Prospect Ramblings: What FC Barcelona Taught Me About Scouting, Coaching/Tactics and Player Development

Hadi Kalakeche

2022-02-15

Welcome to my ramblings, where I’ll be writing down my thoughts on NHL and draft-eligible prospects once a week. I’ll be using the ramblings to keep you posted on the week’s events, or let you in on some questions I ask myself often regarding prospects, amateur scouting and player development.

I’ve been wanting to sit down and write about this subject for quite some time. Growing up, I split my time evenly between living in Lebanon and in Quebec, and our extended family have been fans of FC Barcelona for longer than I’ve been alive. One of my first memories as a child was sitting in front of a small, grainy TV and watching 17-year-old Lionel Messi score his first professional goal, off a brilliant lob pass from Ronaldinho.

Then, when going to Lebanon every summer and winter wasn’t as financially viable anymore and my family settled permanently in Canada, I discovered hockey. It was in 2007-2008; I was scrolling through channels trying to find something to watch and stumbled upon a Habs-Red Wings game, and the moment I landed on that channel, Pavel Datsyuk got the puck, dangled through the entire Habs defense and just barely got stopped by (I think) Cristobal Huet.

It was love at first sight. I had found my Lionel Messi, the player who would shape the way I watch, think and play the game moving forward. Somehow, like a true masochist, I ended up cheering for the local team which got their rear handed to them by the Wings, but that was the moment that led me down the path I am on today, writing these lines.

Enough backstory, though. I want to share with you the core principles I carry over from my time watching the glory days of FC Barcelona, while also showing the core differences between soccer and hockey. The influences on the way I scout and watch the game are threefold: first we’ll discuss what I look for in elite prospects, then we’ll talk about coaching and hockey tactics, and finally I’ll mention the player development elements which are at the core of my hockey philosophy.

Scouting: Lionel Messi, Pavel Datsyuk, Connor Bedard — Control the Chaos, Control the Game

When I watched Lionel Messi dribble for the first time, it truly seemed like he could see everything slowly, even at full speed, and would never be able to lose the ball. When I watched Pavel Datsyuk dangle for the first time, I had that same impression. The small ways in which they both managed to use their entire bodies to shield, cut, fake and wiggle their way through defenders, shaped the way I scout prospects to this day.

Control the chaos, and you control the game.

Especially in a sport as high-paced and chaotic as hockey, being able to read opponents and defensive formations quickly, and select the right play at the right time to free up even a second or an inch of time and space, is the difference between the great and the legendary.

Connor Bedard gives me those vibes.

The way he manipulates and exploits his opponents’ ankles, the way he reads plays at full-speed and reacts appropriately depending on what’s ahead of him, and the way he can be a threat from any distance, make him a truly exceptional forward.

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