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A Scout's Eye: Hockey During The Summer

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.

Well, today the Rookies start to arrive in Toronto in preparation for the Rookie Tournament to be held in Kitchener this weekend. I will be driving to Toronto this afternoon to meet the players. 

This will signal the beginning of another long and hectic scouting season for myself and our staff. I will keep you posted on how things are unfolding in Kitchener. 
Reflecting back on the 2008 Draft, I am still excited how things unfolded for the organization in Ottawa. Heading into the draft with only 4 picks, we needed to catch a few breaks here and there in order to have a strong draft.  We were very fortunate to have Jacob Markstrom available at pick 31. Then trading up a few spots from the pick we acquired from Phoenix enabled us to add to our depth of a big smooth skating defensemen by the name of Colby Robak. Adding Adam Comrie in the 3rd round only added further Depth on the back end. AJ Jenks interviewed well with us at the Combine and when he was still available, we took him and brought a big forward into the system. Matt Bartkowski in the 7th allows us to have another collegiate D-man develop for a few extra years in the NCAA. He adds character and grit and will be used extensively at Ohio State starting this fall.
All in all, the Amateur Depth Chart now is the strongest it has been in some time. With a full affiliation in Rochester, our young prospects have more opportunity to earn the right to continue their development after their Junior / Collegiate careers.
At the end of July, I dusted off the laptop and headed back to Ottawa to attend the Canadian World Junior Camp. My focus was on John Tavares and Nazem Kadri. Tavares as most hockey fans know is the highly touted prospect for this upcoming Draft. Kadri was the only other draft eligible player at this Camp and both players played well and helped their stock heading into the season. For summer hockey, the level of play was high and quite passionate. This is the team to make if you are a Canadian Junior aged hockey player. Lots of intensity and skill, made for three days of quality coverage.
The start of August found me in Lake Placid for the USA World Junior Camp. Hockey USA brings in Sweden and Finland for this camp. Team White and Team Blue play each country twice. Lots of talent in this tournament and it was especially nice to see that we had four of our prospects at this camp. Markstrom from Sweden along with Rust, Jenks and Comrie. Throw in futures in Schroeder, Morin, Palmieri, Maxwell and the highly touted Swede Hedman, it was a great tournament to get an early look see at some of the high end prospects for the 2009 Draft.
Markstrom was rock solid in his two games. He stole his first game and then lost in a shoot out in his second start. The Swedes should contend for a Gold in Ottawa this Christmas. Rust is a returning player from last years team and played with his usual energy and smarts. Jenks was solid and actually was tied for second in scoring for Team USA behind only Van Riemsdyk. Hopefully this will give AJ lots of confidence heading into his 2008-09 season.  Comrie was a late addition due to some injuries. He did not look out of place and showed some offensive upside to go with his aggressive defending.
Canada, Sweden, USA and Russia should be the teams to beat in this years World Juniors. It will be an exciting tournament. With one day to unpack and pack again, I left Lake Placid for Bratislava, Slovakia and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. This tournament is the annual kickoff tournament for all of the U 18 National teams.Canada sends the best of their best to this tournament and if I recall correctly have only lost the tournament once maybe twice since its inception. USA sends a group of prospects that were in consideration for their U 18 National Development Program, so it is not their best squad. Other countries represented were Sweden, Finland, Czech and Slovak Republics, Russia and Switzerland.
Canada walked away with the tournament by beating Russia 6-3 in the Final Game. Sweden had an impressive group of prospects. Finland has a few guys of interest as well. At the conclusion of the tournament, we meet to determine our level of interest in each prospect. At that point, we go back and start putting our schedules together for the months of September, October and November.
All of the scouts are now getting ready to start their regional coverage.  They will identify the prospects of interest in their area.  It is time to start the process again and our staff is up to the task.
Scott Luce
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