Q&A with Tim Manastersky, Head Ontario Scout

After Jess Cameron was hired as the Director of Women’s Hockey in May of 2016, she began her international search for qualified scouts to build the women’s scouting team. Of the eight-member scouting team, Tim Manastersky was hired as Neutral Zone’s Head Ontario scout, in charge of staffing, coordination, and reporting for the entire region.


Tim has a wealth of experience on both the men’s and women’s side of the game and is the only member of the Neutral Zone team to have scouted both genders. He has been, and will continue to be, a major part of Neutral Zone’s coverage of the highest producing province/state of NCAA DI female hockey players.


“Our entire organization revolves around an intelligent and hardworking scouting staff,” said Steve Wilk, Neutral Zone President. “It’s crucial to employ the highest caliber scouts in order to provide the best possible product.”


“Tim brings a mature and reliable role to the region of Ontario,” added Jess Cameron, Director of Women’s Hockey. “His work is clean and I can see the growth in his reports each time. Tim has an excellent handle on each tier of female players and is committed to producing the most accurate reports possible.”


Neutral Zone caught up with Tim to ask him a few questions about his experiences and his current scouting techniques.


1.What got you interested in coaching to begin with? Where did you begin your coaching career?


Like so many others with some playing experience I became interested in coaching when my son started playing. After watching his first ice sessions with the inexperienced, volunteer coaches, I thought, “I can do better than that!” It didn’t take long to realize that there is more to coaching than blowing a whistle and changing lines. I took a couple of levels of the coaching certification course and got hooked.


I made a decision to return to university to complete my degree and at that time I approached the coach of the York University men’s hockey team (who happened to be my instructor for the coaching courses) to see if there was a volunteer position available, and there was. I took a few more coaching courses, attended a couple of coaching conferences and soon became a coaching certification course conductor (NCCP) and program instructor for the university’s “Hockey 101” course.


2. Walk us through your coaching path. How did you end up going from men’s to women’s?


After the first year with the men’s program I was asked to run a weekly skills session with the women’s team and two years later the women’s head coach left and the athletic director approached me to take over as coach. I assumed the head coaching duties and remained an assistant with the men’s program. Eventually, a new multi-pad arena was built on campus, and, coincidently, women’s hockey across the country exploded. I ultimately left the men’s program to concentrate on women’s hockey.


As a college head coach, many opportunities exist to become involved with hockey activities, coaching national and provincial development teams, guest coaching at evaluation camps, evaluating future prospects, presenting at coaching clinics, and of course scouting and recruiting for your own program. I was fortunate to have spent time with the head scout of the National Women’s Team and when I eventually left the hockey program at York University I spent a few years as a regional scout for the National Women’s Team.


3. Being the only scout on the Neutral Zone staff that has scouted both men and women, what is different about scouting women?


I don’t think there is a difference between scouting men and women – the game has some differences but you are still evaluating players to determine their ability to play at the next level and beyond.


4. What do you look for in a player?


Depending on the purpose of a scouting assignment – finding a particular player for a particular team, evaluating for a specific opportunity (e.g. an all-star selection) or evaluating for the benefit of a third party, like here at Neutral Zone, there may be differences to my approach, however, in all cases there are some common traits that I look for: Skating, does the player have the speed, agility, power to perform at the next level? Do they have individual puck skill, control, protection and puck management ability? How do they use their skills to contribute to offensive, defensive and special team play? Do they play responsibly, what’s their fitness level, do they engage in 1 on 1 battles, what’s their level of compete, work ethic, and emotional control?


5. Has the game changed from when you were coaching? If so, how?


Having been away from the women’s game for quite some time (other than watching the elite on television), I can say for sure that the women’s game has changed dramatically since my former involvement. The leagues, organizations, teams, coaching, skill development and future playing opportunities have improved so much that I’m sure most of today’s Midget AA teams could outperform many college teams of the mid-90’s!


6. With your son playing NCAA and now coaching, and you having coached CIS, can you give us your perspective on both and the value in each of these post-secondary options?


This is a question that has so many variables that come into the equation. In my case on the men’s side, I’ve coached in the CIS, scouted Major Jr. hockey for CIS schools and I’ve scouted Jr. A (tier II) hockey for both CIS and NCAA schools.  On the women’s side, I’ve scouted for CIS schools, scouted Canadian players playing in NCAA for the national program, and am now scouting both Canadian and American players for both CIS and NCAA teams.


From the players’ perspective, the variables include, opportunity, academics, hockey program, future playing opportunities, college experience and the big one, cost! There are athletic scholarships, academic scholarships, bursaries and awards, financial aid and government assistance. Many of these “incentives” are available on both sides of the border, but not all are available to all student athletes. So, the difference between the CIS and NCAA is really an individual determination.


I believe that there is a “right fit” for each athlete and only the athlete and her family can determine where that fit is.


7. You’ve been involved in the hockey world for a long time. What advice would you give to new scouts?


As a scout today, there are two situations you’ll find yourself in: individual games and tournament scouting. Some tournaments have dozens of teams at different levels where you will only see partial games, while other tournaments have fewer teams and you’ll see full games and see each team more than once. In any case, there are some common techniques I use in all scouting situations. If you have access, prepare for each team/game by checking stats or other scouting reports. It speeds up the evaluating process if you have a predetermined starting point. Usually this information is not available at tournaments, so I use the people who know the most about the team to help. If you can speak to the coach beforehand great, if not (which is usually the case), watch the start of the game closely, who started, which players are up next, who’s wearing the C and A’s. In many cases the better players will wear the letters and /or play on the first or second unit in any game. I find this to be a good starting place.

Next, here are a few tips on how I try to attack a game at a tournament:

  1. Trust your instincts, rate players quickly, you can revise and/or add notes as the game proceeds.
  2. Be consistent with the language in your note taking (helps when writing reports for submission).
  3. They can be hard to use at tournaments, but whenever possible, use an evaluation form.
  4. Look for game situation opportunities to see the best players in specific roles or playing against each other. This will help with comparative evaluations.
  5. Whenever possible, rank the players against a known quantity – a top player you are familiar with or a consistent standard you’ve used. At some point you’ll have to determine if the best player on team A is better than the best on team B or a player from a different league is better than either!!