Dipping into the college free agent pool
CALGARY, AB -- On more than one occasion, Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster has noted the need to bolster his prospect pool. The most obvious response to this is drafting well through all seven rounds of the NHL Draft and that is the best way to stock the cupboards.
However, there are other methods to accomplish this goal and this past season, the organization began to add to their depth chart by becoming more competitive in the pursuit of college free agents.
Feaster hired Frank Anzalone as the Flames NCAA scout last summer so the team could have regular, comprehensive scouting reports on college players and his work over the course of the season has allowed the team to get a good read on individuals they feel would fit within the organization.
"It's been really competitive," said Tod Button, director of amateur scouting. "Before Frank, if we wanted to go see a college guy, we'd pull (scout) Tom Webster and say, 'Webby, go watch this guy.' You couldn't really build a solid book on him with a viewing or two viewings. I don't want to say it's guessing because you have good scouts and they can evaluate but you don't have the time needed."
There is a fair amount of groundwork involved in scouting and signing college free agents. In addition to creating profiles, teams have to figure out which players will be leaving school at the end of season, whether it be because they have completed their degree or if they would like to explore other avenues in their career.
After that, teams begin to make initial contact with the coaches, agents, family advisers and players.
"We're always very respectful of the coaches," Feaster said of the Flames approach. "We take the position that we will never tell a player, 'You ought to come out.' If there's a guy who is saying, 'Hey, I'm thinking of coming out at the end of my junior year,' or whatever the case may be, we'll tell you where we are on you - we like you, we think you can play, here's how we see you.
"But we're not going to say to you, 'Sign now.' Some teams do. Some teams will go in and offer a contract - 'Sign right now. If you don't sign right now, you're wasting your time.' I don't think that's in our place to do that. The young man and his family ought to make that decision, along with the input from the family adviser."
With the market heating up, landing college free agents takes much more than having a good scout in place. More often than not, teams are going head-to-head as they try to sign players.
"The agents have done a great job at making sure there is competition for these players," Button told CalgaryFlames.com. "Making sure every team knows who is interested and who they are competing against. So there's a recruiting element to it and there's a scouting element to it."
This year, the Flames signed forward David Eddy after he decided he would leave St. Cloud State. They also inked Calgary product Brady Lamb, who spent the last four years patrolling the blueline at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Both suited up for the Abbotsford Heat at the end of the regular season.
Feaster is pleased with what the Flames have been able to accomplish this season and is optimistic about the team's chances of securing high-end players from the college market in the future.
"What you hope is, as a highly sought-after guy narrows his choices, you want a place at the table.
"That's where we were successful this year."