Scouting Launch FAQ: Answering Questions on Fantasy Scouting
UFF Sports and the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League recently launched our fantasy scouting, which is generating a lot of interest and excitement. It is also generating a lot of questions, so we wanted to provide as many answers as possible in a one-stop shop.
QUESTION: How do scouts sign up? What is the cost to be a scout? Are there incentives for signing up sooner than later?
ANSWER: Scouts can register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $20 USD and the first 25 scouts to register will receive 5,000 score tokens (equivalent to $100 USD), then the next 50 scouts will receive 2,500 score tokens (equivalent to $50 USD). So, if you are among the first 75 scouts to register, you will be getting paid to play in a sense and can use those score tokens to register prospects on the open market or to bid on top prospects in upcoming scouting auctions.
QUESTION: This is all new and has never been done before in fantasy sports, but it makes sense to have fantasy scouts since they play such a pivotal role in real life sports. What is their role going to be in fantasy and how are they going to factor into the gameplay?
ANSWER: Scouts are going to scout — simple as that. Their role will be much the same as in the real world — to find talent for our league. The UFF scouts will scour the hockey world for the best prospects, as young as 15 years old, and oversee their development through their NHL draft year or until the UFHL franchises come calling.
QUESTION: So when do the scouts get started? I understand there are going to be scouting auctions this summer, how will those work or what are the details? When can scouts start registering prospects on the open market?
ANSWER: Scouting will officially launch in August with two separate auctions. The first will be a Futures Auction, featuring the projected top prospects for the next three NHL draft years — 2021, 2022 and 2023. This will become an annual event for scouts, with the 2024 draft class eligible for the Futures Auction in 2021. The second will be a one-time event, an Already Drafted Auction for the top prospects from recent NHL draft classes that are not currently property of a UFHL franchise. Both scouts and franchise owners will be able to participate in the Already Drafted Auction, while the Futures Auction is only for scouts.
The Already Drafted Auction will feature the likes of Bowen Byram and Trevor Zegras, while Shane Wright and Connor Bedard will be available in the Futures Auction. The plan is to auction off the top 280 prospects — 140 in each auction, with 20 per night over two weeks — but those totals are subject to change, depending on how many scouts register in advance.
As for the open market, where scouts can register prospects on a first-come, first-serve basis, that will begin in September. The plan is to host the Futures Auction from Aug. 15-21, followed by the Already Drafted Auction from Aug. 22-28, with the open market commencing on Sept. 1.
QUESTION: How much does it cost to register a prospect? Is it safe to assume the top prospects will cost more in the annual auctions? How do scouts get a return on their investment?
ANSWER: The cost to register a prospect on the open market is $20 USD (1,000 score tokens). The minimum bid in the aforementioned scouting auctions — both Futures and Already Drafted — will also be $20 USD (1,000 score tokens) for each of those top prospects. There will be bidding increments of $5 USD (250 score tokens) and we anticipate the best prospects will be worth more than $100 USD (5,000 score tokens).
As for return on investment, successful scouts will register or acquire prospects that gain value and become coveted by franchise owners, who will pay more for those prospects. As long as your prospects continue to trend up, their value should also go up.
QUESTION: How and when will those prospects enter the UFHL and become property of the franchise owners? Do they get drafted like the NHL or how do they end up on UFHL rosters and protected lists?
ANSWER: Prospects selected in the top two rounds of the NHL Entry Draft automatically enter the UFHL Entry Auction — available to the highest bidder among franchise owners through a lottery system similar to the NHL. The minimum bid in the Entry Auction will again be $20 USD (1,000 score tokens), with bidding increments of $5 (250 score tokens) — exactly the same as the scouting auctions, at least for this year.
For the inaugural UFHL Entry Auction — likely to take place in October, the same weekend as the NHL Entry Draft — the 2020 class will be transferred directly to UFHL franchises through that bidding process and thus will be off limits to scouts in the meantime. That will allow franchise owners to set the market on what they are willing to pay for the top prospects in the Entry Auction. It will be interesting to see those bidding wars on Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield, among others.
