By Jacob Stoller
Aaron Armstrong is known for his vision—the fourth-year Ryerson forward had 11 assists this year. But when he’s not using his eyes to set up teammates, he’s using them to scout talent for the Owen Sound Attack, a junior hockey league team in the Ontario Hockey League.
“I found out a couple months ago,” said Rams goalie Taylor Dupuis. “We were on a road trip and he had his laptop out with all these notes about what looked like minor-midget [players].”
Since September, Armstrong has been one of the Attack’s scouts for the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) region. The GTHL is the largest minor hockey organization in the world, and has produced NHL stars such as Connor McDavid, John Tavares, PK Subban and Tyler Seguin. Armstrong has been tasked with the job of helping to find Owen Sound’s next star, and that’s something he’s grateful for.
“It’s been a neat experience and I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by such smart people in the hockey world that I’ve just tried to take everything in that I can this year, and learn from them.”
The process of becoming a scout began in August 2017, when Armstrong reached out to a friend in the GTHL’s hockey operations industry to help get his foot in the door into the hockey executive world. The year prior, Armstrong had attended GTHL games, but not officially with a team, and he was ready to take on a greater responsibility in terms of player evaluation. One thing led to another, and Armstrong was put in touch with the Attack’s General Manager Dale DeGray. The rest is history.
“It’s been great,” said Armstrong. “I’ve been fortunate with a couple guys that have taken me under their wing and really helped show me the ropes, and Dale has been so gracious to me and just giving me the kind of structure and help that I needed to kind of get started.”
The lifestyle of a hockey scout isn’t easy.
It’s contingent on hockey pros, a niche for finding hockey talent, and separating the good players from the great ones.
His discipline is second to none, and it’s no surprise to his teammates that he’s worn the hats of scout, player and student simultaneously while at Ryerson. “He’s always the first guy at the rink,” said Rams captain Alex Basso. “He’s always on the ice trying to get better, and that’s what you need from a leader [because] if you’ve got a [leader] that doesn’t really want to come early or stay [late] it kinda lets the younger guys off the hook. It’s not good.”
Armstrong just gets it. He does things right, he’s the first to the rink and he’s keen on discipline. “Aaron’s probably the best teammate I’ve ever had playing in junior or university hockey,” said Basso. “He’s all-around one of the better people I’ve met in my life and he’s a great competitor.”
But what makes Aaron so special?
“It’s just him being himself,” said Basso. “He’s such an amazing person, where he brings the best out of everybody around him because he’s so vibrant and just makes people smile. He offers his hockey IQ to those around him, and he doesn’t beat around the bush. I don’t think he’s ever trying to sugarcoat anything but he’s super positive when it’s time to be positive and a guy that you can depend on to do things the right way,” said Basso.
He’s disciplined, he works hard, and all-in-all, Armstrong has a smart hockey mind with a knack for sharing his wealth of knowledge.
In other words, he’s got the makings of a future hockey executive.