Plenty of documentary series take fans behind the scenes and into the locker rooms of pro sports teams. The Road is something different.
The multipart online video project follows many of this year's top draft-eligible hockey players as they wind their way to the draft, which is June 24-25 in Buffalo, New York. As it follows these players through pivotal events such as the CHL Top Prospects Game and NHL draft combine, the series is a first in how closely it shadows this group of teenagers -- including Patrik Laine, Jakob Chychrun, Logan Brown and Luke Green -- who are on the cusp of NHL stardom. But the uniqueness of the Road doesn't end there.
Conceptualized and produced by the apparel company Gongshow Gear, the Road is also produced by sports agency Octagon, and each of the young players profiled in the series is an Octagon client.
Some of the insights from the series: Laine, a projected top-two pick, tries to "copy" the style of his idol, Alex Ovechkin. Chychrun, the son of former 47th-overall pick (in 1984) Jeff Chychrun and a former top pick in the OHL draft, was a forward and dreamed of becoming the next Sidney Crosby. Then Chychrun dropped back to defense and got inspired by Drew Doughty. "He's got a little chip on his shoulder, which I love," Chychrun says.
So it is a first-of-its-kind look at the whirlwind process leading up to the draft. But it's also an innovative approach to bringing attention to Octagon's youngest clients, whose rookie salaries are dictated in part by their draft position.
"Original content today is king," said Allan Walsh, co-managing director of Octagon Hockey, who also appears in the series. "People are hungry for this kind of behind-the-scenes access. It was just a matter of putting together all the logistics and pushing it out."
Those logistics are considerable: A camera crew followed eight prospects from one event to another. The six-part series first started tracking these players in January, so the process of chronicling their respective journeys has been exhaustive for production company Straylight Films.
It's a complex new wrinkle added to a sometimes-overwhelming process in which the NHL dreams of teenage hockey stars are close to being realized. The scrutiny of being constantly scouted at the numerous events and big games leading up to the day NHL teams call their name can be stressful enough. What effect does adding an intrusive camera crew to the mix have?
"It's a public-relations piece for Octagon and they should be congratulated for it," said hockey commentator Bill Watters, who -- as a player agent and member of the Toronto Maple Leafs front office -- attended almost every draft between 1973 and 2003.
But as Watters pointed out that, for all the preliminary noise heading into the draft that might include a documentary, NHL GMs won't be distracted.
"They still have to pick the best hockey players. That doesn't change," Watters said. "It's still who the best hockey player is and how much hockey sense he has."
So far, this group of millennials raised by digital media has appeared at ease in front of the camera.
"I think, from my experience with these players, they're all pretty well versed," said director Steve Shilson. "They seem very comfortable on camera. It seems like something they've been doing for a while, which makes it easy for us."
The series is intended to entertain hockey fans while sharing considerable insight about what prospects go through leading up to the draft. But Walsh makes no bones about who the intended audience is for the Road.
"Clearly NHL teams and their personnel are a key part of our target audience. It's a no-brainer," said Walsh. "You have the clients, you have the means of being able to put something like this together. Why wouldn't you do it? Every single player has a compelling story on how he got to where he is today."
It's in that respect that the Road's true impact might be felt. With agents looking for new ways to bring attention to their clients in the weeks leading up to the draft, Octagon and Gongshow have devised a marketing tool that can be sent directly to NHL front offices. No other agency has yet tried this approach.
"These kids, they've been under a microscope for years by the time they get to this point," said ESPN Insider Corey Pronman, who has been covering NHL prospects for years. "You've seen guys blog about their experience. It's different between writing about it or sharing it with an author as opposed to having a camera follow you around."
The degree to which this project might affect players' fortunes at the draft remains to be seen. But early reviews appear to be positive.
"We've been inundated with positive comments from NHL GMs, assistant GMs, chief scouts. I had one GM call and ask whether there is a subscription he has to subscribe to," said Walsh. "It just goes to show you the level of interest that is out there."
The series, which goes as far as to sit in on meetings between the players and their agents, seems like a natural next step for Octagon. Walsh in particular hasn't been shy about using technology to speak out publicly on his clients' behalf. The player agent began using Twitter in its infancy and has often used the medium to draw attention to his clients when they enjoy a big night on the ice.
But Walsh hasn't just used Twitter to spotlight his clients, who include Marc-Andre Fleury, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jonathan Drouin and Ryan McDonagh. He's also been outspoken in his online criticisms, especially when it comes to the NHL. The Road is devoid of any of that controversy, but Walsh sees it as a natural extension of what he's been doing for years with Twitter.
"I'm sort of on the lookout for the next thing. I think that, when it comes to producing original content, there is no limit to what you can do. We can do this every single year," Walsh said. "We've already been looking at the next project. Whether it's a draft project next year, or it's something that becomes permanent or maybe it's looking at free agency. There are a lot of different ideas that we're bouncing off each other right now."