‘Hockey IQ’ rates high with Jets scouting staff

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- They've been poked and prodded for months, their every strength and weakness analyzed and over-analyzed.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/06/2015 (2781 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — They’ve been poked and prodded for months, their every strength and weakness analyzed and over-analyzed.

And on the eve of the draft hockey’s top prospects will have to sit down for another in a series of face-to-face chats with any or all of the 30 NHL teams — the Winnipeg Jets included. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said Thursday the team conducted interviews with 86 players at the NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo earlier this month and will do follow-ups with a few more leading up to today’s first round.

The second interview is a chance for the Jets to perhaps ask some hard questions on issues that may have popped up during their information gathering and to also get a truer sense of their personality. But there won’t be any of those off-the-wall, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” questions.

Marcel Comeau

“We don’t try to trick the players,” said Cheveldayoff. “We’re more of a team that really tries to make a player feel at ease. We really feel that when we choose to draft a player we’re drafting a player into our family. It’s not about trying to trick them. We’ll ask them some hard questions if there are some questions we’ve maybe uncovered or there are some things we truly want to know about.”

Every team files mountains of reports on players, based on their scouts in the field. But while the goals and assists are available for every team, the Jets do seem to put extra emphasis on hockey IQ. It was reflected in their last two picks ,in particular in Josh Morrissey — a former WHL Scholastic Player of the Year — and Nik Ehlers, whom scouts raved about with respect to his skills and vision.

What, exactly, is hockey IQ? Good question.

“If you ask five different people what hockey IQ meant you’d probably get five different answers,” said Cheveldayoff. “When I took over the organization, I asked that question: ‘What does hockey IQ mean to you?’ We all went around the room and we all had those frank conversations to understand what that exactly means. In today’s game you look at the speed the game is played at and the decisions people have to make have to happen at such a fast rate that it is a very important aspect of things.

“As far as a characteristic or a trait, that nebulous term of ‘hockey sense’ or ‘hockey IQ’ is something we do covet very highly. Simply put, it’s when a player makes a play and you say ‘How in the heck did he see that? How did he do that? How did he know that guy was going to be there?’ Those are the types of things you notice, whether you are a scout or a fan or a broadcaster or media. Those are the things that stand out and generally separate one player from another.”

The game has changed, with the anti-obstruction rules freeing up the game for the skill to shine. That means teams often fixate on skill — and hockey IQ — early in the draft and then maybe chase size in later rounds. And those players that have the size, skill and on-ice vision are often gobbled up in the first few picks.

“(Hockey IQ) is an ability to process the game,” said Jets director of amateur scouting Marcel Comeau. “It’s a fast-paced game nowadays and players that can think the game through, both offensively and defensively, are nice players to have.”

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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