Following the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and UFHL Entry Auction, the rest of that class — the prospects selected outside the top two rounds or passed over in the Entry Auction — will be available to scouts on the open market as per usual. But scouts won’t be able to register any draft-eligible prospects during that window from Sept. 1 until after the Entry Auction. There will be a black out on first-time eligibles born between Sept. 16, 2001 and Sept. 15, 2002 as well as any overagers that weren’t drafted in previous years but remain eligible for 2020. The overagers date back to Jan. 1, 2000 for North American prospects and Europeans with prior experience as imports in North America, while European-based prospects get an extra year of eligibility (Jan. 1, 1999).
Starting in 2021, most of those prospects from the top two rounds of the NHL Entry Draft will already be property of scouts — many of whom will be purchased in this year’s UFHL Futures Auction, with the rest likely registered on the open market between now and then. So scouts will be compensated through the Entry Auction as their prospects are purchased by UFHL franchises.
The NHL Entry Draft typically takes place in late June, with the UFHL Entry Auction and UFHL Futures Auction to follow prior to the open market resuming on July 1 — the same day as NHL free agency in a normal year. That will be the plan going forward, with a brief freeze on prospect registrations surrounding those annual events.
QUESTION: What if the prospects don’t get drafted or purchased in the auctions? Do the scouts still try to get them signed by franchises?
ANSWER: Scouts will retain the rights to prospects selected outside the top two rounds in the NHL Entry Draft and any prospects passed over in the UFHL Entry Auction. Scouts will act as agents for those prospects, negotiating entry-level contracts with UFHL franchises following the Entry Auction. The minimum ELC is $20 (1,000 score tokens) but scouts can seek more if they so desire — through direct negotiations with franchise owners or through a 24-hour auction with a minimum bid of $20.
That also applies to prospects signed by NHL teams as undrafted free agents — be it older Europeans, college standouts or overagers from major junior. Once drafted or signed by an NHL franchise, scouts can negotiate with UFHL franchises in hopes of transferring their prospects to protected lists. All those transactions have to meet the minimum ELC and prospects have to be property of an NHL franchise before becoming property of a UFHL franchise.
That entry-level system is similar to the NHL, where every prospect enters the league around $1 million — with the exception of first- and sometimes second-round picks, who can earn upwards of $3 million through performance bonuses in their contracts. In the UFHL, those first- and second-rounders also cost the owners more through the Entry Auction bidding process.
QUESTION: What is the age range for prospects? How long do scouts control their rights as digital assets? Is there a limit to how many prospects a scout can register or retain at any time?
ANSWER: The age range is essentially from 15 to 25 years old. The youngest prospects will always be three years out from the NHL Entry Draft — the current draft class, plus the next two will be available to register as Futures. The oldest prospects must still be Calder eligible, which the NHL defines as being under 26 years old as of Sept. 15 for the season to come and having played less than 26 career NHL regular-season games. Applying those perimeters, any prospect born between Sept. 16, 1994 and Sept. 15, 2005 could be registered by a scout on the open market as of Sept. 1, 2020 — with the exception of that 2020 draft class, due to COVID delaying the NHL Entry Draft and the UFHL Entry Auction.
Scouts can control the rights to their prospects as long as they remain Calder eligible, both in terms of age and games played. If their prospects are no longer Calder eligible, they will be subject to a 24-hour auction among franchise owners with a minimum bid of $20 USD (1,000 score tokens). If no bids are placed, the scout will relinquish the rights to that prospect, who will enter the UFHL on the waiver wire. Franchise owners would then be able to claim that player for $10 USD (500 score tokens), without any compensation for the scout.
There is no limit — no minimum, nor maximum — on the amount of prospects that scouts can register or retain. Some scouts will only ever register one prospect on the open market, while others could assemble a stable of hundreds of prospects through the scouting auctions as well as the open market. Once a person (or a group of people) registers as a scout, it is entirely up to them how much they invest on prospects.
QUESTION: What if a prospect doesn’t pan out? In real life, there are a lot of busts and only a small percentage of prospects or draft picks actually make it to the NHL. Is there a lot of risk for scouts or will they have other options and other leagues for those prospects?
ANSWER: It’s true, busts are a reality of sports and there is always some risk for scouts. In the future, there will be other hockey leagues at all levels as the UFF Sports platform continues to evolve and expand. The goal is to offer all the major professional leagues around the world, so prospects that don’t necessarily pan out for the UFHL won’t be wasted assets.
