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Waterloo Black Hawks' scouts got the job done despite COVID restrictions

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WATERLOO – In a lot of ways it was not business as usual the past year for the Waterloo Black Hawks scouting personnel.

Then again, it had to be business as usual for the Black Hawks’ General Manger and Associate Head Coach Shane Fukushima’s scouting staff. “It was different, but we were still able to get out and see a lot of players,” said Bryn Chyzyk who is based out of Minneapolis. “You had to sign up in advance to be able to come and a lot of venues limited how many people could get in. There were challenges, but we got in to see as many kids as we could.” For Matt Grainda and Andrew Weiss, scouts based out of Indianapolis, their two primary scouting regions – Chicago and Detroit – were shut down for much of the scouting season. That forced Grainda and Weiss to stay alert and have a bag packed to be able to leave on short-noticed. “Most of those cities were closed down with COVID restrictions,” Grainda said. “It was a lot of travel to…I wouldn’t call them non-hockey markets, but a lot of showcases are held in Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago or Boston and this year they were all shutdown.

“So this year we scouted games in Northern Indiana, in Ohio, games in Texas and games in Florida. It was just was going out there and trying to find where everything was taken place.” A lot of times Grainda and Weiss would learn of tournaments that were quickly thrown together between different organizations days before they were to take place. “For us the most challenging part was being flexible with things popping up randomly,” Weiss said. “Being flexible was the hard part, but it was just good to be able to watch hockey. Because we didn’t know how much we were going to be able to watch with COVID shutting places down. “Chicago and Detroit are Matt and I’s bread and butter areas and those were shut down for a large part of the season.” Weiss said he and his fellow scouts were in constant communication with Fukushima and the entire team got together at midseason to compare notes.

“We made it work and I think we all did a good job of it,” Weiss said. “I think we got just about as many viewings as in normal times it was just a little bit more challenging. Chyzyk is in his first year with the Black Hawks’ scouting department, while Grainda just completed his third season and it is year four for Weiss. Chyzyk along with Fukushima canvasses Minnesota and neighboring states while Grainda’s territory stretches into Canada and Weiss does a little bit of everywhere. The efforts of Fukushima and his staff were on display the Wednesday and Thursday when the Black Hawks selected 26 players in Phase I and II of the United States Hockey League draft. Phase I limits teams to drafting players whose birthdate was 2005. Many of those players land on Waterloo’s affiliate list and are one to three years from joining the Black Hawks. Phase II allows teams to select players born between 2001 and 2005. Wednesday, Waterloo dipped into a fertile recruiting ground to grab forward Joseph Willis from the Chicago Mission. The Mission program has produced current Black Hawks’ Wyatt Schingoethe, Nic Belpedio and Jonah Copre. Eight of the 10 players Waterloo took Wednesday were forwards including David Klee of Colorado Thunderbirds. Klee is the younger brother of former Black Hawk Garrett Klee, who played for Waterloo from 2016-18. Defenseman Jonathan Lanza and goalie Aiden Hopewell were the other two picks. Thursday, addressing more immediate needs, the Black Hawks went with Boston University commit Jeremy Wilmer, a forward, with the third overall pick. Wilmer played last season for the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. In 49 USHL games, Wilmer had eight goals and 22 assists. The next four picks included three defensemen and goalie Patrik Hamrla of the Czech Republic. Hamrla is ranked third among NHL draft-eligible European goalies. “I think we are fortunate with our three guys who are professional, honest and have integrity,” Black Hawks’ President and Head Coach P.K. O’Handley said. “I think they really work at their craft. We had a tough year and we are looking forward and I think our group in a difficult scouting year has done a pretty good job of identifying what we want as much in a hockey player but in character, too.” Over the 24-36 hours that detailed the two days of the draft, O’Handley said feels the scouting staff did a tremendous job. “Phase I has become so important,”O’Handley said. “They are important on their draft day. Next year we are going to see the Owen Bakers, Tucker Shedd’s and you forget we drafted them a year ago, two years ago. That is an important piece to the whole thing. Your affiliate list has become extremely important. “I think we did well in Phase I yesterday. I think the organization set up future with the affiliate list we have now and the 10 players we added. I think there is a good base there for two or three years to come.” In Phase II, O’Handley said the organization was looking for a little bit of everything. “I think we were looking at like we always do is if we can upgrade a position we are going to upgrade,” O’Handley said. “Wilmer is a good player, obviously. Played in the league and certainly is a guy we think can come in and be an impactful player. “I just think our group, led by Shane, has an understanding of what we are trying to do today and so far it is coming together pretty good.”

