This is EJ McGuire during his time as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers. McGuire passed away today, leaving a void in the hockey world’s draft process. His "draft profiles" were a handy item for fans and media alike, and for those who follow the NHL’s draft process year round McGuire was the point man on each winter’s best young talents.
When I started doing Nation Radio every Saturday on Team 1260 radio, I had a "wish list" of guests that included bloggers, sports reporters and media men. One of the few actual hockey personalities that interested me was EJ McGuire, the director of Central Scouting. McGuire—after an impressive coaching career—had become the face of central scouting, giving draft fans like me an annual thumb nail sketch of each prospect.
He served an invaluable service, as it is impossible for anyone to gain accurate knowledge about all prospects in a given season. I interviewed Mr. McGuire on March 19 for Oilers Nation Radio (interview is here) and we talked about the 1987 Stanley Cup final (won by the Oilers in 7 games) in which he was an assistant coach for the Flyers.
McGuire’s look at this year’s draft gave us an idea that the top of the draft is very strong. He told me "I think both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sean Couturier will play in the National Hockey League next season" and "at the top it could be any one of seven players" and "you can’t lose at number one through four this season". He had an ability to create excitement about the draft even in the middle of the winter when most of us are following the regular season closely. The business of NHL drafts boomed during his time as director of CSB, and much of it came from McGuire’s ability to paint a picture.
McGuire did not possess the smoothness of a Mel Kiper when it came to delivering sound bites about a draft class, but his sincerity and passion was obvious in every interview he gave about a prospect. I imagine the needs of media will dictate a new "face of the draft" appears in short order, but it’s unlikely the new hire will do as well at capturing the imagination of the viewer/reader.
EJ McGuire may have fallen into a terrific gig—the increased coverage of the NHL draft has reached the point where networks like tsn and Sportsnet devote incredible amounts of time and energy to coverage—but it’s also true that he delivered the goods and did it credibly and with passion.
Reports I’ve read today suggest that he also had a major impact on those who knew him in the hockey community. I spoke to him exactly once, but felt I knew him and that quality is what made him special. EJ McGuire was an exceptional communicator, and hockey and those who follow the draft have lost a valued person.
There are several outstanding items worth reading with regard to EJ McGuire. Kirk Luedeke at Bruins Draft Watch has an article here; Mike Morreale talks about his life here; Shawn Roarke writes about how he impacted the game and scouting here.