July 21st, 2024

Tigers’ Kruger lands scouting role with Calgary Flames

By Ryan McCracken on August 19, 2017.


rmccracken@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNMcCracken

The man responsible for shaping the future of the Medicine Hat Tigers has officially earned his place at hockey’s highest level.

Tigers’ senior director of player development Darren Kruger has been in charge of Medicine Hat’s scouting staff for the past three WHL bantam drafts, and the Flames have taken notice. A 12-year veteran in the Tigers system, Kruger spent several seasons as an assistant coach and associate coach before moving into a scouting role. Now he’ll be using that expertise as Calgary’s WHL Eastern Conference head scout.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to watch (the WHL) on a full-time basis. My old job wasn’t allowing me to do that with the bantam draft and maintaining prospects and lists and so forth,” said Kruger. “I’m looking forward to experiencing how good the league really is again. I’ve missed a little bit of that in the last couple years and I’m looking forward to this.”

Kruger joined up with the Tigers halfway through the 2005-06 season after occupying a head coach and general manager position with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Kindersley Klippers, when former head coach Willie Desjardins thought he could help improve the team’s power play unit.

“Since then I’ve kind of stuck around here,” said Kruger. “To me it all started with Willie Desjardins, when he came in and kind of set the whole culture here. Basically the success we’ve had in the past 12 years that I’ve been here and probably even before then when Willie got in, he really set the table for Shaun (Clouston) to take over as head coach.”

The Tigers have sent 29 players to the big leagues since the 2000-01 season, but skaters aren’t the only product Medicine Hat has groomed for NHL careers in that span. Desjardins spent two years as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks and will coach for Team Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, while former head scout and assistant general manager Brad McEwen also made the leap from WHL to NHL when he was hired as a Western Canadian scout with the Flames in 2014, and has since moved on to a position with Hockey Canada.

Kruger was responsible for drafting names like 2016 fifth overall bantam pick Josh Williams, and most recently 21st overall selection Garin Bjorklund. But Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston says Kruger’s value to the team extends well past a single day in May.

“When the decision was made to have him take over the scouting as director of player development, I think it was a great transition. He really understood because he coached and was in the trenches from that side. He knew exactly the philosophy of the organization, the types of players that had been successful, the assets and attributes that we find invaluable,” said Clouston. “On successful hockey teams everybody’s excited for their teammates when they score a goal, when they have success, and it’s the same thing here. I’ve known Krugs for 12 years now so it’s really exciting and I’m extremely happy for him.”

While Clouston says he’ll will certainly be difficult to replace, with players like Williams set to crack the roster for the upcoming season and this year’s draft class waiting in the ranks, Kruger’s impact on the Tigers will last for years to come.

“It’s always been our goal to bring a Memorial Cup back to this city and hopefully we’re heading in the right direction,” said Kruger.

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