Coming off of arguably the most successful season in franchise history, the Florida Panthers surprised some by shuffling the deck in their front office and the changes keep coming.
Last week, the Panthers officially announced they had moved GM Dale Tallon from his position in the front office to an expanded role as the president of hockey operations and had filled Tallon’s former post with Tom Rowe, who had been acting as the team’s associate GM. To replace Rowe, the Panthers then moved Eric Joyce and Steve Werier to assistant GM roles. And though some would have expected that to be the end of the movement for the Panthers, that’s not the case.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Sunday that the Panthers had let go of longtime director of scouting Scott Luce, which was confirmed Monday by the Miami Herald’s George Richards. According to Richards, Rowe said the Panthers “wanted a different voice” as the team’s head of scouting, but that seems bizarre given the crop of current players and prospects Luce has helped build.
Luce, who had been with Florida since the 2002-03 season, had a hand in the drafting of former Panthers standouts and successful NHLers such as Nathan Horton, David Booth and Michael Frolik, but it’s Luce’s work in the past several seasons that has really made the difference in Florida. Luce has been part of a Panthers draft team that has helped assemble a bevy of current and potential future talent, and it doesn’t seem as though he’ll have to wait long before being snatched up.
Of the Cats roster that is coming off of an Atlantic Division championship, which is Florida’s first division title in franchise history, Luce helped bring in eight key players. Starting with the 2009 draft, Luce helped oversee the drafting of Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Petrovic, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad. And that’s only the players who are currently on the Panthers’ roster.
In the past four drafts, Luce’s scouting team has helped build a nice stock of prospects for the Panthers. They turned a late first-round pick, 23rd overall, into defenseman Mike Matheson, who may still be a relative unknown as far as the NHL goes, but was named the best defenseman at the 2016 World Championship and he had an excellent rookie season in the AHL. Luce also brought in Jayce Hawryluk, the standout scorer from the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, and talented forward Lawson Crouse, who could be on his way to the NHL in the next couple of seasons.
Luce’s work has helped the Panthers assemble what was ranked the eighth-best group of prospects in the NHL by a panel of scouts in THN’s 2016 Future Watch edition. Three of those players — the aforementioned Crouse and Matheson, as well as defenseman Ian McCoshen — ranked in the top 75 prospects. Less than half the league was able to boast at least three players ranked that high.