"It’s like when I go watch a hockey player, it’s yes or no. When I first met Jonathan this was a no-brainer." - Marty Abrams, head coach/GM of Jr. A's Wellington Dukes.
Marty Abrams gets a lot of emails and resumes from people trying to break into the hockey business via scouting. The coach/GM of Jr. A's Wellington Dukes can't hire or interview everyone, of course, but one inquiry he received from a 16-year-old three years ago stood out from the rest.
"This was different than the other emails I get, the other references, the other resumes," he said. "I knew right away it was different so I reached out to him."
Meet Jonathan Kyriacou, an 18-year-old Pickering native who is entering his third season as a scout for the Dukes. He realized, earlier than most would want to, that he didn't have a future in hockey as a player, but he wanted to somehow stay involved in the game.
At 13 and 14 years old, his bantam years, Kyriacou began plotting a new course into another corner of the hockey world. He wanted to get into scouting, or managing, or as an agent and began planting the seeds that would give him the option to explore all kinds of avenues.
"When I was 14 I ended up getting an intern position with an agent here in Toronto, Pulver Sports. Ian Pulver," Kyriacou said. "The year after, when I was 15, I ended up getting involved with another agent/family advisor that was just starting up in Toronto so that gave me my first scouting job. When I was 16, I decided I wanted to work more on the team side of things so I ended up exploring different options in terms of getting on with a team and found a job with the Wellington Dukes. And the year after that I got a job in the OHL."
Everyone who has employed Kyriacou gives a glowing review. He isn't shy to voice his opinion about a player, but he's respectful about it. His communication skills are excellent. He doesn't act like an 18-year-old. He's intelligent and filled with passion for the game. He's got an excellent work ethic.
Because of these characteristics, Kyriacou has made some impressive gains in the business in a very short time. From interning at an agency to scouting for the Dukes and being picked up by the OHL's Ottawa 67’s for a similar role last year, Kyriacou was recently promoted and will serve as a scout and director of player development for the 67’s this winter. He'll continue to scout for the Dukes, too.
And he doesn't turn 19 until Jan. 26.
"We had a guy who was doing that job last year who's no longer with us - it’s basically to keep track of your draft choices and make sure they have a place to play," said 67’s GM Pat Higgins. "And then you report back to management on the progress of the players throughout the year. He was willing to take on that responsibility of tracking the kids and helping them find a place to play. Basically he put his name forward and took the initiative to ask for the job, so it was his."
To do that job effectively, communication is key. Kyriacou needs to not only scout the players, but keep in contact with them and find them a competitive team if they don't make the OHL squad. Abrams has no doubts that the 18-year-old will excel in that role with the 67's because he's been fine-tuning those skills with the Dukes.
"Jonathan has been very good in opening the doors between players who play in Toronto at the AAA level and introducing players and parents to me or vice versa," Abrams said. "He has no issue of making contact with player agents, parents and players - he's very good at that. I can tell you that's a learned process and he's got the handle of it pretty good. To make a cold call to a 16-year-old player and his parents and try to explain to him playing two and a half hours down the road in Wellington, that's a big challenge. He's opened up doors for us."
Kyriacou doesn't just have to balance his jobs with Wellington and Ottawa, but also his school work. He'll be entering his first year at the University of Toronto this winter, where he'll take commerce. But if you ask him, he'll tell you his goal is to "never work a day in the business world" because he wants to apply his learning to hockey and eventually make a living in the sport.
He's got the work ethic and the communication skills to achieve it, but Kyriacou's employers say he's also got an eye for talent. Like every GM, Abrams cross-references the reports from his scouts to the actual draft order and Kyriacou has had good accuracy.
As for his age being a hurdle in gaining credibility as a scout, Kyriacou says that may have been a challenge in the earliest stages, but his work speaks for itself.
"You get to the point where I like to feel that I have a good amount of experience in the game that people can maybe overlook my age," he said. "You see it in all different levels. Of course Kyle Dubas with the Leafs is a young guy who was able to use his experience to overcome the fact he's 28 years old. You have to let the experience speak for itself. If people want to judge you by your age, that's up to them."
Kyriacou isn't a stats guy in the same vein as Dubas is perceived, but he used to peruse ExtraSkater when it was around and still uses behindthenet.ca to check out NHL numbers. He recognizes advanced stats are a tool that uncover more information and complement what you see with your eyes. The 67’s employ another university student to track those advanced stats, Matt Pfeffer, who has contributed to THN.com before. Besides, when Kyriacou is scouting midget- and bantam-aged players, those possession stats aren't readily available.
It does appear he has a bright future ahead in hockey scouting or management. He has many hours at the rink still ahead of him and years of school left to finish, but those who have worked with Kyriacou believe the sky is the limit for the young scout.
"We’re glad to have him," Higgins said. "He's a young, sharp kid. I like him. I like talking to him and picking his brain. He's very respectful. Someday you may see that kid as a GM in the NHL or in some form of a role in the NHL – I have no doubt in my mind he’ll get there some day."
And if he does make it to the big leagues, Abrams has a great story to look back on when Kyriacou was coming out to his first camp with the Dukes.
"I kind of forgot how young he was and he said ‘can someone come pick me up at the bus station in Belleville?’ " Abrams recalled. "I said ‘why am I picking you up at the bus station? Why am I doing this?’ And then I realized he didn't have his license!"