NHL Central Scouting Bureau
The NHL Central Scouting Bureau or NHL Central Scouting Services (CSS) is a department within the National Hockey League that ranks prospects for the NHL Entry Draft at specific times during the hockey season. Players are ranked based on how well they will translate to the professional game in the National Hockey League. It was founded by hockey executive Jack Button in 1975 to establish a centralized database of NHL prospects. Button served as the director until 1979 and its most recent director was E.J. McGuire. The Department consists of staff at the NHL Offices in Toronto, along with eight full-time scouts, and fifteen part-time scouts throughout North America. To report on prospects playing in Europe, the NHL employs the services of Göran Stubb and his staff of six scouts at European Scouting Services based in Finland. All twenty-nine scouts reporting for Central Scouting will combine to see approximately 3000 games each year.
The full-time staff of the Central Scouting Bureau follows a checklist to assess the prospects' skillset and how it would apply to the pro game. Prospects are rated by skill as Excellent (E), Very Good (VG), Good (G), Average (A), Poor (P), or Not Applicable (NA), with different skills being emphasized amongst the different positions: forward, defenceman, and goaltender. The Bureau released the contents of the checklists to the public from their website, so anyone can evaluate players at any level of play. The rankings are compiled by numerous reviews by the professional scouts' combined opinions of the players and released as a bimonthly list.
Eligible players for the upcoming draft are ranked as North American Skaters, North American Goalies, International Skaters, or International Goalies. The players fit under the North American or International player based on where they train. For example, the Czech forward, Jakub Voracek was ranked as a North American prospect, because he played with the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. A current example is Finnish defenceman Olli Maatta who is sixth on the North American ranks, as he plays for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
There are multiple times that the rankings come out during a year. Notably, the midterm rankings come out after the IIHF World Junior Championships and performance in the tournament greatly elevates draft status. In early April, after all junior and European seasons are completed, the final rankings are released.
- Jack Button: 1975-1979
- Jim Gregory: 1979-1992
- Frank Bonello: 1992-2005
- E. J. McGuire: 2005-2011
- Dan Marr: 2011–present