WATERLOO – In a lot of ways it was not business as usual the past year for the Waterloo Black Hawks scouting personnel.

Then again, it had to be business as usual for the Black Hawks’ General Manger and Associate Head Coach Shane Fukushima’s scouting staff.

“It was different, but we were still able to get out and see a lot of players,” said Bryn Chyzyk who is based out of Minneapolis. “You had to sign up in advance to be able to come and a lot of venues limited how many people could get in. There were challenges, but we got in to see as many kids as we could.”

For Matt Grainda and Andrew Weiss, scouts based out of Indianapolis, their two primary scouting regions – Chicago and Detroit – were shut down for much of the scouting season.

That forced Grainda and Weiss to stay alert and have a bag packed to be able to leave on short-noticed.

“Most of those cities were closed down with COVID restrictions,” Grainda said. “It was a lot of travel to…I wouldn’t call them non-hockey markets, but a lot of showcases are held in Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago or Boston and this year they were all shutdown.

“So this year we scouted games in Northern Indiana, in Ohio, games in Texas and games in Florida. It was just was going out there and trying to find where everything was taken place.”

A lot of times Grainda and Weiss would learn of tournaments that were quickly thrown together between different organizations days before they were to take place.

“For us the most challenging part was being flexible with things popping up randomly,” Weiss said. “Being flexible was the hard part, but it was just good to be able to watch hockey. Because we didn’t know how much we were going to be able to watch with COVID shutting places down.

“Chicago and Detroit are Matt and I’s bread and butter areas and those were shut down for a large part of the season.”

Weiss said he and his fellow scouts were in constant communication with Fukushima and the entire team got together at midseason to compare notes.

“We made it work and I think we all did a good job of it,” Weiss said. “I think we got just about as many viewings as in normal times it was just a little bit more challenging.

Chyzyk is in his first year with the Black Hawks’ scouting department, while Grainda just completed his third season and it is year four for Weiss.

Chyzyk along with Fukushima canvasses Minnesota and neighboring states while Grainda’s territory stretches into Canada and Weiss does a little bit of everywhere.

The efforts of Fukushima and his staff were on display the Wednesday and Thursday when the Black Hawks selected 26 players in Phase I and II of the United States Hockey League draft.

Phase I limits teams to drafting players whose birthdate was 2005. Many of those players land on Waterloo’s affiliate list and are one to three years from joining the Black Hawks.

Phase II allows teams to select players born between 2001 and 2005.

Wednesday, Waterloo dipped into a fertile recruiting ground to grab forward Joseph Willis from the Chicago Mission. The Mission program has produced current Black Hawks’ Wyatt Schingoethe, Nic Belpedio and Jonah Copre.

Eight of the 10 players Waterloo took Wednesday were forwards including David Klee of Colorado Thunderbirds. Klee is the younger brother of former Black Hawk Garrett Klee, who played for Waterloo from 2016-18.

Defenseman Jonathan Lanza and goalie Aiden Hopewell were the other two picks.

Thursday, addressing more immediate needs, the Black Hawks went with Boston University commit Jeremy Wilmer, a forward, with the third overall pick.

Wilmer played last season for the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. In 49 USHL games, Wilmer had eight goals and 22 assists.

The next four picks included three defensemen and goalie Patrik Hamrla of the Czech Republic. Hamrla is ranked third among NHL draft-eligible European goalies.

“I think we are fortunate with our three guys who are professional, honest and have integrity,” Black Hawks’ President and Head Coach P.K. O’Handley said. “I think they really work at their craft. We had a tough year and we are looking forward and I think our group in a difficult scouting year has done a pretty good job of identifying what we want as much in a hockey player but in character, too.”

Over the 24-36 hours that detailed the two days of the draft, O’Handley said feels the scouting staff did a tremendous job.

“Phase I has become so important,”O’Handley said. “They are important on their draft day. Next year we are going to see the Owen Bakers, Tucker Shedd’s and you forget we drafted them a year ago, two years ago. That is an important piece to the whole thing. Your affiliate list has become extremely important.

“I think we did well in Phase I yesterday. I think the organization set up future with the affiliate list we have now and the 10 players we added. I think there is a good base there for two or three years to come.”

In Phase II, O’Handley said the organization was looking for a little bit of everything.

“I think we were looking at like we always do is if we can upgrade a position we are going to upgrade,” O’Handley said. “Wilmer is a good player, obviously. Played in the league and certainly is a guy we think can come in and be an impactful player.

“I just think our group, led by Shane, has an understanding of what we are trying to do today and so far it is coming together pretty good.”

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