Griffin Luce (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
Griffin Luce is a promising prospect for this year's NHL draft and is currently playing for Team USA in the World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota, where his father Scott is more than an interested observer.
Florida Panthers director of player personnel Scott Luce has scouted virtually every draft-eligible teenager playing in North America this season. He’s done numerous reports on each player, meticulously breaking down his strengths and weaknesses and assessing whether or not he’ll be a future NHL player. After all, that’s what he does.
But there is one player both he and the Panthers have ignored completely. Not one report has been done, not one projection made. That player would be Luce’s 18 year-old son Griffin, a defenseman for the U.S. national development team. And it has put the elder Luce in a rather awkward position as he scouts the World Under-18 Championships in Grand Forks, N.D. At times, Luce is a dispassionate scout watching future NHLers, at others he’s just another nervous dad in the stands watching his son.
Griffin is off to the University of Michigan next season and there’s a pretty good chance he’ll go in the top two rounds of the NHL draft in June. But Scott Luce is certain of one destination where his son will not land. “No one on our staff has done a report on him and neither have I,” the elder Luce said. “I’ve told him that unfortunately for him, he can only get drafted by 29 teams because we’re not taking him.”
Scott Luce will be in the stands Saturday when the U.S. team, which beat the Czechs 8-0 in the quarterfinal Thursday, meets Finland in the semifinal Saturday. Canada faces Sweden in the other semifinal with the winners meeting Sunday for the gold medal. Scott Luce will watch the American team the same way he has all year. Every player on the American team and virtually every one in the tournament is up for this year’s draft. There are two places in an arena where there is no cheering allowed – the press box and the scouts’ section. And it’s difficult for him to go to a game and just watch his son because every game Griffin plays, all of his teammates and opponents are up for this year’s draft.
“When you’re watching the game, you have to say, ‘Well, I have focus on these guys no matter whether my son is on the ice or not,” Scott Luce said. “I have to watch ‘Player X’ and ‘Player Y’ because I need to have reports in on them for work. It’s just a different approach.”
Griffin might not be able to talk to his dad much about his NHL prospects, but none to worry, he can always chat with his grandfather, Don, one of the best checking centers and penalty killers of his era. The former Buffalo Sabre won the Masterton Trophy in 1974-75 and likely would have won a couple of Selke Trophies had the award been established a couple of years before 1977-78. Playing on a line with Craig Ramsay and Danny Gare, Luce was also an offensive force, scoring 33 goals and 76 points in 1973-74. That year he scored eight shorthanded goals, which was an NHL record at the time.
Speaking of his grandfather, there’s some pretty incredible symmetry at work here. Don Luce, who works these days as a pro scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs, was drafted 14th overall by the New York Rangers in 1966, 50 years before his grandson will be selected. It should be quite an interesting day for all three of them, considering it’s being held in Buffalo where Don Luce starred for so many years. And that day, Scott Luce will once again have to straddle that fine line between nervous and happy dad and scout while he runs the draft for the Panthers.
“I’ll probably be a hot mess,” Scott Luce said. “I’ll just have to mask it well.”
Luce certainly isn't alone in having NHL connections. First-round prospects Kieffer Bellows and Logan Brown have former NHL fathers in Brian Bellows and Jeff Brown. And Graham McPhee is the son of former NHLer and former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee.
Griffin was born in Wisconsin and played his minor hockey in London, Ont., so his dual citizenship would have allowed him to play internationally for either Canada or USA. Prior to joining the national team development program, he played prep school hockey for Salisbury. His father has watched him play thousands of times and says that if he had to do a scouting report on his son, it would read something like this: “Good first pass. Strong defensive defenseman. Shutdown guy who will eventually play against other teams’ top lines. A good complementary partner.”