“I know, I know you’ve heard this before, ya it’s Petr Klima’s helmet again. I wanna ask ya folks, does this thing not look like a garbage can or WHAT!?” Don Cherry, Rock’em Sock’em 3. That’s what I think of when I talk about the Oilers. Now this piece isn’t necessarily on the Oilers, but a lot of it is referencing the Oilers.
What the point is here is my view’s on players have high end IQ. How much the interview matters and how much marks in school matter when looking at drafting players. I don’t think those things matter much to most people. I think most fans could care less, I think a lot of scouts could care less, and I think there are some organizations that just don’t care. I would if I were scouting, or in management, or running a team. I would care A LOT.
One of the first pieces I ever wrote was on my theory of how to scout defensemen. They are very difficult to project at 18, and I was trying to think of ways to limit the misses that teams have on them. I came up with 4 keys to look at and at the top of the list was IQ. I still believe that. If a D-man can think at a high level and skate, he’ll be ok. If he has size in addition to all that he’ll likely be a top 4 guy. And finally if he has an edge to his game on top of all that, he’ll have a chance to be elite.
Now obviously that isn’t the case for everyone. And I’m not suggesting that scouts go look for players at med schools. But I’m talking about with real draft prospects. In the CHL and NCAA a players high end talent can really separate him from other players. But when you get to the NHL, most are on the same talent level. And with the play so fast, you need to be able to make good snap decisions.
Also I don’t think it is vital for every player. For wingers I wouldn’t worry about it as much. Their roles are much simpler than a center or a D-man. Same with goaltenders. I’m not saying that it can’t help at all, but I just wouldn’t consider it to be as vital.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. The Oilers are about to draft Connor McDavid if you have yet to hear. McDavid on Saturday was named CHL scholastic player of the year for the 2nd straight season. WHAT?! So this kid who has every single reason to blow off school knowing he is about to be a superstar making millions in the NHL, is the scholastic player of the year in the CHL…2 years running. He doesn’t need any more positives, but for me that is definitely a big one.
Josh Morrissey won it in 2013, is a stud prospect. The OHL winner from that year? Darnell Nurse. Which was one of the big reasons I was so high on Nurse going into that draft.
Of course players don’t have to win scholastic player of the year awards to be smart, I’m just using it as an example here because the award shows how smart some of these guys are. I don’t have access to everyone’s grades in school, but I would hope a lot of scouts and GM’s would.
And it isn’t all based on grades, but how do they interview. The tipping point for me with Nurse wasn’t when I heard he won OHL scholastic player of the year. For me it was when he did Coaches Corner along with Nathan McKinnon, Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin prior to the draft. Nurse jumped out as a kid who was relaxed in that situation and could answer the questions not just quickly but intelligently.
Watch or listen to Nurse get interviewed, then go watch or listen to Jay Bouwmeester get interviewed and it isn’t hard to see why Jay, while a very good top pairing D-man, never became the best defenseman in the world like many projected him to be. In junior he could dominate without that high end intelligence. In the pro’s he’s been limited without it.
You can’t just simply look at someone’s marks in school or a wonderlic test to tell how intelligent someone is, the interview has to check out. Some guys just test really well, and when it comes to real life can’t think it the same way.
This leads me to a really deep sleeper in this years draft, you may have just watched him play Sunday and that is Joe Gatenby of the Kelowna Rockets. He isn’t that big (6’0, 176), but he can and will put on more weight. He skates well, but isn’t an elite skater. Again, something that he can and likely will improve. His shot is pretty good when he has time, but he has to work on it. He is positionally inconsistent but that is not unlike 99% of guys being drafted. Nothing sexy. Ranked 176th just in North America by CSS. He was not invited to the combine on Friday. What jumps off the page to me is that he was the runner up for WHL scholastic player of the year, and was voted the WHL’s hardest working player. He doesn’t have a major flaw such as being far too small or far too slow that can’t be overcome. So do you really think THAT kid won’t work his ass off to improve? He also has been stuck behind some really high end D-men playing in Kelowna. It’s tough to improve your game when you don’t see much ice. If the interview with Gatenby checked out, I would be taking him in rounds 5-7.
Look at the New England Patriots. Always have a high IQ team. San Antonio Spurs. Always have a high IQ team. Detroit Red Wings. Always have a high IQ team. St. Louis Cardinals. Always have a high IQ team. Chicago Blackhawks, L.A. Kings, on and on and on. It isn’t fool proof, nothing in sports is. You will get the odd kid who is extremely intelligent and talented and for whatever reason won’t pan out. And your team of high IQ guys won’t win every year. There will be down seasons.
But look at how for example the Leafs are built on the other hand. Does Dion Phaneuf strike you as a really high IQ guy? Nazem Kadri? I’m not saying they’re stupid guys at all, but I am saying they don’t have that elite level of intelligence which winning teams possess in key positions like center and defense. And hockey is a game in which you need to make good decisions quickly. So it might be more vital in hockey than any other sport. I’m sure some will say that you don’t have time to think, but I just completely disagree with that notion.
I guess the point of all this is that I believe IQ is a talent, that seemingly rarely gets looked at in the scouting community or by the media and likely not even by some teams. But I believe that if you look to build with highly intelligent players that it will pay off. And so for a team like the Oilers who are about to draft McDavid, have Darnell Nurse, and another kid in Leon Draisaitl who when interviewed jumps out as an incredibly intelligent kid, sure should/when they start winning it’ll be because they have a lot of talent. But the intelligence could be that extra factor that puts them a step above teams down the line.
Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups