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A Scout's Eye: Finally Home

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
A Scout's Eye is a blog written by Panthers Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Luce as he takes you behind the scenes of what a scout really goes through as they prepare for their big holiday, the NHL Entry Draft. Scouts are the reason for the home-grown product, those players that are drafted by the team and then make a huge difference for them.

Luce is in his fifth year with the Panthers, after joining the club's scouting staff on July 11, 2002. He oversees the club's amateur scouts and works closely with Panthers General Manager Jacques Martin, tracking prospects throughout the world.

Luce has been responsible for the Panthers drafting notable players such as Nathan Horton, Rostislav Olesz, David Booth, Michael Frolik, and Michal Repik.

4/22 -
Well, I finally made it back home. It is supposed to get up to 24 degrees Celsius here in St. Thomas, Ontario today and I know that is a walk in the park for the majority of our fans, but it is unusually warm for this time of year. Not that it matters as I am in my home office pounding away on my laptop and getting caught up on schedules and game reports. I will be touching base with each scout in the next few days to get a verbal run down on what they have seen while I was away and they will inform me if any of our prospects of interest need to be seen by me again one last time. My guess is that I will end up either going to the WHL or the QMJHL playoffs sometime next week pending the outcome of the semifinals. Good to be back home and I am looking forward to my next scouting trip, but need a few days to get caught up with my family before doing so.

Scott Luce

Just back from breakfast and it is pouring rain here in Moscow. Not happy as I looked at the Flight board in the hotel lobby and it showed flight delays across the board. I am due to fly to Frankfurt at 2:30 this afternoon and then connect on to Detroit where I am scheduled to take a three hour shuttle back to my home in St. Thomas, Ontario. All told, I will be travelling for close to 22 hours before I finally arrive home.

At the airport now and things have gone smoothly as my paperwork to exit Russia was in good order and I proceeded through Passport Control with minimal to no delay. Every time you check out of a hotel here, they give you a sheet of paper documenting your stay. They say you need it when you leave. I have three hotel vouchers, one sheet that breaks down the currency I am carrying (15 Euros and 21 US Dollars), I casually forgot to mention the roughly 2,000 Rubles which are not supposed to leave the country, but my sons take it to school for show and tell. By the way, that is less than $100 and yes, the boys bring it back.

They always hand back that paper work. Not once have they taken it from me. You hold onto it just in case and then you toss it once you are out of Russia.

Flight to Frankfurt is uneventful. Upon arriving Nik Blomgren calls to inform me that Canada beat Sweden 3-2 in the semis with USA and Russia set to face off. Sounds like the top line of Hall - Hodgson - Eberle clicked in the last two games and carried Canada offensively. Jake Allen the goalie must have played well as Canada was out shot significantly. My bet is a Russia - Canada Final. Filatov will be pumped up if this happens.  He will want to give Canada fits.

After three movies and minimal sleep, I arrive in Detroit and find out it is a Russia - Canada Final. I will catch it on TV and see how it goes. Three hour shuttle home should put me there at 1:00 AM, which is 9:00 AM Moscow time. It does not take long to readjust to Eastern Standard Time and I have a busy day in front of me tomorrow.

Scott Luce

Had a nice meal in Moscow last night as we discussed the plan for finishing off our European List in the morning and then heading to our respective hotels to depart home. Crappy day here as it is raining like crazy, so it will be a good day to stay inside and get our list completed. Takes us four hours to tidy up our list which we will merge with our North American list at the upcoming combine. We go to lunch at one of my favorite spots in Moscow: IL Patio, which we call Patio Pizza. Great Pizza and Italian Food. I start off with my Russian staple... Solyanka, which is a Mixed Meat Soup that they dab a spoonful of Sour Cream into. It comes piping hot and is the perfect match to a dismal day outside.....

We pack up Vadims car and head to the airport. With the weather, traffic is not that great and within 5 minutes, we are at a stand still. Three close calls and I still don't know how Vadim was able to steer clear of yet another aggressive driver. We drop Nik off at a makeshift Taxi stand where I see a car with a Taxi sign. Vadim hops out and negotiates a rate for Nik to go to his airport. 1000 Rubles. Vadim talks first so we do not get taken. I notice the Taxi pull in his rooftop light as Nik heads off. Vadim informs me that he is just a guy and has no license, so he has to avoid getting a ticket...

