Over the off-season, Eyes On The Prize will be putting focus on some of the invaluable resources we reference throughout the year. As the draft approaches, there is no more fitting site to focus on than Elite Prospects.
Remember when “googled” was just a made-up word for using the Google search engine to find information about a term? I’ve caught myself starting to use “eliteprospected” to refer to searching for information about hockey prospects (or teams, national programs, draft rankings, you name it).
That’s because like Google quickly became the ultimate in internet search engines, EliteProspects.com has become, for many, a go-to for researching all things hockey. A lot of our readers may already be familiar with the site (we reference it all the time), but for anyone who has not spent countless hours on it like I have, below is a brief overview of what “EP” has to offer, followed by highlights of what I learned from the founder himself.
At its most basic, Elite Prospects is a site where you can type a prospect’s name into the search bar and pull up a “hockey wikipedia” page with information like birth date, hometown, NHL draft year, cap hit, stats, transactions, and career highlights (awards, medals, etc). But in the last few years, EP has grown far beyond prospect profiles, now offering a “Draft Center”, transactions (and rumoured transactions) throughout many different leagues, full team rosters, free agency info, tournament updates, and even prospect articles. They also have a growing database of women’s hockey statistics. And that doesn’t even include the features available through the new “Premium” subscription.
EP is almost always the first place I go when I hear a name I’m not too familiar with, whether it’s a draft-eligible prospect or an AHL veteran. One of the best things about EP is being able to see all the basic information about a player in one place, with links to their teams, tournaments, and even family members who are also in the database.
Johan Nilsson, the founder of Elite Prospects, made time to give me a lot of great additional information about EP, even though he has been very busy lately launching the site’s new services.
Since its inception in December 1999 as a site meant to inform North American fans about Swedish prospects, Elite Prospects has grown to where it is today. EP provides non-NHL statistics to the NHL, making them an official statistical partner of the league, and the current visitor record is 814,253 (set during the second week of the 2018 World Juniors). Johan shared that their visitor records are usually broken during the WJC and during the NHL Entry Draft, particularly on day two. Outside of those peak times, though, EP averages 700-750 unique visitors per week, with a 25-30% increase each year.
One of the most interesting things about the site’s traffic is how much EP’s popularity has grown in North America. It used to be most popular in Europe (particularly Sweden and Finland). Canada and the USA beat out those two countries for the highest percentage of visitors per country since January 1 of this year, with almost 50% of traffic coming from North America. Stockholm and Helsinki still top the list for individual city traffic (4% each), but Toronto and Montreal aren’t far behind (around 2% each).
A lot of updates have been happening in the EP world recently. In addition to the recent redesign (I’m a big fan) and the smartphone app, EP Premium just went live. The subscription service builds on the existing site to offer even more features for the truly dedicated among us. Some of the Premium features are more geared toward the diehard hockey fan (build a dream lineup, bookmark players), while others are ideal for current players and team staff.
Johan revealed that while obviously they were looking to have a secondary source of revenue for the site (aside from ads), they are also hoping to cater to those hardcore hockey fans as well as the people who work in the business. The Agency portal offered as part of Premium is a unique feature that cannot be found anywhere else on the web, and Johan’s favourite premium feature may be mine, as well: transaction notifications, which users can subscribe to via email or text.
Although the idea for premium features came about several years ago, the actual project did not begin until 2018, and had a very quick turnaround, with most of the work being done in the last two months. After the EP redesign was released, focus shifted to getting Premium up and running. Thanks to the dedication of their project manager, four developers, an interaction designer, and several testers. Johan said they were able to do 90% of the work during May and early June, and the service went live on June 18.
Fun Facts and Features
Johan also shared some fun facts, like that Miroslav Satan is assigned player ID “666” (please go look for yourself!), several actors are included in the database (e.g., Steve Carell, Taylor Kitsch, Richard Dean Anderson, Matt LeBlanc, Keanu Reeves, Dave Coulier), and they receive as many as 500 emails a day from readers (about all sorts of topics).
EP boasts roughly 100 volunteers worldwide, including help from Australia. Johan described their volunteers as “the backbone of the website”, and they are the ones who enter transactions, update stats, and keep player profiles up to date. To make things a little easier on the volunteers, EP also has agreements with many leagues, including the NHL, which allow them to get automated stats updated daily.
I asked Johan which features have been the most popular, and if there was anything he was surprised by. The most-visited pages are the Player Pages (my go-to!), the Home page/Transactions section, and the Team Pages. (The most visited player profiles can be viewed here, but before you click, you should take a guess at who’s #1.) Of the specific features, he mentioned the Free Agency portal and the Draft Center as being popular, as well as the player name pronunciations.
Another exciting feature that was recently brought back (with more growth planned) is the editorial content. During World Juniors this year, EP featured articles about specific teams and players, as well as tournament updates, and they’ve kept the prospect coverage coming ever since. Another surprisingly popular feature? “Happy Birthday”, which was recently added, lets visitors know which players are celebrating a birthday today.
From humble beginnings in Johan’s dorm room to a database of over 628,000 players, EP has become an incredible tool and source of information for the hockey world. So when the Canadiens or another team drafts a player you’ve never heard of this Saturday, you can bet head over to Elite Prospects to check out their profile and stats.