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31Days: Scouting The Action

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Welcome to's 31 Days Of Fun. This is the fourth day of our run (August 13-September 12 taking us right up to the start of training camp). Join us on Facebook or Twitter each day as we will be having our key people, staff, players, prospects - EVERYONE - answering your questions. One prize will be awarded every day! 

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Our next installment sees a Q&A with Panthers Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Luce. Remember, you can send your questions to anyone in the organization via twitter, facebook or through email.

Our globe-trotting Director of Amateur Scouting, Scott Luce recently returned from Europe after taking in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament with his staff - which kicks off the "scouting season" for all NHL teams and their scouting departments.  We caught up with Scott and hit him with your questions and a few of our own. 

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Question - First off, did you expect Dmitry Kulikov to drop to #14 in this years draft?

Luce - In approximately 10-15% of our Mock Drafts we did prior to the Entry Draft we had Dmitry dropping to us at #14. We didn't think it would happen after the first seven picks but beginning at pick #8 we saw the board loosen up and by pick #12 we were convinced we were going to get him. There were two defencemen we were looking at and we were happy to get him.

Follow-up Question - Tell us more about Kulikov..

Luce - He has an immense amount of character. Our scouting staff did its due diligence with all sorts of checklists and cross-checks, we spoke to former billets, former teammates, our Quebec, Northeastern and Russian scouts. We were very comfortable. He is mature beyond his years and learned English and a little bit of French. The Community of Drummondville adopted him, for what he did with charity work and minor hockey and it speaks volumes about his character. 

He's a kid who left home at age 11, and went north 4 1/2 hours away from his family to Moscow to pursue his dream and then moved across the globe to Quebec to play junior. My son is 11 and I can't imagine how hard it would be to move 4 1/2 hours away from your family.

Question - When scouting, what Country or Region do you think right now has some of THE best Athletes when it comes to finding new talent for the NHL?

Luce - We look all over the world.

Question - Has there been any changes in direction in terms of drafting over the last few years?

Luce - Well we've had different GMs but the one big change was that our number one priority for making a prospect a Panther is character. We want players who want to play and stay here and overall have immense character. Of course, the skills are very important but I think you're seeing players become Panthers and stay Panthers. We've also benefited with a full affiliate (in Rochester) and that has improved our player development dramatically.

Before we were limited on the number of contracts, having a full affiliate has widened the base and we're seeing the fruits of our labor in regards to those selections. We're having success drafting and developing goaltenders in particular which was a challenge before.

Question - Scott, give us the backstory on the draft pick swap with the LA Kings during the Entry Draft in Montreal.

Luce - Heading into the Draft, we always analyze the Draft Grid to see what teams have a high number of picks (Potential Sellers) and a low number of picks (Potential Buyers). We had determined that the L.A. Kings could be a potential trade partner if one of a select group of prospects were still on the board and not in our range of selections. Once this is determined, we put a value on that pick as to what we would be willing to exchange for that specific pick. Both Garret Wilson and Wade Megan were in a specific group of prospects that we were targeting in the mid-rounds. To get both players with that particular trade was a bonus.

Question - Your initial thoughts on the 2010 Entry Draft?

Luce - Well we began grading the quality of this draft half-way through last season. You need to know because it determines the potential for moving draft picks. Its a strong draft for forwards, some high-end forwards and there are some forwards who didn't make the (Ivan Hlinka Memorial) Canadian team that we have interest in. Throughout the year, we will be looking at prospects quantitatively, have our mid-season meetings, narrow that list to 50 or 75 players who could become Panthers and work from there in a qualitative point of view. And we'll argue and debate the players that will have the most impact.

Question - Was taking a vast majority of forwards always part of the strategy for this year's draft, or a result of the loss of Jacques Martin and his defense-first history?

Luce - Taking a majority of forwards was a strategy that we discussed PRIOR to Jacques departure to the Montreal Canadiens. That said, the trickiest part of the Draft is how you manage your list as the selections unfold. In actuality, most teams will have upwards of 3 or 4 potential Draft strategies and depending on who gets selected will alter their strategies accordingly. We were comfortable with our Depth in Goal and on Defense heading into the Draft. We have several young forwards on our current NHL Roster as well as some in the AHL preparing themselves for the jump to the NHL. In this year's Draft, the draft unfolded in such a way that we were able to add significant depth up the middle.

Question - Tell us how the Panthers found and signed free agent goalie Alexander Salak?

Luce - We had seen him before in the Czech league where we thought he'd be a late-bloomer. He was a little "herky-jerky" between the pipes then but he had great puck focus. He was "banging his drum" from the get-go, he has a great personality, absolutely loves the position of goaltender and is really competitive. He puts in a lot of time both physically and mentally in becoming a world-class goalie and he really hates to let in a goal even in warm-ups. He has the combativeness and just loves to battle. The Finnish league is a high-quality league and he did very well there. We had a great book on him from our Finnish scout and he jumped at the chance to sign with us and he's positioned to play with Rochester. 
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