The Commissioner of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Mr. Gilles Courteau, in collaboration with the League’s 18 teams, launched in September 2005 – renewed in 2009 -, a new brochure titled “The fast track to the NHL”.
“This information booklet gives an excellent perspective of the quality of the environment provided by the QMJHL and its teams to young players wishing to undertake a career at the major junior level,” declared the Commissioner.
“Moreover, this tool will enable both players and parents to make an enlightened decision.”
The career of a major junior hockey player lasts about three years. Hence, scouting the most promising players to join the league is a priority for the management of a team. Year after year, each team must accommodate a large number of rookies, usually between six to ten. These are given the opportunity to replace the nineteen or twenty year-old veterans who have progressed at a higher level or a number of rookies selected the previous year who will not have proven to be up to expectation. For the 16 teams of the league, this means approximately 140 rookies starting to play major junior hockey and trying to be part of the team.
Where are the rookies coming from? The following chart roughly indicates so.
|Origin||Number of rookie players each year|
|MAAA Quebec League||70|
|Other leagues in Quebec||15|
Scouting in each team
It is mainly with the selection of the most promising players from the midget level that a team can rebuild itself in order to reach or maintain a level of excellence. The QMJHL grants the right to each of its sixteen teams to select, in turns, up to 12 players aged fifteen or sixteen, coming from Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and New-England at its annual draft held in June. The event is a major one and the Head Scout of each team usually hires up to five to ten scouts to cover Eastern Canada and the North-West area of United states to identify the most promising players, observe them a number of times and try to forecast how good they will become in major junior hockey. At that stage, they will contact them and try to convince them to join the QMJHL. At the draft, the teams must be ready to announce the name of the players they wish to pick, who they feel will help them best to win over the coming years. Selection well done in the first rounds of selection can greatly influence the future of a team.Out of the 12 selected players and a few free agent players invited at the training camp in August, only four or five will make the team. The rest of the team will mainly comprise players who were already part of the team the previous year. The selected rookies who will not make the team must carry on at their actual level and develop further in another circuit, and try again at the next training camp.
The QMJHL central scouting service provides the 18 teams with quality means for the scouts to perform their work in identifying, assessing and scouting the most promising players found in Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and six New-England states part of the territory of the league.
The Central Scouting comprises 12 scouts, giving the teams lots of information on the players registered with elite leagues, on the schedules of the regular season, the tournaments, etc. The Central Scouting also provides for the benefit of the teams a certain evaluation of how each player could develop if playing major junior hockey and what role he could play with the team. This evaluation translates into a list published on May 1st.
The work performed at the Central Scouting comes as a support to the most important work carried out by the scouts in the field. The evaluations of the Central Scouting consists of an indication of who might develop best in the league . When a team announces the name of a player at the annual draft held yearly in June, it means that the scouts of that team feel after numerous observations and discussions that the player has the required qualities to play major junior hockey, if he works hard, with enthusiasm and conviction.
Some of the aspects considered during the evaluation
When the scouts observe a player aged fifteen or sixteen playing in an elite league and try to see what he could become in the major junior league where the play is much faster, robust and intense, and action-reaction is so much more immediate, they most certainly evaluate not only the athletic qualities but also and mainly the moral ones such as aggressiveness, strength of character, willpower and team work.
For example, if a player is not very tall, he must skate fast, be agile, have a certain physical strength, and a team playing capacity above average to compensate. And yet, being tall is not enough: agility, fast thinking on two solid feet and with good hands, with a will to get involved physically are also required. If height and athletic qualities are both present, it is often the strength of character that will make the difference in the end.
Expert scouts regroup qualities and talents of the players in four categories, each given a rather equal importance. A player must be excellent in at least one category and very good in the three others. A player cannot even think of reaching a high level if he has too many flaws in more than one category: there is a limit to compensating with higher qualities in a particular category.
Scouts are indeed taking all of those characteristics into account when evaluating a player. When a fifteen, sixteen or seventeen year-old player assesses his chances to play major junior hockey, he should take into account all of these factors: while assessing fairly his strong points; he should also work on his weaknesses. With sound advice and lots of practice, most shortcomings can be overcome. While one cannot do anything about his height, he can work and improve his physical strength, endurance, cardiovascular abilities, etc.
Usually, there is a good balance between what has been anticipated and how the player develop over the following years. However, a favourable evaluation made by the Central Scouting is not a success token. When looking back at the past, we find some first round picks have largely disappointed while some late picks have had a junior career beyond expectation.
Sometimes, an overlooked or wrongly assessed player may always, with the required strength of character, show what he can do and reach his goal, play and help a major junior team to win. There is nothing more stimulating for the management of a team to see a player reach out and prove the scouts wrong as he is making his way up.
|Alain Charbonneau||Quebec / Atlantic|
|International Scouting Services||Europe|
|Quebec – Montréal Métro Region|
|Donald Desrosiers||Quebec – Montréal Métro Region|
|Marc Coudé||Quebec – Saguenay Region|
|Patrick Lachance||Quebec – Quebec City Region|
|Adam Thériault||Quebec – Quebec City Region|
|François Graveline||Quebec – Richelieu Region|
|Steven Callahan||New Foundland|
|Luc Michaud||New Brunswick / PEI|
|Bob Doyle||Nova Scotia|