When Mike Oke discusses the upcoming 2009 World Junior A Challenge in Summerside from Nov. 1 to 8, he is quite familiar with what he's talking about.
The general manager and chief scout for International Scouting Services has attended the first three World Junior A Challenges in Western Canada.
"It's a great event and is well supported by the scouting community and the NHL scouts," said Oke. "People in Summerside will see lots of NHL scouts and lots of NHL general managers, who will make a point of stopping in and taking a look at it."
To date, close to 150 scouting packages have been sold and every NHL team has bought at least three.
"It's a great opportunity for the scouts to see the European teams, and it's a great opportunity for the scouts to see the players who aren't playing Major Junior that are playing Junior A at an elite level with and against the best players in their age group," said Oke.
"This year promises to be even more exciting. I think the calibre of teams at the tournament may be a little stronger."
So, what will Oke be looking for when he attends the final four days?
"Certainly you want to see the players that can skate," he answered. "In today's game you have to be able to skate to compete. And then there's that word compete. You want to see the players who are out there working hard every shift.
"It's a unique tournament because the players, especially from the Canadian teams, aren't familiar with one another and are probably playing with each other for the first time.
"It's interesting to watch and see how they're able to mesh and gel together. If they can do that and have some success, it speaks well for not only their skill level, but their mental make-up as well."
Players well aware
The players are well aware of the scouts' presence and just try to focus on the ice, said Boston Bruins' first-round draft pick Joe Colborne, who had seven points (3-4) for Canada West in 2007.
"Our coaches did a good job of keeping us focused," said Colborne. "When it was going on you weren't really too worried about it because you just want to win that gold medal.
"A few days after (the tournament), I sat back, thought about it and there was a great representation from almost every (NHL) team there. There were some GMs, some directors of player personnel and it was just a great opportunity, for not just me but quite a few guys, to get their name out there."
by Jason Simmonds - Summerside Journal Pioneer