Today is one of the biggest days on the NAHL calendar, with the league holding its annual draft, with teams making up to 30 picks today to round out their roster in preparation for the start of the 2018-19 season.
But the NAHL Draft is a little different than the NHL Draft or other major league drafts, there’s little hype around players, you don’t see mock drafts every day on whatever sites there are that may cover the league, and just because you take a player doesn’t mean he’s coming to play for you, it just means you have his rights for the next season.
So we wanted to know how that works, and what all goes into preparing your team for the annual draft, and reached out to one of our followers on Twitter, who just happens to be the associate head coach of the Odessa Jackalopes, Cody Campbell.
Cody, despite being younger than I am by a couple years, is in his fifth season as a coach in the USA Hockey system, four in the NAHL and one in the USHL. Prior to coaching, Campbell played in the USHL and then went on to play Division 1 hockey at Niagara University, so the guy knows quality hockey and what D1 prospects look like.
He was nice enough to take a little time out of his schedule of preparing alongside head coach Greg Gatto to answer a few questions we had about today’s NAHL Draft. And if you’re a rival team in the South looking for insight on who they are taking today, sorry, no such luck.
BLH: The NAHL season is a long one, basically running from September thru April, when does the process for scouting and other aspects of the NAHL Draft start during the course of the season?
CC: The scouting process is ongoing all year long. You get out and see different showcases through out the season and are looking at players for the upcoming season as well as players that can possibly play for you in the future. On top of that you also see players that you might draft or tender in the future at your pre draft camps as well as your teams main camp.
BLH: Obviously you and Coach Gatto are busy with the day-to-day and on-ice product, so how reliant are you on your scouts for info on players and who to keep on your draft radar?
CC: We have a great group of scouts that work with us and we rely on them to identify players for myself and Greg to follow up on through out the season. We will also have them follow up and get extra viewings of players that Greg or myself has already seen.
BLH: The NAHL is different from the NHL Draft in that not every player you take will play for the team, what’s the challenge of trying to find quality players, while also trying to ensure that you take players who have a high chance of coming to play for Odessa next season?
CC: A lot of homework is done on players that we end up drafting, we don’t want to overshoot and draft a player that we will never see but we also want to make sure we are picking players that are USHL and/or D1 prospects . Players have a lot of options these days so we want to make sure we are taking players that want to be in Odessa, fit the style we want to play, and are going to be good members of the community.
BLH: What is the pre-Draft prep like once the season ends? Do you get to see players in person at camps, on video, basically, how do you get the chance to see as many potential prospects as possible from season’s end to draft day?
CC: Once the season ends our draft preparation becomes our sole focus. We will travel to different events where we know certain players will be at and we try to really utilize HockeyTV to see players that we know we won’t be able to see in person. We will also invite certain players to our pre-draft camps so we can get one extra look at them before the draft rolls around.
BLH: How do you determine what makes a good pick for the team in the heat of the draft moment? With tenders and protected players, is it taking a certain position, best player available, or some combination of the two?
I’d say its a combination of the two. Every team has holes they need to fill but you also don’t want to miss out on a player that can be an upgrade at a certain position. If their is one thing I have learned it is that things happen fast in this business, so especially on draft day you are going to need to feel comfortable making decisions based on gut feelings.
BLH: In 2018 every draft at the top levels are judged the minute the picks are in, obviously things are a little different in the NAHL, but when the draft is all said and done and you’ve made your picks, what makes it feel like it was a successful day for you and the team?
CC: Everyone feels pretty good right after the draft is over and everyone is still undefeated. In this league you will not know how successful you were in your draft until about December when guys have had time to adjust to a new level and maybe a couple of your picks that started in the USHL have fallen back to you.
Once again, a big thank you to Cody for taking time to answer our questions, we wish him and the rest of the NAHL teams today the best of luck on all their picks.
Fans at home wanting to follow along with the NAHL draft can visit their online tracker, or watch along on HockeyTV.