Håkan Andersson, scout extraordinaire

By Zoran Manojlovic

Håkan Andersson, a scout with the Detroit Red Wings for the last 15 years, sat down with Hockey’s Future this week at the Malmö Isstadion in Sweden to talk about his approach to his work, where he’s done well, and where he’d like to do better.

Lucky, hardworking guy

Andersson landed with the Red Wings in the early 90’s through a recommendation.

“Christer Rockström, who was the scout for the Red Wings at the time, moved to the New York Rangers. The Red Wings asked him if he had someone in Sweden who could take his job, and Christer recommended me.”

To be a successful NHL scout, you have to have great passion for the game, and Andersson definitely does.

“It’s a very exciting job,” he said. “I love working with the ranking lists for the draft. At times I have trouble sleeping, thinking about the list and which players to move up and which down. Plus, I don’t mind having the summer off,” he added with a smile.

But there’s a flipside as well.

“The trips can at times be very demanding. Especially if you plan a trip to see someone in particular, and you take a 4-5 hour drive and then find out that the player isn’t dressed for the game. It’s also tough to be away from your family on long road trips.”

Andersson is pretty much on the road all the time, seeing about 200 games a season. “Sometimes more and sometimes a bit less, but mostly around 200 games.”

He has two more scouts to help him in Europe — one in Russia who also does Belarus, as well as a guy who lives in Prague, Czech Republic scouting Central Europe and doing some crossover scouting in Russia.

Successful drafting

Andersson has drafted many good players throughout his 15-year long scouting career, but one player in particular has a special place in his heart.

“Tomas Holmström,” he said. “I saw him the first time with the national team selection camp with the players born in 1973. There were several other big time prospects such as Peter Forsberg and Markus Näslund to name a few. He was very small at the time, just about 5’10 and about 175 Ibs. He worked hard at the camp, but didn’t make the team.

“The year after, I talked with a buddy of mine, Niklas Wikegård, who was coaching Boden (the team where Holmström played) at the time if he had any good youngsters. He told me that his best player was a youngster. I went and saw Holmström play and we ended up picking him in the 10th round that year,” Andersson said.

He has a few more personal favorites.

“Henrik Zetterberg, he’s just a really nice, cool guy,” he said. “Then you have Niklas Kronwall, who is my hometown guy and a great kid. Pavel Datsyuk is also a really funny guy once you get to know him. He really loves to joke around.”

Andersson doesn’t have a perfect record when it comes to projecting talent, but of course no one in the scouting world does.

“Johan Forsander is one guy who I believed in but who didn’t pan out the way I predicted,” he noted. “He was the captain of the Swedish WJC team and also played with the Sedin twins. He did have some injuries that slowed him down, but he definitely didn’t turn out the way I predicted.”

Humble person

The lack of first round picks for the Red Wings has been a bit frustrating at times, but in the end the Stanley Cup success is the main goal for the organization.

“Well, it would have been nice to have a top-10 pick once in a while and have a shot at guys like Alexander Ovechkin,” Andersson conceded.

“But, as a winning team we are prepared for a draft with low round picks. In the end the Stanley Cup wins are the ultimate joy,” he added with a big smile.

Andersson is a very humble person who doesn’t take a lot of credit for his draft picks and the hype that surrounds him at times. When asked about why he has had more success than other European scouts, he was quick to reply.

“I don’t think that I have had more success that most of the other guys. If you look at guys like Christer Rockström (New York Rangers) and Inge Hammarström (Philadelphia Flyers), they have hade more guys playing in the NHL than what I have,” he said.

He also praised the work of all of the people in the Detroit Red Wings organization.

“Ken Holland and Jim Nill have done a tremendous job throughout the years,” he said. “We have four full-time scouts in the North America and we all get along very well. That is one of the main reasons behind our success in drafting.”

65-70 players make the final list

Despite having tremendous success in drafting, Andersson is far from a complete scout. When asked about what position is the hardest to scout, he was quick with answer.

“Goalies, definitely! I still don’t have a clue when it comes down to goalies. I’ve spoken to our goalie coach (Jim Bedard) and asked him about what to look for in a goalie, but still it’s very tough to project a young goalie. Obviously, guys like Kari Lehtonen are easy to scout, but the lower range goalies are tough to crack.”

Andersson needs more than just one game to paint a good picture of a prospect and project his future. But he doesn’t want to see the player too often either.

“It depends,” he explained. “Usually it takes about two to three games. One game is not much to go on since the player could have the best or worst game of his career. But you don’t want to see a guy more than 10 times either. If you do, then there is a big risk that you’ll start picking on the player’s minor weaknesses.”

In the end he narrows down his list to about 65-70 players from Europe for the draft.

“On that list I have all the players that I like and see as potential future NHL players, regardless of their age,” he said.

“Later on, before the draft, we get another list for the North American prospects and then combine a final list of 60 prospects,” he said.

Although the timing of the next draft is in question, the hunt for future NHL stars continues.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.