The expansion Vegas Golden Knights will take the next step in building their team when general manager George McPhee and director of amateur scouting Scott Luce attend the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo from May 29-June 3.
The combine will give the League's first new team since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild joined the NHL in 2000 the opportunity to determine which players might best fit its needs. The Golden Knights have the No. 6 pick in the first round, as determined by the NHL Draft Lottery, and have the third pick in Rounds 2-7.
The 2017 NHL Draft will be held at United Center in Chicago on June 23 and 24.
"It's a brand-new process for all the scouts on board, and you're looking at [the] best available [player] that could deliver the best asset possible to the organization," Luce said. "Whether that's a forward, defenseman or a goalie may vary with each selection. We'll look at the best asset at that draft slot. That's what you're looking to add."
Prior to joining Vegas, Luce worked in scouting and player personnel for the Florida Panthers from 2002-16. During his tenure the Panthers, he drafted forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trocheck, and defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Michael Matheson. Each plays a prominent role for the Panthers.
The decision to select Barkov with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft was surprising since at the time defenseman Seth Jones and forward Jonathan Drouin each was considered by many to be a better option. But Barkov has 171 points (73 goals, 98 assists) in 252 NHL games, third among players picked in 2013 behind center Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames, the sixth pick, who has 217 points (107 goals, 110 assists) in 319 games, and center Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, the No. 1 pick, who has 206 points (75 goals, 131 assists) in 300 games.
Luce has an idea about what type of players succeed in the NHL today.
"You have to be able to skate, first and foremost, because you have to play at a pace that seems to get higher and higher every season," he said. "These young players are making plays at such great speed, so you have to be able to skate. You need to have the sense and feel for the game. It's that combination of speed, skill and sense, in addition to having a willingness to compete on a nightly basis, that are important."
Luce said he expects the Vegas scouting group to learn a lot at its first combine.
"We're going to try and ascertain best practices we've used in other various organizations, so I think this year will be a great learning experience for us as a staff," he said. "But we want to come out of there with a comfort level with the young players knowing that they have what it takes to be a Vegas Golden Knight. We want high-character, low-maintenance type players. It'll be a good learning curve for the entire staff going to the combine and representing our organization."