Hope Nik made it.....

Our drive to go 35 KM's takes another hour and a half. We have to stop for a government official and I count four advance cars and 11 security cars around the Official. Vadim says it is probably number two guy as Putin usually has more protection. Everything stops for 25 minutes on our side and the other side is emptied as they do their security sweeps. Vadim tells me a story about how his car broke down just prior to an official going by. He had to push his car to the side of the road and stand with a security official as they went by. He said it was not that comfortable.......

Arrive at hotel and Vadim offers to come back tomorrow and take me to the airport which is right next door. I tell him to save four hours of his life and spend it with his boy Demid who sounds like he will be a good player like his Father was. Four hours for a 40 mile round trip is not necessary. I hope I get by without Vadim tomorrow..
Scott Luce

4.19.08 ::::

Spent the morning going over e-mails and game reports. My time at the tournament is over.  Day off today and I am heading to Moscow for our European meetings. Our scouts have been keeping me informed via e-mail and game reports on how their respective league playoffs are going. No real surprises in the OHL or WHL. QMJHL saw Michal Frolik's team upset Baie Comeau in the first round only to be swept by Rouyn-Noranda in the next round. USHL playoffs are under way and Fred Bandel, our Minnesota based scout, informed me this morning that John Lee has been playing steady in Waterloo and that his defense is fine and offense is coming. He is looking forward to attending Denver University next season.

Well Canada will play Finland and the USA will play Germany in the Quarter Finals. Sweden and Russia get the bye to the Semis. Canada will have to beat Finland and then Sweden to advance to the Finals whereas the USA needs to beat Germany and then the Host Russia to advance.  Games will be close and I'm anxious to hear from our scouts on how they finish up. I should be able to catch the Semis and Finals on TSN when I return home.

Our prospects of interest in this tournament performed to expectations. A few saw their stock rise and some fell a little. We added a few new names to our list that we will finalize over the next month or so. After the tournament and meetings our European Scouts will continue to do follow up work and background checks of the prospects we have interest in.

The Draft is now only 2 months away and these next 8 weeks have a tendency to fly by.

Scott Luce

4.18.08 ::::

Well the Internet server at the Hotel we are staying at has been down for a few days. Weather is starting to get overcast and quite windy.  Just back from watching Sweden thump Switzerland 7-0. Hedman did not play as it is his shoulder that is bothering him. The whole team has a touch of the stomach flu, but that did not slow them down at all this afternoon. They should be the team to beat along with Russia heading into the Playoff round.
USA plays Finland tonight and that game will determine who plays Canada in the quarterfinals. Speaking of Canada, they lost to Russia the other night 4-2. It was a very entertaining game and the close to 10,000 fans that were there got a real treat. Game was tied at two after 2 periods of play. The home team managed to score two in the third to earn the victory. On the downside, Filatov took a butt ending penalty in the first period and was ejected. We had looked forward to see how he would perform against a hard hitting core of Defensemen from Canada. It was not his night, but other Russian forwards stepped up and gave the Canadians all they could handle. Game could have went either way, but the crowd may have been the difference.
The afternoon game on the 16th was a great one as well. It saw Germany upset Slovakia 5-4 in a shootout win. Not a ton of prospects on either team, but it is great to see the kids compete and the game saw good goaltending and solid team play for the duration. Slovakia now will be in tight to avoid the relegation round.

Scott Luce

4.17.08 ::::

Slow day for games as the only games were Belarus vs. Finland and Germany vs.  Denmark. Spent the afternoon talking with Duane Sutter about our upcoming Development Camp which he runs. We were finalizing the Invitation list and the invites should go out later this week.  Duane was glad to hear that Dadonov and Gayduchenko were both playing in an U19 tournament in Tjumen this week. Dadonov tallied two assists in a 4-2 win over Sweden and Gayduchenko earned a 3-1 win over Slovakia. 
After tonight’s game, the Round robin games are done and the teams split into a Playoff and Relegation Round setup. Saturday is an off day for the tournament and will see us start our European meetings.
Scott Luce

