Scouts keep eye out for diamond in the rough

DARREN FRIESEN, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

They're a staple at the Mac's midget hockey tournament.

Every year, without fail, mixed amongst the many fans and family are the hordes of junior and college scouts.

They come from far away and just down the street but they're always here, searching and scribbling, desperately trying to find that unknown needle in a haystack.

Keith Wilson is one of the many talent spotters who uses the Mac's every holiday season to update his list of potential prospects.

Wilson, who's been attending the Mac's since Day 1, plies his trade for the WHL's Swift Current Broncos.

"I think every Western Hockey League team has minimum two or three scouts that come to this tournament," said Wilson, who was sporting a shiner on his right eye after he was hit by a puck while sitting in the stands Tuesday.

"I would say that every junior-A team in Western Canada has someone stop by here, too, and there's an awful lot of college guys that swing by, as well."

In the 29 years Wilson has been scouting for the WHL, he's seen a lot of good hockey players come through the mac's.

The Calgary-based scout said while the talent of the teams varies from year to year, the level of individual performance never ceases to amaze him.

"There's a lot of boys who fall through the cracks," said Wilson. "Take Jeff Friesen and Jarome Iginla for instance. Those guys were never drafted (into the WHL) but they turned out to be pretty good hockey players.

"That's what's good about the Mac's. Some players who have slipped through the cracks will play against good teams and get discovered and they'll get signed."

As journeyman at this tournament, Wilson recalls its beginnings fondly.

"When it started off way back when there was really nothing like it around, especially out west," he said.

"There was always tournaments out in Ontario and Quebec but there was really nothing out west.

"It's now one of the major tournaments, maybe in the world, for midget hockey.


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