When the Vancouver Giants hired Barclay Parneta in May 2018 to be their general manager, the organization knew it was getting an extensive scouting background and knowledge in player evaluation.
Parneta’s resume includes 18 years with the Tri-City Americans where he held various positions including head scout and assistant general manager, amateur scout at the NHL level, and even a three-year stint with the Giants as a scout in their first three years of existence.
Having been a part of numerous bantam drafts during his career, Parneta dubbed the 2020 draft class one of the deepest he’s seen over the years.
“In past drafts, you often sort of target one or two guys and you hope they’re still available, and if they’re not, you’re left thinking “ah, they went.” But this year’s draft was so deep and it’s such a strong age group that we were able to target a handful of guys from the same spot,” said Parneta.
“I don’t want to say it was easy, but it was way less stressful in that sense from any other draft I’ve been a part of,” he continued.
Parneta’s team made 12 selections this past Wednesday, highlighted by defenceman Mazden Leslie whom they selected 10th overall, a pick the organization was ecstatic about as many in the WHL scouting circuit had him listed as a top-8 prospect going into the draft.
These picks were in addition to the two picks Parneta made at the inaugural WHL US Bantam Draft.
The Giants GM said it was pretty shocking to have Leslie fall to them, adding he would have said you were crazy if you told him the big defender would be there at 10 this time last year after dominating Bantam as a first-year player.
Leslie played above his age group this past season, playing Midget AAA with the Lloydminster Bobcats program.
A main factor that can be attributed to the Giants landing their guy is there being no Alberta Cup this year due to COVID-19.
The Alberta Cup is an annual tournament for the province’s top under-16 players as well as the final opportunity for those players to showcase themselves before the draft.
“We wouldn’t be talking about Mazden Leslie for us to pick if there was an Alberta Cup this year,” said Parneta. “There’s no way. It’s hard to watch them in Midget. You see how smart they are and the things they can do but it’s not quite the same,” Parneta continued, referring to other players such as Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager who went second and third overall this year. He also mentioned current Kelowna Rockets defenceman and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Kaedan Korczak when speaking of players who made the transition to Midget as an underage look easy.
Parneta says it’s the unpredictable slides of players such as the Giants’ case with Leslie that makes it hard to have a concrete plan going into the draft. “When we go in, we’re looking for a certain type of player and character on and off the ice. We don’t really go in with a set plan saying we have to pick a certain position. We just let it evolve.”
General managers have many duties throughout draft day and leading up to it, including fielding trade calls, trying to contact the earlier round picks, and making sure the players are comfortable with their organization from the get-go. So it may be hard to be right in the thick of things as the draft is going on.
It’s a little different in the Giants’ war room though with Barclay Parneta’s aforementioned scouting background, citing that as his biggest strength when he was hired for the job. He is right in the trenches with Daryl Anning, Terry Bonner and the rest of his scouting staff on draft day to pick the best group of players possible.
Guys like Anning and Bonner are two major backbone pieces to the Giants’ prospect pool. They watch hundreds upon hundreds of hockey games and put in countless hours around the rink to watch future Giant hopefuls — something general managers can’t possibly do as much when they have to oversee the current team that’s being iced on a nightly basis as well.
“Geographically there’s a lot of opportunity for me to see Bantam games in Vancouver. But our season this year didn’t start off kind of the way we expected so it kind of took away from me getting into the Bantam rinks. So probably more than any other year I really had to rely on Daryl and Terry and the scouting staff because there was some kids I just wasn’t able to see this year,” Parneta explained.
He had to rely on his scouting team in a more unusual way than any other year as well with the draft being completely online this season as a part of social distancing measures. Communication and tech-savvy were more important than ever with everything being done on video conference calls or over the phone.
Parneta joked that there were members of his staff that could hardly turn on a computer prior to all of this but are now experts with Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
As different as the day was for teams, Parneta welcomed the different way of doing the draft and can see it being a permanent way of business some time in the future.
He also feels it doesn’t hinder the regular trade talks throughout the draft either.
“I honestly think it was a great format and I can see this for future bantam drafts,” he said. “I think a lot of that trade talk and interaction could happen leading up to the draft at different events like U-16 events in any province to start the talk. So I would be an advocate to do it the same way again, but maybe have a few people come into Vancouver and have a war room set up and do it from there.”
He isn’t wrong either. It would also cut travel expenses down and make it more convenient for each team to operate its draft.
To account for any potential issues, the WHL did extend the window of time for each pick to be made since this was a first time experience for a lot of team executives with the exception of the recently completed inaugural U.S. Prospects Draft that was only two rounds long.
“There’s no reason why remotely you still can’t do a lot with there being social media and video feeds. There’s enough to do that you don’t all need to be in the same place.”
Stay tuned for more from DUBNetwork….