As a former school teacher, Ross Mahoney spent many years grading papers. He has spent even more years grading hockey players. Since joining the Capitals in 1998, Mahoney served as the team’s director of amateur scouting and has been responsible for the team’s choices at the league’s annual draft every summer.
On Monday, Caps general manager Brian MacLellan announced Mahoney’s promotion to assistant general manager. While he will still be in charge of the team’s draft selections, Mahoney will also now oversee all of Washington’s operations related to amateur players.
“It’s real exciting,” says Mahoney of his new position. “I’m real excited about it. I can’t wait to get going with this. It’s awesome. I’m just real appreciative of this opportunity that ownership and Brian are giving me.”
MacLellan and Mahoney have worked together for more than a decade in the Caps’ hockey operations department, and now the two men are heading up that department.
“He is going to be handling everything on the amateur side,” says MacLellan of Mahoney. “He’ll be overseeing player development and we have a section [of hockey operations] that is prospect scouting. He will oversee that and he’ll work on some entry-level contracts. So he will have some added responsibilities from just doing the draft, yes.”
In addition to his usual tireless work scouring the globe for amateur hockey talent in preparation for the annual NHL Draft, Mahoney will be keeping tabs on amateur players drafted by other organizations as well as amateur free agents who have moved beyond draft age. He will also be involved in entry-level contract decisions and negotiations.
“I draft the kids and then I’ll be part of the development process,” says Mahoney, “so I’d be helping with decisions as to who gets signed and who doesn’t get signed. And the ones who do get signed, I’ll be doing those contracts.
“It will also involve free agents on the amateur level and monitoring kids that were drafted by other teams that are still playing college and junior that we might have interest in – let’s say in trades – the evaluation of those players. I’ll be dealing with amateur players, not with the pros. I’ll still be running the draft, but we’re tying all of that amateur drafting and development together. I’ll be an assistant GM with a heavy emphasis on amateur players.”
Prior to his own promotion from assistant general manager to GM last month, MacLellan had been in charge of the pro scouting side of Washington’s hockey operations department. MacLellan is still seeking someone to replace himself on the pro side of the department, but Mahoney and Don Fishman are expected to be the only two with the assistant GM titles. Fishman also serves as director of legal affairs.
“We’re going to look for a pro scout,” says MacLellan. “I think we’re going to give [pro scout] Chris Patrick some additional responsibilities with Hershey and [pro scout] Jason Fitzsimmons also. And then we’ll look for a personnel guy on the pro side.”
Because most players drafted into the NHL require a few years of development before reaching and remaining at that level, there is the potential for disconnect in the development phase, the period between being drafted and reaching the NHL. With Mahoney in charge of both drafting and developing, the Caps are hoping to streamline the process and to have more cohesion in the overall development process.
Monday’s announcement came less than two weeks before the 2014 NHL Draft, Mahoney’s 16th as Washington’s top amateur personnel guy. It should be business as usual for Mahoney and the Caps as far as the draft goes; his promotion will include expansion of other duties related to amateur personnel.
“The intent is not to take away from my involvement in the draft and the amateurs,” explains Mahoney. “I’m at the world junior tournaments and the under-20 tournaments to look for late birthdates, and a lot of kids who have already been drafted are playing at those tournaments. I’m there anyway. If we’re looking at junior free agents, those are games I’m going to anyway, the junior games.
“As to the development of our own kids, they’re playing in the junior leagues and the college leagues. And I’m going to all those games anyway. But my main emphasis in the past has been on the draft eligible players. We have a great group of scouts and you rely on them for the later rounds, anyway. It’s so worldwide, all these players and all these leagues that we have to have a greater emphasis from our area scouts when it comes to later rounds.
“It’s not taking away from what I do. It’s some added responsibilities, and obviously you have your area guys who really know their areas and are really good for those late-round picks. I’ll still see those guys because you see them anyway. And we’ve always had that anyway. The later you get into the draft the more you rely on your primary and secondary area guys because they know those guys the best. My emphasis has always been on trying to see everybody. But as director of scouting, you concentrate more on the top 75 percent or so of the draft.”
Mahoney has been the Caps’ draft guru long enough that he has seen virtually every player who is currently in the NHL come through the amateur ranks. He has seen hundreds of hockey games every year for the last two decades and he and some of his amateur scouts have minds like steel traps. They can recall the nuances of past drafts like they were yesterday, and they’ve witnessed the development of nearly all of the league’s current players.
Mahoney knows the game and the players as well as anyone, and having him and MacLellan at the top of the team’s hockey operations department gives the Caps a tandem of terrific personnel men, one each on the amateur and pro side.
“I’ve always liked the challenge of doing more,” says Mahoney. “I’ve always felt I could help the organization more. I like working with all my guys that I’ve worked with originally like the Steve Bowmans and all the amateur guys, but now I’m also going to be working more closely with Marty Pouliot and Steve Richmond and Wil Nichol and also doing these entry level contracts, working with the people in the office and the agents. There are some new challenges for me, which I’m really looking forward to. But I look at it as a way to help the team more. I feel like I can contribute and help make the Capitals even more successful. The best part will be working with all of those people. We’ve got really great people in our organization.
“I really look forward to the challenge and I look forward to working closely with those guys who have been working in those areas. Marty Pouliot worked for me and Steve Richmond worked for me. They were amateur scouts before and we have great relationships. I look forward to working with them and tying it all together.”