For the first time in a while, Cam Russell is going to get a chance to kick back and relax at a hockey game.
The Halifax Mooseheads head coach and general manager will finally put away his scouting notebook this weekend following the Telus Cup midget AAA championship in Levis, Que., and head to Illinois to watch his former NHL team, the Chicago Blackhawks, host the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarter-finals on Sunday afternoon.
It’s been a busy six weeks since the Mooseheads’ second straight last-place season came to a close in mid-March, with Russell scouting draft prospects at countless tournaments in the Maritimes, Quebec, Saskatchewan and New England.
“I’m all scouted out,” he joked. “I’ve seen enough. I’m going to Chicago to watch Game 5, but that won’t be for scouting, it will be for pleasure.”
At least the 10-year NHL veteran defenceman won’t have any regrets when he steps up to the podium at the QMJHL draft on June 5 in Drummondville, Que. The Mooseheads hold the second overall pick, their highest selection since they joined the QMJHL in 1994. They also have five picks in the top 37 as they attempt to start crawling out of the league’s basement. Russell has basically been rubberstamping the internal rankings already established — and under constant revision — by his scouting staff, headed by Jean-Marc Blouin in Quebec and Allie MacDonald in Atlantic Canada.
The list was all but finalized last Sunday after the QMJHL-organized Central Scouting Challenge in Saint-Leonard, Que.
“It doesn’t mean we can’t change our mind over the next six weeks, but we’re pretty well all done,” Russell said.
The Mooseheads have said they will draft the best player available, regardless of position, and if you listen to the scouting community, defencemen — Jeremie Fraser, Dominic Poulin and Michael Matheson — could be the top three selections.
“There are some very good prospects available that we’re going to get at No. 2,” Russell said. “We’ve also found it’s a good, deep draft, through the second, third and fourth rounds. There are some really good players and we feel really good about having five picks in the top 37.”