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Next week when the Penguins and Predators compete for the best trophy in sports, the next generation will be preparing for Stanley Cup dreams of their own. 18-year-olds from around the globe will be in Buffalo for the NHL Draft Combine lifting weights, long-jumping, and doing extreme cardio tests like the Wingate and VO2. Golden Knights GM George McPhee and Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Luce will be in attendance looking for the sixth overall pick.
It’s a brand-new process for all the scouts on board, and you’re looking at [the] best available that could deliver the best asset possible to the organization. Whether that’s a forward, defenseman or a goalie may vary with each selection. We’ll look at the best asset at that draft slot. That’s what you’re looking to add. -Scott Luce, Vegas Amateur Scouting Director to NHL.com
Luce continued to open up their process to fans and described the perfect candidate. The Golden Knights are looking for prospects with talent, determination and high hockey IQ. Most importantly, Vegas is specifically targeting players with elite skating skills, but it seems like Vegas wont be drafting players on ability only.
We want high-character, low-maintenance type players. It’ll be a good learning curve for the entire staff going to the combine and representing our organization. -Luce
Ah ha. There it is, the key word, high-character. Look across the NHL, successful teams of course have stars, but are full of impact role players. For example, Chris Kunitz went 35 games without a goal before his superb two-goal game seven. The owner of three Stanley Cup rings has dropped major minutes from his second and third Cup. However, a role player like Kunitz impacts the team through his professionalism and leadership. There are countless “character players” in the league that add much more than points. McPhee and Luce will scout for those prospects over a basket of Wild Wings.
We’re going to try and ascertain best practices we’ve used in other various organizations, so I think this year will be a great learning experience for us as a staff. But we want to come out of there with a comfort level with the young players knowing that they have what it takes to be a Vegas Golden Knight. -Luce
Targeting high-character players has historically given an edge to expansion franchises. Florida’s first GM Bobby Clarke said reputable players was one reason the Panthers played for the Cup in their third season.
In our case, we wanted hardworking, high-character people. You have to score goals, but scoring wasn’t going to be a high priority at the start, because no NHL team is going to give you their scorers in an expansion draft, so you build from hard workers and character and team players. -Bobby Clarke
Similar thoughts from the first man in charge in Ottawa.
We were looking for players with good character and hardworking players. You are trying to create the culture, or at least start it off with a good footing. I don’t think there was anyone that year that questioned the work ethic of the Ottawa Senators. -Mel Bridgman, Senators First GM
Another key phrase you’ll hear is establishing the Golden Knight culture, guys who “get with the program quickly.” No one is suggesting to pass on talent for character though. The Golden Knights will draft the best player available, especially early, but later round prospects could possess that IQ and character McPhee, Luce, and Co. are looking for.
We’re all sports fans. We know players with high character are engaged with the community, are fair with the media, and most importantly, they play hard for the fans. Those are the jerseys the get sold the most.