REGINA — It isn’t hard to find a hockey scout at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Hundreds of professional, junior and collegiate teams sent scouts to the tournament. Bob Lowes a scout for the Brandon Wheat Kings and former coach of Canada’s national Under-18 team has not been to the World Under-17 Challenge before, but he has good reason to be in Regina. Four West players and one from Pacific are Wheat Kings prospects, selected in the WHL Bantam Draft.
He said the timing of the tournament coupled with the ages of the players makes it a very important event on the scouting calendar.
“It’s funny that this tournament happens right before our trading deadline, which is Jan. 10. A lot of times, these younger guys are possibly guys that are coveted to get in a trade if you are looking to unload some older guys and load up later.”
The Challenge also gives scouts a chance to see how some of Europe’s top young players perform against North American players. Since every Canadian Hockey League team gets two picks in that draft, scouting staffs scour tournaments like this one in hopes of finding a solid prospect. More importantly, Lowes said it’s all about seeing young players battle against others their own age.
“It’s a better indicator of how they’re going to be when they are 18 or 19 within their league,” Lowes said.
Scouts from United States colleges, like Northern Michigan University assistant coach John Kyle also made the trip. And while NCAA recruiting rules prevent American university teams from contacting the players until they are older, Kyle said being at the Challenge is valuable.
“It’s good for us to get out into areas we may sometimes miss in our recruiting trails,” said Kyle, whose brother is USA national junior team coach Walt Kyle. “Probably more important for us on this trip is we get to develop relationships with the coaches and the staff, so that if they have players who are interested in coming to a Division 1 college, they can use our name and we are familiar with them.”
Lowes said of the 110 Canadians playing in the Challenge, several should be solid prospects for world junior teams in the future.
“There’s another real good set of defenceman that Canada can be really excited about with that 1989 group,” Lowes said. “I think if you went through all the Canadian teams and picked out all of the top guys … you could get seven pretty good defencemen.”