Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Great story on my pal David McNab...

From CBC

Going to school
Smart scouting paying dividends for Ducks

Doug Harrison, CBC Sports
Seeking another diamond in the rough, Anaheim Ducks assistant general manager David McNab packed his bags early in the 2003-04 hockey season.

He wasn't heading for the junior leagues in Canada, or to scout elite squads in Sweden, Russia or the Czech Republic. Instead, he was leaving for the University of Maine, one of a host of U.S. colleges McNab sees as fertile ground for future stars.

While scouting the Black Bears, McNab was intrigued by the play of six-foot-four, 230-pound freshman Dustin Penner. After the game, McNab picked the brain of old friend Grant Standbrook, an assistant coach at Maine.

"Grant told me about Dustin, that he found him at a summer evaluation camp in Saskatoon in 2002," McNab told CBC Sports Online. "I said, 'he's a pretty good player.' I think he wished I hadn't said as much, but I was actually there looking at someone else."

McNab returned to Anaheim and raved to then-Ducks GM Bryan Murray about Penner, a left-winger who went unnoticed in the NHL Entry Draft a few years earlier.

About three months later McNab signed Penner, one of 11 players to skate for the Ducks this season who had played some U.S. college hockey.

In his first full NHL season this year, Penner scored 29 goals and 45 points skating on the Ducks' second scoring line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He has added five points and a plus-2 rating in 18 playoff games.

While Penner has been the poster boy for Anaheim’s philosophy to sign undrafted college players, linemates Chris Kunitz and Andy McDonald have made key contributions in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup finals.

Lesser-known types such as Ryan Shannon and Ryan Carter, whom the Ducks also signed out of college in 2005 and 2006, respectively, have also been valuable additions.

Anaheim certainly isn’t the only team to go the college route, as 17 of the 30 players to play at least one game for New Jersey in 2006-07 were former collegians.

But the Ducks are gaining notoriety for scouring the college ranks, with three of their top six forwards entering the 2007 post-season having spent time in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

"We decided it was an avenue for us," said McNab, an original member of the Ducks who began his tenure in 1993 as director of player personnel. "There were always college free agents over the years – Ed Belfour, Mike Johnson and Curtis Joseph.

"We thought maybe it was a good way to get players. The draft is such a long process. You have to watch the top players and there is so much pressure to do it right, especially in the early rounds.”

In 2000, McNab and company targetted McDonald, a speedy five-foot-10 centre at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.

McNab hadn't seen the native of Strathroy, Ont., play until his senior year when he scored 25 goals and 58 points in 34 games.

"In 2000, I think Andy McDonald was not only the best free agent but the best player in college hockey," said McNab, a former goaltender at the University of Wisconsin.

McNab said NHL teams that have been successful over the years had homegrown players, a core group they developed together.

“But we didn’t go into [the college ranks] thinking, ‘let’s sign five guys and hope one makes it.’ We really didn’t feel we had to sign somebody every year,” said McNab. “If we didn’t get the player we wanted, we didn’t sign anyone.”

Alain Chainey, Anaheim’s director of amateur scouting, told CBC Sports Online that college players are attractive to teams because of their maturity.

“They go to school, practise every day within a good system and work hard off the ice,” he said.
Shannon, who collected 45 points in 38 games in his senior year at Boston College, had 11 points in 53 games in his rookie season for the Ducks.

And Carter dressed for Games 4, 5, and 6 of the Western Conference final against Detroit after posting 36 points in 76 games this year for the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.
"[Ducks coach] Randy [Carlyle] had no problem putting him on the ice [in must-win playoff games]," Chainey said. "The fact he put Ryan out there, he thought he was good enough to play [in the NHL].”

Like McDonald, Kunitz, Penner and Shannon before him, Carter wants to play for the Ducks.

"What I'm happiest about with these [college] guys is that they chose to come here," said McNab. "Anaheim wasn't their favourite team growing up, they weren't drafted here, they didn't get more money from us. They were getting the same offers from other teams.

“It was their decision and I'm happy they have had success here.”

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