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Finding The Future Stars

Sunday, 06.15.2008 / 3:00 PM ET / 2008 NHL Draft
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Finding The Future Stars
The Panthers drafted Michal Repik with the 40th pick in last year's draft. Repik's now considered one of the top prospects in the system.
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com

For more than a year, Scott Luce has been driving the back roads and sitting in old, cold rinks throughout the world watching the future of hockey.

From British Columbia to Nova Scotia, from Moscow to Kariskoga, Luce has spent countless minutes, hours, days and months evaluating the draft class of 2008. And after watching, researching and interviewing the top junior players, Luce is excited about landing a “significant prospect” come next weekend at the NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa.

“This is an above average draft,” said Luce, the Panthers’ director of amateur scouting. “There’s a solid 40 to 45 guys who should have significant NHL careers based on how they’re projected.”

This is good news for the Panthers, who traded their first-round selection last June when acquiring All-Star goalie Tomas Vokoun and will select 31st at this year’s draft.

“We’re going to be happy with whoever falls into our laps at 31,” said Luce, who has been instrumental in Panther selections Nathan Horton, Rostislav Olesz, Michael Frolik, Keaton Ellerby and Michal Repik. “We’re confident we’re going to get a significant prospect at the ’08 Draft.”

The odds-on choice to be selected first overall by the Lightning is Steven Stamkos, a 5-11 center who has scored 100 goals (197 points) the past two years in 124 games while playing in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). The fun begins after Tampa selects and Los Angeles is on the clock.

“I don’t think there’s any question who the No. 1 pick will be,” Luce said. “But number two is going to be wide open. Los Angeles has a difficult decision to make.”

The Kings could take one of four defensemen, all ranked as NHL prospects. The four are:

Drew Doughty, a 6-0, 219-pounder who could be the most NHL-ready defenseman and a player Central Scouting believes a team can build around the next 10 years.

Zach Bogosian, the only OHL defenseman who led his team in scoring (61 points) last season. A solid, all-around player, some believe he could have been the first overall pick if not for Stamkos.

Luke Schenn, who, at 6-2, has been compared to Ed Jovanovski with a tough edge who’s quietly effective every night, according to Luce.

Alex Pietrangelo, a 6-3, 206 pounder who had 45 assists last year in Niagara and, Luce says, is the “complete package of size and skill.”

This isn’t to say the Entry Draft doesn’t hold promise when it comes to forwards. Center Colin Wilson of Boston College is regarded as a solid pick as is left winger Mikkel Boedker of Denmark and 6-3, 203-pound Kyle Beach of the Western Hockey League.

The wild card in the draft could be left winger Nikita Filatov of Moscow’s Central Army team. Described by Central Scouting as having “tons of talent,” Filatov might tumble in the draft despite being considered one of the world’s top prospects because there is no transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.

“It’s a bit of a gamble whether they come over to play or not,” admitted Luce, who, nonetheless, drafted two prospects last year from Russia in Evgeni Dadonov and Sergei Gayduchenko. “Dadonov might be considered high risk (in the third round), but we felt he was too strong an asset. We felt he would have been a first or early second round pick if there was an agreement in place. You have to have confidence, based on your due diligence and working with his agent, that, in time, the player has a strong interest in coming to play in North America.”

Luce, who has seen the top 50-75 prospects no fewer than eight times, says teams will ultimately approach the draft based on their needs.

“Sometimes decisions are made for the short term and other decisions are based on the long term,” he said. “That’s why a guy who you have at 31 another team may have at 50. Everyone places a different value on each player. Everyone likes to draft the best player possible. But you may value a puck moving defenseman over a scoring winger. Another team might value the scoring winger. It’s all going to depend on where your priority is.”




1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
7 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47


J. Jagr 51 17 21 14 38
J. Jokinen 54 11 27 12 38
J. Huberdeau 54 10 28 12 38
V. Trocheck 54 17 18 3 35
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
R. Smith 54 18 16 12 34
B. Pirri 50 11 13 -4 24
A. Ekblad 50 10 13 20 23
B. Campbell 54 5 17 20 22
N. Bjugstad 39 9 10 -1 19
R. Luongo 24 13 5 .928 2.17
A. Montoya 8 3 1 .929 2.01

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