“I do feel like we’re paying the price for running relatively lean in our scouting department.”
The above quote (per Fox Sports Arizona) was from former Coyotes GM Don Maloney back in 2014, talking about how the club’s ownership issues — and, subsequently, his limited budget — resulted in a patchwork, skeleton scouting staff, and bad draft results.
Two years later, Maloney was fired. His replacement, John Chayka, has since set about correcting one of the major issues that plagued his predecessor. Especially in Europe.
“Almost a quarter of the league is now from European countries,” Chayka said of his bolstered scouting department, per Arizona Sports. “It’s gotten more and more competitive to find good players; NHL players.
“For us, this was something we wanted to invest in heavily.”
Though Maloney was able to reap some benefits from the Anthony LeBlanc-led ownership takeover four years ago, he was also saddled with the results of the previous regime. Per Fox Sports, prior to LeBlanc’s arrival the Coyotes had no scouts covering college free agents, and just a single European scout based in the Czech Republic.
He was responsible for covering the entire continent.
Now, compare that to what Chayka’s got in place:
Arizona has five European-based scouts. Thomas Carlsson is based in Sweden; Sergei Kuznetsov is based in Russia; Max Kolu is based in Finland; Robert Neuhauser is based in the Czech Republic and European Player Development Coach Brett Stewart is based in Norway. Those five scouts also canvas other hockey-playing European nations such as Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia and the Baltic States.
In addition, Chayka takes several trips to Europe for scouting purposes (he attended the IIHF World Championship) and Chayka estimated that Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt is in Europe “every five to six weeks” to evaluate talent.
The bolstered staff seems to be paying off.
Earlier this week, the Coyotes made a splash by signing veteran KHL forward Mario Kempe to a one-year deal. Kempe, 28, was a former Flyers draft pick that’s spent most of his pro career playing in Russia and his native Sweden. He 14 goals and 34 points in 56 games this year for KHL club Vityaz Podolsk.