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Monday, June 18, 2012

2012 NHL Draft Preview with scout Rick Springhetti - Part I

One of the best part of having done work in radio, is that you get to meet all kinds of interesting people.

For my part, when I was a regular on TSN 990, I worked with some amazingly knowledgeable and interesting people. And I have to say, one of the best hockey minds, and a man that I had many great hockey conversations with, is Rick Springhetti, amateur scout for McKeen's Magazine.

Many of you may know Rick from Twitter or from his work at McKeen's and, if you do, you know he's a man that is always up for a hockey discussion!

As such, and with the 2012 NHL Draft only five short days away, I thought I would pick Rick's brain on the upcoming draft, scouting in general, the Habs and much more.

What follows is Part 1 of 2 of the interview. Check back on Wednesday for Part 2.

I hope you enjoy reading Rick's responses as I did!

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On Rick and McKeen’s Magazine

Q: Let’s start at the beginning..for those who aren’t familiar with McKeen’s Magazine, what is it all about?

A: Mckeen’s hockey is a group of scouts who profile current NHL players via our Yearbook and website and prospects, also through our website and Draft guide. We have a team of scouts that attend a ton of games and tournaments to offer our public a ton of detailed reports.

I think that what makes us so popular among not only the public but in the hockey world. A few of our scouts have actually found work with NHL teams, something we are very proud of.

Q: What do you do for McKeen’s and how long have you been with them?

A: I started with Mckeen’s hockey four years ago and my main responsibilities are to cover the QMJHL but I also catch some OHL and Midget AAA games (live). Furthermore, I try to catch some games, by video, from everywhere else in the world so I can share my views with our team and help with our rankings.

Q: How did you get involved in scouting?

A: For me, I’ve always been a hockey fan but was never one to obsess with a team in particular. I was always more interested in players skills, team strategy, organizational decisions and things like that.

Scouting afforded me the opportunity to watch games in a way that was more interesting to me. For fun, I started watching games and writing up my own scouting reports and I sent them to Grant McCagg, who was working with Mckeen’s at the time, and he coached me and then gave me an opportunity to work with Mckeen’s Hockey and that’s how I got my start.

Now, I catch 40 to 50 live games a year and watch around 80 by video, and when I mean watch, I mean with pen and paper taking down notes and writing them up on a file I create on each player I (have) seen. This season alone, I’ve created over 300 files.

Q: What do you think makes a good scout/is the number one skill needed to be a good scout?

A: I think you will get a lot of different answers on this question depending on who you ask. What I try to do is pay close attention to what I’m watching a player do on the ice and try to interpret as much as possible what I’m seeing: What does he do well and what needs work. Is he making the right decisions in regard to the team system? Is he able to use his skills within a team concept? Can his weaknesses be worked on? Etc.

Sometimes, I drive as far away as 2.5 hours away to catch a player in action. On the way home, I have the radio off and all I do is ask myself a bunch of questions on a player and try to project as many scenarios as possible.

Q: Have you ever worked directly for a team as a scout, whether in Junior or elsewhere? Do you have aspirations of working for a hockey club as a scout?

I have been told that my name as been mentioned by a few teams to some head scouts in the QMJHL so that is very flattering to me. At some point, I would really like to work with a team but the situation has to be right for both sides. If someone really thinks I can help them and they are willing to work with me and help me learn and grow as much as possible, I think it would be great opportunity for me.

Q: There are a lot of different areas for scouts to cover. What would you say is your specialty?

A: I think the fact that I don’t have a hockey background is a disadvantage in some areas, (and) I’m aware of that, so I have to compensate by working harder. But it can also be an advantage in some ways because I may not be as influenced by past experiences. I think I’m able to detach a little easier than people who have been directly involved in the game.

On the 2012 draft

Q: What is your list of top-10 players for the upcoming draft?

A: My personal top ten is as follows: Galchenyuk, Yakupov, Dumba, Terravainen, Forsberg, Murray, Rielly, Trouba, Faksa, Rienhart.

Q: Nail Yakupov is widely considered to be the best player available in this year’s draft. What makes him such a good player?

A: He’s pure dynamite, offensively.

The moment he gains possession of the puck, he knows exactly what he wants to do with it and he has the on-ice vision, speed and shot release to do it very quickly.

Q: According to the International Scouting Services (ISS) rankings as of February, Galchenyuk had dropped considerably (to 16th overall). They are not the only ones who have downgraded him. Why is that and why do you still feel he is ranked so high?

A: Well I’m not sure about how the others ranked him but we at Mckeen’s have him at No. 2, while I have him at number one of my personal rankings. I just think he can bring a good deal of offense while still being a complete player who does the right thing in all aspects of the game.

In today’s NHL, with the amount of games, injuries and the intricate systems being used, players who can excel in many ways are very important.

Q: Do you think Mikhail Grigorenko deserves his reputation as being lazy?

A: I don’t think he’s lazy. I think that term gets used way too often, but I feel he’s too passive for my taste. He waits for everything to be perfect when he has the puck and won’t try to disrupt the opponents game at all. I think he can be a dominant player but I’m not sure if he has the approach to the game needed to be that player.

Q: Who is the best defenseman available in the draft? Why?

A: There are quite a few really good defensemen available but my personal choice is Matt Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels. He’s a bit of a riverboat gambler at the back but he can skate, create offence, dish out a hard open-ice hit and he plays with a ton of confidence. His weaknesses can be worked on but what he does well can’t be ignored in my opinion.

Q: Who is the best goaltender available in the draft? Why?

A: To me, Andrei Vasilevski is the best goaltender available. He’s athletic, makes good reads and has the mental makeup to play in big games.

Q: There are always surprises in the top-10 picks. Sometimes a team goes “off the board” as early as pick four or five. Sometimes it takes longer. Which player currently outside of the top-10, do you feel has the best potential to sneak in the first 10 picks and why?

A: I have Faksa in my personal top ten but I don’t know if anyone else does so he could the guy. Otherwise, I would keep an eye on Hampus Lindholm, a solid defenseman with great skating ability. Sweden is a country that develops very good defensemen and I think that will intrigue scouts.

Q: We all know about the top players, but tell us about a few who are flying under the radar and could end up being steals.

A: I had a list of 10 players that could be late round steals. In particular, Henrik Ikonen, a hard-working, dependable forward from Finland and Reece Willcox, a very smart defenseman playing in the BCHL are two to keep and eye on.

In the QMJHL, goaltender Francois Brassard is someone to keep an eye on. I’m impressed by his ability to read the play and react accordingly. He’s not spectacular but that’s actually a good sign in my opinion.


...and that's Part I folks with some great stuff from Rick. Remember to check back on Wednesday for Part II of the interview where Rick talks Habs prospects and their options for the upcoming draft.

Rick can be reached on Twitter, @rick1042.

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Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, and Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com. Kamal is also a regular on-air contributor on TSN 990, CJAD, and LiveSport New Zealand.

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter

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