As a medium size defenseman at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Mike Dawson made it to the Ontario Hockey League through hard work and perseverance.
A seventh round pick of the Kingston Frontenacs from the Soo Legion midgets at the 1990 priority selections draft, Dawson went on to play three full seasons in the OHL.
He later played five seasons of Atlantic Canada university hockey in total at both Acadia and St. Mary’s followed by two years of pro hockey in Holland and another in the minor pro, Central Hockey League.
Now 47 years of age, the Sault Ste. Marie product has taken his work ethic and knowledge of the game to an ongoing full-time scouting position in the National Hockey League.
Hired by the Carolina Hurricanes as a part time scout in 2012, Dawson eventually was promoted to a full time role and then a year ago, became the NHL team’s head North American scout.
But just recently, Dawson opted to leave the Hurricanes to take a position as a crossover scout with the new Seattle Kraken franchise that will begin play as an NHL expansion team effective the 2021-2022 season.
In leaving Carolina for Seattle, Dawson will be reunited with Kraken general manager Ron Francis and director of amateur scouting Robert Kron, who he worked for with the Hurricanes.
Dawson was hired for his first NHL scouting job in Carolina when fellow Sault Ste. Marie native Francis was with the Hurricanes in a management position.
Now, after eight years with Carolina, Dawson feels good about being hired by Seattle and again working for Francis and Kron.
“I have put in my time to earn this opportunity and it is exciting to be part of a new franchise,” Dawson told me. “Not everyone gets a chance to experience expansion and with the group we have assembled, I think it is going to be fantastic.”
Dawson pulled no punches when I asked him why he was leaving Carolina after working his way up the scouting ladder with the Hurricanes to take a position with the new Seattle entry.
“I am a little old school and I have an opinion on what I think it takes to win as an organization,” Dawson relayed. “I have found through this process that I am much more aligned with how Seattle looks at things and how Carolina does now.”
Besides hiring Dawson and Kron away from Carolina, Francis has also brought long-time former Hurricanes scout Tony MacDonald out of retirement to work for the Kraken.
MacDonald has an association with the OHL dating back to being a scout and a coach with the Windsor Spitfires and Guelph Storm and in management with the erstwhile Detroit Ambassadors.
Another scouting hire for Seattle is former OHL forward Trevor Stienburg, who recently retired from coaching at aforementioned St. Mary’s University. In a touch of irony, Stienburg was Dawson’s coach at St. Mary’s during the 1998-1999 season.
With regard to the hiring of Dawson et al, Francis as the GM in Seattle offered his thoughts.
“We are in a unique situation scouting this season with some leagues beginning play and others still pending,” said Francis. “We feel we hired key people with deep experience evaluating prospects and we are spread out geographically to see as many players as possible in North America and Europe.”
As for Dawson, the likeable lad from the Sault who now makes Kingston his home base, he has made a good name for himself as an honest, hardworking scout with a knack for identifying the right mix of talent and determination in a draft prospect.
For instance, Joe McDonnell, the former Stanley Cup winning director of amateur scouting with the Detroit Red Wings who now performs a similar NHL role with the Dallas Stars, told me that Dawson “is a hard worker, very thorough and well respected in the scouting industry.”