Posted: Wednesday, August 13th Filed in: General
Kevin Hartzell wrote a great column that features Legend Hockey’s Zeb Knutson. Aside from this article featuring one of the players we train, it is one of the most honest and relevant articles I have read in a long time.
The MSU Mavericks are going to be good this year; expect them to have an excellent season. This will be a great year to catch a game or two in Mankato.
By Kevin Hartzell
Let’s Play Hockey Columnist
One cannot improve upon things that one doesn’t first measure. I heard those words in church not long ago. It was fitting because I was thinking about this same theme/topic as we all enter a new hockey season.
Do you think you know how you “measure up?” Do you evaluate yourself and/or put a value on what it is you bring to the team?
It is not always easy to do in hockey. There are many facets to the game. If each player only evaluated him/herself on, let’s say, scoring a goal, then most players on most nights would go home with a disappointing self-evaluation. But as we all know, there is a lot more to hockey than the act of scoring a goal.
Scouts get paid to evaluate, to measure a player. Sometimes with my own players I ask of them to act like a scout and to provide for me a “scouting report” on their own selves as players. I ask them to simply measure themselves. Can they be relied upon and depended upon to bring each of their skill sets to the game each night?
If you are not sure how you “measure up,” I would suggest asking the people around you that you most trust to give you honest and accurate feedback. Ask them to provide their honest assessment of your game. What do you bring to the game night after night on a consistent basis? What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?
Let’s look at a couple of real life examples. In my last season with the Sioux Falls Stampede, we missed the playoffs for the first time in my career. That’s not so good. What was good, however, was that I was afforded the time at the season’s end to get out and see the players our scouts and coaches had been promoting to me for the upcoming USHL draft. The two players I want to highlight are Minnesota State incoming freshman, C.J. Franklin of Forest Lake, Minn., and Zeb Knutson of Sioux Falls, S.D.
Our “measurement” of these two players and our desire to draft them high in the USHL Entry Draft would eventually be questioned by some in our industry and even some in our ownership group. The biggest reason for that was that neither had a college “deal.” That was an industry-level of measurement in itself.
There were many players available for the draft that had been recruited by the various Division I colleges. Players with a college commitment can seem to have a “stamp of approval” or certainly an industry concurrence with your evaluations. This is comforting for some. At draft time, owners will ask why it is you want to draft a player high in the draft, especially one that does not yet have a college commitment. You want to be confident in your choices as you and your staff will be held accountable.
What gave us confidence in our measurement of these two players was their consistency. When players consistently give to the game the skill sets they have, then that consistency is measured. In the cases of Franklin and Knutson, rarely did they wow you with their ability, but they did give the game what they had night after night.
Our measurement started with head of scouting Craig Sarner. He had been watching both of these boys closely. In the case of Franklin, there was a teammate that was held in higher regard by many. Like many, Sarner went to watch the teammate, but came back with evaluations on how much Franklin brought to the game. With each viewing, Franklin did again and again.
What did we see? We saw games that he scored in, and games he did not. But what we saw game after game was grit, drive and desire. Franklin’s fundamental skills were maybe not eye-popping impressive, but good nevertheless.
It was how he used his skills to play the game that was so attractive. It was his passion, his unspoiled approach to every facet of the game. He was “hard” on pucks, meaning he competed for pucks. He was tough in the tough areas. He also wasn’t shy on the defensive side of the game and he was always willing to have pucks hit him. He did the ugly and the hard. He was a consummate teammate … every time we saw him. He was a young man we knew would take his solid skill set and continue to develop them.
Knutson used his skills in a different way than C.J. Zeb was and is a goal scorer. I have seen many goal scorers and not all do it the same way. Zeb is always working to get open. He tries to make himself an easy target for a pass. He is always working to get to the front of the net and especially to the hard scoring areas. He is not hesitant in shooting the puck. He has some deficiencies for sure, but it was his strengths that he brought to each and every game that we found attractive.
I think in the case of these two boys, it was easy to see the things they didn’t do as well, although most of us think Franklin is a pretty complete player. Sometimes it is easy to measure skating, passing and shooting skills, but harder to measure how these skills are used. And it is harder and takes more time to see how these skills are used on a consistent basis. It was the measure of what these two boys could do and their ability to bring these abilities to the game on a consistent basis that was and is most attractive about each of their games.
*Click on the blog to read Kevin’s entire article.