In the days leading up to the WHL’s Bantam Draft this Thursday, Winterhawks Play-by-Play Announcer Todd Vrooman has caught up with the provincial heads of scouting to get an understanding of the decision-makers who’ll help guide Mike Johnston and Matt Bardsley at the Draft. This time, Todd chatted with the Winterhawks’ Head Scout, who also oversees Saskatchewan, Darwin Bennett.
Todd Vrooman: Darwin, thanks for taking the time out of your day to catch up, how excited are you guys to get going with the Bantam Draft this week?
Darwin Bennett – Winterhawks Head Scout: Well it’s exciting, number one, to have a first round Bantam Draft selection. When you look back at the last time we picked in the first round, it’s turned out pretty well with Cody Glass. It’s exciting, and you know what, we’re going to get a good player. There’s some real top-end players, and at pick number 11, we should be thinking we’re going to get a very good player, for sure.
Todd: How long have you been with the team, and do you spend most of your time in Saskatchewan? How often do you cross over?
Darwin: This is my fifth year with the Hawks, I live at Waskesiu Lake in Saskatchewan, which is about an hour north of Prince Albert. As head scout, I’m crossing into all the provinces to get a good look at all the players. This season I’ve filed reports on 368 games, which includes both full games I’ve seen, as well as partial games where you’ll watch a couple of periods at one game, and then zip to the other rink to catch two periods of another game. 250 full games for sure, and then a lot of bouncing around to make sure you don’t miss anybody.
Todd: Wow, that’s a lot of hockey. What sorts of things are we looking for as an organization when you watch those games?
Darwin: I think, especially now with Mike back this season, it’s pretty clear what he wants. Mike wants players that can play the game fast, and can move the puck well. And all that has to be within the framework of being a smart hockey player.
He wants our team to play fast, and move the puck, making us a hard team to play against because we’ve got speed. So there are good players that don’t fit that mold who we may not select, because we try to focus on the type of players that Mike would want to coach. There will be guys that’ll go pretty high in this draft that we wouldn’t necessarily focus on because their style of play doesn’t fit with how we want to play.
It’s a lot easier for us as scouts to have clear direction from the top on what characteristics to look for. To have a clear instruction from Mike and Matt over what to look for allows us to identify and draft the players that play the game the way we want to play.
Todd: How often throughout the season do you get together with Matt Bardsley and Mike Johnston to go over the talent you’re seeing?
Darwin: We’re constantly sending them information through our reports, so they’ve always got the latest information. We also have four conference calls throughout the season with the entire coaching staff, as well as Matt, and they’ll ask us questions about the players so we can tell them exactly what we’re seeing on a day-to-day basis.