The Central Scouting Bureau has been around since 1975, and serves to rank draft prospects to give NHL teams a centralized opinion on available players. The bureau's rankings also serve to give outsiders a glimpse into insider impressions of prospects. You might wonder how relevant these rankings are, and how well they inform the actual draft. Let's have a brief look.
Central Scouting releases rankings at the beginning of the hockey season, in midseason, and a final ranking before the draft. There are four categories, each ranked separately: North American skaters, North American goaltenders, European skaters and European goaltenders. No overall ranking of players is done. This categorization certainly reduces the usefulness of the rankings. They are also puzzling to a degree; Central Scouting can rank defensemen against forwards, but not goaltenders against defensemen? The North American/European split makes sense at least, because they use different scouting staffs for either side of the Atlantic, although this again points to a limitation in their methods. Indeed, this is a limitation of traditional scouting in its entirety, since no one scout sees all players being evaluated.
The number of players drafted in each category has been remarkably consistent in recent years. A typical draft of 211 players will feature 156 North American skaters, 33 European skaters, 16 North American goaltenders and 5 European goaltenders. A summary of the last four draft years follows:
Summary of players drafted, 2007-2010
Category 2007 2008 2009 2010 Average
North American skaters 161 154 155 154 156.0
European skaters 30 34 35 35 33.5
North American goaltenders 14 18 15 16 15.8
European goaltenders 6 5 6 5 5.5
Total 211 211 211 210 210.8