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Scout's Honour

Insights into the world of hockey from Jets' Pro Scout Mark Dobson

Wednesday, 22.02.2012 / 3:34 PM / Feature
By Chris Kreviazuk
Mark DobsonIf you are reading this, you are likely among the millions of people who love to watch hockey played at its highest level. Imagine being paid to watch hockey for a living as a professional scout. The life of a scout may not be as cut-and-dry as this – there are numerous challenges they face on a daily basis when going about their work – but who of us has not shared this dream?

For many of us, it stays this – a dream. The world of pro hockey scouting is an elusive one, if not for the right personal connections within the game.

“A lot of ex-players get into scouting after their careers are over,” says Winnipeg Jets Director of Pro Scouting Mark Dobson. “For many including myself, it begins as a part-time endeavor – a way to stay in hockey and it just develops from there.”

Dobson oversees a crew of pro scouts who are enlisted to keep a vigilant eye on any and every hockey player in the world that may be of service to the Winnipeg Jets at some future date. The players they are generally focused on are those playing in professional leagues, as well as some high end junior players that have already been drafted. Of course, this means keeping tabs on thousands of players, when really only a small fraction of them will actually figure into the Jets’ future plans. It is impossible to concretely know who may become available down the road.



It is almost like a school teacher running a classroom of students. The teacher has a report card on every student. We have to have a report card on every player we see.
“It is almost like a school teacher running a classroom of students,” says Dobson. “The teacher has a report card on every student. We have to have a report card on every player we see. It is difficult to isolate one or two players that you like or that you think may become available because sure enough, when you start concentrating on a player you like, maybe the guy you are not watching is the one who becomes available, and you have no information on him.”

In certain cases, it is possible to narrow the search to an extent.

“Obviously we do put priority on certain players,” says Dobson. “Players who are about to become potential free agents are targeted, for example.”

Due to the importance of having up-to-date information on every player in every corner of the elite hockey world, Dobson directs a staff of six pro scouts who each are responsible for a different region. The majority of their time is spent in NHL and AHL rinks, though some will keep tabs on ECHL and junior players too.

“I scout a lot of NHL and AHL players, but I also try to get to junior games,” says Dobson. “The World Juniors is a nice tournament to see as a pro scout, because most players are drafted already and it’s a great concentration of the best junior players in the world. It is nice to see these players and to get a feel for what they are about before they make the jump to the pros.”

If possible, scouts will try to keep their NHL-AHL affiliations in mind when scouting particular teams. If a scout is watching a particular NHL team on a regular basis, it is only fitting that they also keep track of the corresponding AHL affiliate, due to player movement between the clubs. But in a job where travel is at the forefront, geographical location takes the highest priority. A scout enlisted to watch the San Jose Sharks will not be so inclined to then travel 3100 miles to see their AHL affiliate in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“Affiliation connections are nice, but we try to make things work as easily as possible, geographically-speaking,” says Dobson. “For example, we have a scout who lives in Buffalo, so for him to do Rochester, Syracuse, Hamilton and Toronto, it is very convenient for him. I am still stationed in Atlanta, so the closest NHL city for me is Nashville, a four-hour drive. That makes things a little bit more difficult. I am typically away from my home 23-24 days each month.”

One of the key points for scouts during the course of a season is the trade deadline – a moment where their hard work could come to fruition in a deal that helps their team make that final push toward a successful playoff push.

“The trade deadline period can be hard to predict,” says Dobson. “It depends on a lot of things, such as how your team is doing in the standings, whether you are you buyers, whether you are sellers. There are a lot circumstances that affect the trade deadline period, but certainly it is a very busy time.”

Fortunately, with so much at stake in today’s NHL, technological advances have made for easier and more effective communication between Dobson’s team of scouts and Jets management.

There is nothing greater than when you're on the road and you see on the out-of-town scoreboard that the Jets are winning. That is a great day.
“Face to face or over the phone communication is great to have, but (our scouts) are so busy, and (GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) and (Assistant GM Craig Heisinger) are so busy that it is usually not practical,” says Dobson. “But nowadays with technology the way it is, we are able to enter our player scouting reports on the road electronically, and at the touch of a button (Cheveldayoff and Heisinger) can access up-to-the-minute information on any player they wish to.”

The significant amounts of time spent away from home can be difficult to endure, however you won’t hear Dobson complain about his line of work.

“I grew up playing hockey on a pond,” says Dobson. “I think those things tend to stay with you. It’s in your blood. As gruelling as our travel schedules may be, when I get to watch hockey seven nights a week, it’s hard to complain. And there is nothing greater than when you’re on the road and you see on the out of town scoreboard that the Jets are winning. That is a great day.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
B. Wheeler 82 28 41 4 69
B. Little 82 23 41 8 64
D. Byfuglien 78 20 36 -20 56
A. Ladd 78 23 31 8 54
O. Jokinen 82 18 25 -8 43
M. Frolik 81 15 27 8 42
E. Kane 63 19 22 -7 41
M. Scheifele 63 13 21 9 34
T. Enstrom 82 10 20 -9 30
J. Trouba 65 10 19 4 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Montoya 13 8 3 .920 2.30
O. Pavelec 22 26 7 .901 3.01