When not watching the action from the Bantam AAA Prospect Showcase, Western Hockey League scouts are busy jotting down notes on players.
Advertised to have top-ranked draft eligible players, some scouts haven’t been disappointed.
“There’s some really good players here,” said director of scouting for the Victoria Royals Garry Pochipinski. “There’s some potential first round draft picks and there’s quite a few draftable players here.”
Pochipinski said he simply seeks the best players while doing his job and ranks them against each other and sees where they fit. Pochipinski watched most of the games for the showcase in its first two days and enjoyed an all-Alberta matchup between the Sherwood Park Kings and Camrose Vikings. In his opinion, there have been a lot of good games and he has seen good goaltending, dynamic forwards and good D-men.
Greg Weninger, an Okanagan-based scout for the Tri-City Americans, said calibre was good and competitive. He said each team usually has about five or six players that attract scouts, who they then rate throughout the year. Weninger added that most of the teams have at least one or two top picks.
“I really like watching the Okanagan Hockey Academy,” he said. “I really like some of the players they have on their team. Lethbridge has a very good team. Some of the other Alberta teams are looking pretty good.”
Edmonton Oil Kings scout Bruce Taylor said their job isn’t easy as it’s “definitely in a lot of a cases a crapshoot” when it comes to finding kids who can play in the WHL.
“You just have to go with your gut feeling on a kid,” said Taylor, who first looks at skating ability. “In the Western Hockey League, if you can’t skate, it’s a pretty tough road to hoe.”
When it comes to being able to see players in one area, Taylor echoed the sentiments of Kamloops Blazers scout Matt Recchi, who last week told the Western News that having the players in one area makes their job easier.
“It’s really nice when you can go from rink to rink,” said Taylor. “There’s no real breaks. You watch half a game here, half a game in another rink. It’s kind of nice because there’s obviously some games where there’s not a lot of kids that you’re interested in. You can knock down a lot of teams quickly.”
Jason Ripplinger, director of player personnel for the Vancouver Giants, said the showcase has given him and his staff a chance to review players.
“You see the kids early in the year, now you get a chance to watch them mid-year,” he said, while taking in the OHA against Nanaimo Clippers. “See if guys are developing or not.”
Also receiving early positive reviews was the job done by organizer Mike Elphicke and his committee on the tournament itself.
“I think it’s a compliment to the organizing committee,” said Pochipinski. “They have started something really nice here. It should continue to be a good tournament in the future. They have some really good teams here and the competition is good, facilities are fantastic and the community is great.”
“I was quite impressed with it,” said Weninger. “With the Alberta teams coming here, that is really big. I think it’s great to get them out here.”
Among the teams participating in the showcase were the Vernon Renegades, Grande Prairie Storm, Kamloops junior Blazers, Lethbridge Val Mateotti Golden Hawks, Kings, OHA bantam Red AAA, Vikings, Nanaimo, Penticton Vees, Juan De Fuca Grizzlies, Chilliwack Bruins, Anchorage North Stars and OHA Black AA.
Ripplinger said he didn’t think all the best teams from the provinces participated, but added this is a good start.
“I think it’s well balanced right now,” said Ripplinger, who sees the tournament having the potential to grow. “I think they have done a great job with the hospitality and everything. I think they will be able to go out and get better teams.”