Shane Churla Hired, Effects to Be Felt a Decade From Now

by Jacob Saltiel
binocs

Churla in Action
from strongchurch.org

While it’s hard to know what or how deeply felt the effects of a single scout in an organization may be, no one can say that Shane Churla hasn’t had his brushes with greatness before. One can say emphatically that he’s felt greatness first hand and that it left an impression on him. Here’s footage:

And before anyone protests, Pavel Bure scored 779 points in 702 regular season games, and 70 pts in 64 playoff games. Legend!

What’d He Do?
According to this article from the Dallas Stars’ website, Churla was assigned to work with the USHL (the USA’s answer to the junior Canadian Hockey), the Alberta Junior Hockey League*, and the WCHA, or western US colleges like North Dakota or Minnesota, etc…

Now, Canadiens fans, you can call him yours. What might that mean? Churla’s began his scouting career in 2005. In the ’05 draft, the Stars picked James Neal 33rd, Matt Niskanen 28th, before trading them both away for Alex Goligoski.

In ’06, the Stars drafted Ivan Vishnevsky with their 1st round pick. Vishnevsky sucked, though he was dumped on Atlanta for the solid Kari Lehtonen. Now he plays in Russia for a team whose name is unpronounceable. The other name in that draft of any import to the stars is Richard Bachman, who after maturing in the AHL for a few years, may turn into a decent backup, though he got lit up this year.

The Stars didn’t have a 1st round pick from 2007-2008, but still picked up the brilliant Jamie Benn in the 5th round, and some other players who may yet play a regular shift in the NHL. Colton Sceviour’s (4th round, 112th overall, ’07) been productive in the AHL for the last 2 years, with 105 points in 137 games, while Philip Larsen, a smallish Danish defenceman has threatened to become a full time member of the Stars D’ for the last 2 years.

In ’09, the Stars picked in the 1st round again, taking Scott Glennie, who might suck. Glennie might be a victim of Excellent Linemate Syndrome**, as he played alongside Brayden Schenn. Schenn was picked 3 spots ahead of Glennie and has established himself at the AHL level and shows occasional flashes of becoming a productive NHL’er. Glennie has struggled to score in the AHL for the last two years, so he might be a bust.

After that, the news gets better, with massive Alex Chiasson (2nd round, 38th, ’09) showing signs of productivity following his college career. He’s 6″4, scored 6 times in 7 games in a call up this year, and also put up a respectable 35 points in the first 57 games of his AHL career. Reilly Smith, (3rd round, 69th, ’09) also played for the Stars for the first time this year after scoring 35 points in 45 games at the AHL level. He didn’t score much in his first 37 NHL games with a mere 9 points, but he may have more room to develop.

After that, it gets hard to tell how successful the Stars’ drafting has been, given that the prospects in those post-’09 drafts have had 3 years or less to develop. Jamie Oleksiak, the overgrown 1st round defender they drafted in 2011, has already played for the Stars, and others may be on the way.

That may seem a little thin, but consider also that Brendan Dillon and Jordie Benn were signed as undrafted free agents. Dillon is a Calder contender this year, while Jordie Benn looks like he’ll join his brother as a regular contributor in the major league.

What to Expect?
Of those picks mentioned above, the following played in leagues Churla was scouting: Alex Chiasson (USHL, 2008-2009),  Jamie Oleksiak (USHL, 2008-2010), Richard Bachman (USHL, 2006-2007). Churla’s role wasn’t limited to just those leagues, and it seems like he may have helped with the observation of other western prospects, including the underachieving Glennie and the overachieving Dillon. If it’s the case that Churla was also responsible for players from the BCHL and WHL, then this may be good news for the Canadiens, who haven’t done well in western North America under Trevor Timmins’ tenure. Other than Brendan Gallagher and Ryan White, few players from the west have been drafted by the Habs, and fewer have met expectations (Ryan O’Byrne and David Fischer). As the title indicates, however, it’ll be years before the fans get to see the results of Churla’s powers of observation or not.

***

* The AJHL is a Junior ‘A’ hockey league, or an alternative to Canadian Major Junior Hockey. Notable picks from this league include: Fernando Pisani, Brent Sutter, Dylan Olsen, Mason Raymond, and Matt Frattin. Hard to think it’s a major pipeline of NHL talent, then. For comparison’s sake, the BCHL (B.C’s equivalent) has produced both Kyle Turris, Jamie Benn, and Travis Zajac in recent years, with Paul Kariya also being an alumni.

**Excellent Linemate Syndrome is when two highly rated draft prospects play on the same line. As scoring totals can be so high in junior, it can occasionally be difficult to determine which of the two prospects is actually of NHL calibre. For an extreme example, Eric Chouinard played with Simon Gagne, and got drafted ahead of him by the Canadiens in 1998. That many probably haven’t heard of Chouinard speaks volumes, moreso that most NHL fans are aware of who Simon Gagne is.

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