The Halifax Mooseheads are hoping some late-game scouting changes don’t bite them at the draft table.
The Mooseheads’ hockey operations staff will have a distinct new look at Moncton Coliseum on Saturday in the wake of January’s firing of general manager Marcel Patenaude.
They’re still reeling from the January resignation of chief scout Sylvain Brunelle and scouting administration director Yvon Gasse — the main talent evaluators in Quebec.
Jean-Marc Blouin, the only scout left in Quebec, has been promoted into Brunelle’s old job, while Bob (Tipper) LeBlanc has moved into a newly-created assistant GM post.
“Obviously, we would have liked to have three Quebec scouts at the table on draft day sharing their opinions,” said new GM Cam Russell. “But we’ll have to make the best of it.”
Russell hasn’t been calling the shots for long, but said he already trusts Blouin, who was part of the staff that built the current roster of the powerful Shawinigan Cataractes.
After the Mooseheads’ season ended, Russell travelled heavily to scout most of the draft’s top prospects, taking in the midget playoffs in Atlantic Canada and Quebec as well as the Central Scouting Challenge. He estimates he watched at least 20 games with Blouin and came away impressed.
“We trust his judgment,” Russell said. “He’s a good hockey man. He’s looking for the same thing we are. He can identify character very easily as well as the skating and skill.”
Blouin, who will hire two Quebec scouts later in the summer, will likely make the final call on late-round picks that Russell and LeBlanc haven’t had a chance to see.
But Russell made sure he saw as many players as possible after the Mooseheads’ season ended in March, and he and LeBlanc will be heavily involved in the early picks.
The Mooseheads are planning to have two picks in the second round and two more in the fourth.
“It’s easier on draft day to pick players when you know what you’re getting,” Russell said. “If the season’s going to end early, you’d better get out and continue to work.”