4.16.08 ::::
Just back from breakfast and it is another sunny day here in Kazan. Our Hotel is situated right across the street from the original Arena in Kazan and we are a 10 minute Taxi to the Brand new Arena which was built in 2005 or 2006 for the 1,000 year Celebration of Kazan.  So travel back and forth is not the concern it was originally.  Just under 1.5 million people live here and the economy is thriving due to gas and oil companies.  Loads of construction going on everywhere.  The original walled city is quite a structure.  I plan on taking a walk there tomorrow morning.
Now the important stuff.... Prospects..... When reviewing the Final rosters, I was not impressed with the number of Under Age players in the tournament.  These players are not eligible until 2009 or 2010.  It's good to get an advanced viewing, but I would much rather see more guys that we have to make a decision on this year. 
Anyhow,  after seeing all the teams play at least once so far, it looks like Sweden, Russia, Canada and the USA should be battling it out for Medals.  Finland could surprise and sneak into Medal contention.  I saw one game earlier this week that had 17 Under aged players.  Tonight will mark the second game of substance as the schedule was a bit lopsided early on.  Canada vs Russia should be a good test for both teams.  Last night Sweden beat Finland in a physical game that actually saw a fight, which rarely happens in these International Tournaments.  Victor Hedman from Sweden left the game with a concussion / shoulder injury after taking a vicious hit.  That will hurt Sweden as this kid can play.  He is eligible in 2009 and his name has been mentioned with Tavares as a potential Top 2 pick in that Draft.  Anxious to see how Sweden responds.
Canada has started slow in its first two victories, but they will be hungry to play the Russians tonight.  Team USA has a solid PP and are playing well as a team.  They match up against Sweden tonight.  Two good games at different rinks. Sometimes the schedules don't work in your favor.  Tonight is a perfect example as I would like to see both games.
Well, need to complete my game reports from last night, I will check in later in the week.
Scott Luce

4.11.08 ::::

Arrived in Moscow to the new airport and am amazed that it took only 17 minutes for me to exit the Arrival Hall, clear Passport control and get my baggage.  Definitely a new record.  It is always nice to start a trip to Russia in this way. 

We have to get a visa that shows a Entry Date and an Exit Date.  You must leave the country before your exit date or else it turns into a nightmare with lots of additional costs.  Only country that I have been to that won't let you leave. 

Vadim Podrezov our Russian scout picks me up and we are on our way, but not long after we get started for the 35-40 KM ride to the hotel we encounter Russian TRAFFIC.  It is amazing the length of time it takes to go places in Moscow.  We pass on taking the Third Ring road as Vadim notices it is backed up and states that it " may take us all afternoon if we go that way "  He goes out of his way, hoping that City traffic is not that bad at mid day.  He guesses right and the ride only takes us 1 and a half hours.  We got off easy this time and I am glad to check into the Hotel.  I try not to sleep, but my eyes our burning as I type this.  So much for trying to adjust to the time change.  Will touch base form Kazan once the tournament starts.

Scott Luce

4.10.08 ::::

Hard to imagine that the scouting season is starting to wind down and the Draft will soon be upon us. 

On my way to the World Under 18 Championships which are being held in Kazan, Russia this year.  April 13-23.  My route takes me from Detroit to Frankfurt and then to Moscow where I will overnight and try to adjust to the time change.  On Saturday the 12th, I will fly to Kazan which is roughly two hours East of Moscow.  Reviewing paper work on the flight to make sure we have the proper coverage in North America while I am in Europe for an extended stay.  Having seen close to 200 games already this season many of our scouts will be fine tuning their coverage to make sure they see our prospects of interest one more time.  The WHL, OHL and QMJHL are wrapping up their second rounds and the USHL playoffs are set to start.  NCAA Frozen Four is this weekend as well.  European Pro playoffs are set to conclude as they then will start preparing for the Men's World Championships which are being held in Quebec City and Halifax this year and I think it is the 100th Anniversary of the Championship.
No problems on the flights so far.  Landed in Frankfurt and made my connection to Moscow.  Just tidying up our list of requested interviews for the upcoming Scouting Combine which takes place in late May in Toronto.  New format this year, so it will be interesting to see how things go. I like the changes so far and always look forward to meeting some of the prospects in person for the first time.  Our regional scouts have touched base with the prospects, but I may not have met them in person yet, so it is a very important week.
Scott Luce
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