terms, terms that often get repeated during the televised draft when discussing the attributes of certain players. Thanks to some expert input, a few of those terms are defined below in language easy enough for all hockey fans to understand.
“[Release refers to] how quickly the player is able to go from a stickhandling position or recieving a pass to shooting the puck and it getting off the stick,” says Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports, whose NHL Draft Headquarters provides remarkably in-depth profiles of almost 90 draft-eligible players. “The quicker the better. A quicker release can be deceptive as defenders and goalies have less time to prepare for the shot.”
Edge work is one of many terms used in discussing skating mechanics. “Balance is a key element when evaluating a player’s skating and edge work is an integral element of balance,” says THW lead prospect analyst Christopher Ralph, the man behind THW’s online 2015 NHL Draft Guide. “Beyond balance, the more highly developed the edge control the more gains seen in speed, agility, turning, stopping and evading opponents.”
“A player’s processor is their ability to ‘process’ or think the game,” says Brock Otten, who covers the Ontario Hockey League at OHL Prospects. Otten’s 2015 NHL Entry Draft Primer provides comprehensive coverage of the OHL’s potential contributions to the draft, from Owen Sound’s Liam Dunda all the way to some kid they call Connor. “A player who has a strong processor is one who reads opposing defences well and anticipates openings to create scoring chances. They also limit turnovers in the offensive end and make the players around them better.”
Spotlight: An elite processor
In the following clip, Connor McDavid provides a compelling example of an elite processor. The goal is scored by Otters forward Alex DeBrincat on McDavid’s primary assist at about the :57 mark, but McDavid processes this play long before then. He shows his hand in the blink of an eye at least six seconds before the goal is scored, when nobody else is watching and when nobody else has thought that far ahead:
At the :51 mark, when he’s barely off his own goal line and his winger Remi Elie is picking up the puck next to him, McDavid makes a split-second glance to his right to confirm that DeBrincat is in on this rush. What might appear to some to be a lucky, blind pass is in fact the results of having processed the play six seconds earlier: He knows Elie will get him the puck, and he knows that by moving towards the center his speed will be enough to gain a step on the first defender; then he moves left to draw the other defender and the goalie away. After that glance while deep in his own zone, McDavid never looks to the right again, so he gives his defenders no reason to look that way either. He confirmed the odd-man rush and that DeBrincat would be open long before anyone else was even worried about the other end of the ice. Watch it again, and watch for McDavid’s glance to his right after he makes the turn:
On its face this is a nice goal off a good play. Looked at from the moment of its origin– the :51 mark– it’s an extraordinary example of a player’s processor, as McDavid ‘reads the defense, anticipates openings, creates a scoring chance, and makes those around him better.’
Agility is another term used in discussing skating mechanics. “Agility is nimbleness on your feet,” says Kerr. “Agility is the ability to make quick changes in direction, lateral movement. It is adjusting to the puck and other players in a split second.”
“Foot speed refers to a player’s skating speed in full flight, but it is vital to consider this in game-specific situations (with and without the puck) rather than simply how fast a player can skate,” says Ralph. “For instance, you might look to see how a player utilizes his foot speed; to beat opponents to the puck, to get in efficiently on the forecheck, to backcheck, to get open to give his teammate a passing option, to get into an effective position defensively, or to maneuver by a defender.”
“A player who has a good or ‘high’ motor is one who brings energy to the ice in a variety of situations,” says Otten. “They constantly keep their feet moving and involve themselves in many aspects of the game (forechecking, back checking, the cycle, etc).”
THW Draft Guides
Check out THW’s Online Draft Guide, as well as coverage of over 150 prospects in THW’s The Next Ones: NHL 2015 Draft Prospect Guide, available for the Kindle and all other e-reader formats. It is also now available at iTunes.