Further, the founders are envisioning junior and developmental leagues, with a leasing system that would allow scouts to loan their prospects to CHL franchises and receive some return on their investment prior to transferring their prospects to UFHL franchises. Likewise, UFHL owners could loan the prospects on their protected lists to AHL franchises and profit in similar fashion. There has even been talk of creating a legends league for retired players somewhere down the road.
It could take years for those ambitions to come to fruition, but if a prospect — or a bust — is still playing competitively in real life, there is a good chance that league will eventually exist within the UFF Sports platform as well.
QUESTION: If scouts don’t like how prospects are trending, can they part with them or are they stuck with them? Or if they see a prospect on another scout’s list that is trending up, can they acquire that prospect? Essentially, are scouts allowed to trade their prospects?
ANSWER: Yes, scouts can trade their prospects within the scouting community. In real life, prospects can be traded by their junior teams and can also change agents at any time — their rights do change hands, on occasion, prior to getting drafted or making it to the NHL — so those realities influenced the decision to allow trading amongst UFHL scouts. That is a unique element that adds to the gameplay as well as the entertainment value for scouts.
QUESTION: Will scouts work directly for franchises or independently? Will owners be able to hire their own scouts?
ANSWER: Scouts will have that option, with UFF Sports offering the best of both worlds. In the real world, NHL franchises hire a staff of amateur scouts that work exclusively for their team, while many others are employed by scouting services — not to mention the countless aspiring scouts that put in the time independently.
There was some concern over collusion with UFHL owners hiring their own scouts, but the minimum ELCs should alleviate those buddy deals and ensure everyone is paying the going rate — just like in the NHL. As mentioned, the top prospects — those selected in the top two rounds of the annual NHL Entry Draft — will always enter the UFHL through the Entry Auction and be available to the highest bidder. Sure, there will still be steals and late-bloomers, but that is also the case in the NHL and, reality is, some franchises have better scouting staffs than others. Expect the same in the UFHL, where owners can share fantasy earnings with their scouts or include bonus clauses in their contracts as part of forming those partnerships.
However, not all scouts will want to be affiliated with franchises. Some will prefer to retain their prospects and relish that dual role as an agent — negotiating those ELCs with any and every franchise. That route could be more profitable on average but doesn’t come with the esteem of helping build a championship roster. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a number of scouts start out independently before getting recruited by franchises once they establish their reputation for finding talent while also realizing the appeal of being part of something bigger.
There could also be scouting services of sorts, where a group of people register as a scout rather than individually, or a group develops from relationships within the UFF scouting community. Those groups could pool their resources for the scouting auctions and share their successes in terms of profits. There will be several ways to go about being a scout.
QUESTION: So the first step is registering. What is the second step — preparing for the scouting auctions in August? Should the scouts have targets in mind and a budget for what they are willing to spend on each prospect? Is there a minimum amount that scouts need to spend in those auctions or a maximum that they can spend? Do they have to participate in those auctions or can they just wait to start registering prospects on the open market?
ANSWER: Preparation will be key — and the sooner they register, the sooner they can start prepping. Plus, if they register soon enough, they might still qualify for the incentives (free score tokens). UFF Sports will be publishing those auction lists ahead of time — in the not-too-distant future — so scouts will soon know which prospects are available for both Futures and Already Drafted. They can plan accordingly, with targets and budgets being wise approaches. There will certainly be bidding wars for the big names, so scouts will want to know their limits and play within them, while having fallback options in mind. Plan B and Plan C are never bad ideas, but it will still be hard to pass up on Plan A — it always is … that struggle is real.
Scouts are not obligated to attend any of the auctions and they are also welcome to attend as spectators if they don’t plan on splurging for the top prospects. There will be daily auctions over the course of two weeks with the talent evenly distributed, so some scouts may pick their spots and only show up for the auctions that feature their primary targets. Others may stay on the sidelines, preferring to register less heralded prospects on the open market. Regardless, scouts can spend as they see fit with no limitations.
For more information on fantasy scouting and the UFHL in general, check out the Episode 1 of the official UFF Sports Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMBghQ6rvUc&t=1273s
Episode 2 of the UFF Sports Podcast also touches on scouting towards the end: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdZM3sZOCew&t=570s
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