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NHL Seattle unveils scouting team, talks player traits and expansion draft

Tuesday night was the first joint meeting of NHL's newest scouting department and public appearance.

We may not have the team name or colors yet, but on Tuesday night, NHL Seattle rolled out the group that will help build the franchise. 

The team's scouting department made their first public appearance as a group at a fan function at the Pacific Science Center, and acknowledged that they're already putting together their potential lists for next year's 2021 expansion draft.

In pre-event interviews, the group, led by General Manager Ron Francis, explained a bit of their strategy to a select group of reporters.

The scouts are spread across North America and had their team meetings this week in Seattle, meeting each other face-to-face for the first time.

Dave Hunter, based in Boston, will primarily scout at Boston Bruins games, and their Providence American Hockey League franchise. He worked with Francis, and assistant General Manager Ricky Olczyk with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. 

Right now, it's a lot of projection because they don't know which players are going to be available. That makes it interesting, according to Hunter. 

"In prior years, you're looking for specific players or specific roles that players may fill on your National Hockey League team or the American Hockey League team. And now we're kind of looking for players, not specifically for a role, but players that we could see fitting into the team," Hunter said. 

He said scouts are just looking for generally good players that can skate with a good hockey sense. 

"It's kind of just getting as much information as possible and as many players as possible so that we have this database built up," he continued. 

Hunter explained his philosophy: "Can the player compete,” he says, “an important part for me is body language. So, if a play develops and it doesn't work out for a certain player, how did they react going off the ice? Like if they're changing up, for example, are they getting off? Are they talking about the play? So to me, a lot of it is the eye test obviously and watching the players and how they react to certain plays, and also the creativeness-- like what players can bring to the game from a creative standpoint."

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Another scout, John Goodwin, will be based in Toronto. He has an extensive background in the Ontario Hockey League. 

"Each game has been talked about seven or eight players that we liked or disliked and put comments and try to build up a database with the consistency. We're so far out but it kind of gives us a running start for next year so it's kind of been invaluable," he said. "You're also looking for guys to fill roles and, you know, whether you're a third-line player to fill that role properly. Do you do what you have to do and you're looking at things, like the last minute of the period who's out there and stuff like that."

Analytics are going to be part of the scouting equation, and NHL Seattle hired Alexandra Mandrycky last year. She is considered in hockey circles to be a bit of a data phenom, as the director of hockey strategy and research with the new franchise.  

Aside from Francis and Olczyk, Stu Barnes, Ulf Samuelsson, and the legendary Cammi Granato make up the unit.

Are they already looking at the expansion draft and who might be available in 2021?  

Hunter says yes. 

"I would think we will get to that point. I mean, we're kind of going through the teams right now. We just finished going through each team these past couple days and we go through, you know, based on what we've seen what we've scouted. And then I think eventually we'll get to like a mock Expansion Draft."

But how do you outsmart the competition, as the 32nd franchise?  

"I'm going to say it's leadership. And you don't get two better leaders than Ronnie (Francis). I mean, I've known Ronnie for years. I've known Ricky for years too. They're good quality people. And you want to work for them. So I think that's the key, and that's critical. I think in any type of business, obviously, this is the leadership. And they're two of the best. I mean, I'm going to say that they're the best. And I'm a little biased, yeah but they're just quality people," said Hunter.

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