There are two types of defensemen that get drafted high these days. The first type are the puck-moving, agile defenders that can run an offense. But while the game is seemingly tilting more and more into the hands of those puck-movers, teams still really seem to love big guys that can shut opposition attackers down.
The early part of the 2016 NHL Draft seems to be chock full of effective puck-moving defenders, but American-born blueliner Griffin Luce could be one of the more tantalizing shutdown options due to his bloodlines and size. He’s also someone who’s really difficult to nail down in terms of draft position; he’s ranked 70th among North American skaters by Central Scouting, but has been seen anywhere between the second and seventh round in draft projections.
The variation is likely due to his fairly low offensive output this past season.
Luce is a 6’3″, 215 pound defenseman from Williamsville, New York (a Buffalo suburb).
Big defenseman is the grandson of former Buffalo Sabres great Don Luce
and his dad, Scott, heads the Florida Panthers’ player development and
amateur scouting staff. A dual citizen (he was born in Ontario but
claims Williamsville, N.Y. as his home), at one point Luce looked like
he might be evolving into a dominant blue line presence a couple of
years back at Salisbury School. After a year at the NTDP, the University
of Michigan recruit looks like a solid defense-first, shutdown player
but does not project as much of an offensive threat at the higher
levels. He’s big and physical- needs to improve his skating transitions
and direction changes.
One of the unsung heroes of this season’s rendition of the Under-18 US
National Team, Griffin Luce handled some of the toughest assignments on
his team as one of their top penalty killers and shutdown blueliners.
With strong NHL bloodlines,
as his grandfather Don played over 10 seasons in the NHL, Griffin has
long been on the radar as an NHL prospect. However, Luce’s rapid
improvement in recent seasons has convinced NHL scouts that he can be an
effective NHL player, despite his underwhelming counting stats.
Luce is a shutdown defenseman. If you’re familiar with say, famed Flames shutdown defender Robyn Regehr, you’ll remember that shutdown defenders generally don’t score very much. This is the case with Luce, who was the seventh-leading defensive scorer on the U.S. National Development Team – which played a mixed schedule of USHL games and games against international under-18 clubs.
To provide a contrast, teammate and fellow defenseman Adam Fox had 59 points in 64 U18 contests, while Luce had just 11 points. That said, the U.S. National Development Team is a breeding ground for really good college players (and some damn good pros)… but the best guys tend to score a ton as youngsters.
Here’s a list of defenders with similar scoring rates as Luce’s:
|Scott Savage||2012-13||No||Boston College|
|Gage Ausmus||2012-13||5th round (San Jose)||North Dakota|
|Steven Santini||2012-13||2nd round (New Jersey)||Boston College|
|Johnathan MacLeod||2013-14||2nd round (Tampa Bay)||Boston University|
|Steven Ruggerio||2014-15||6th round (Anaheim)||Providence College|
|Nicholas Boka||2014-15||6th round (Minnesota)||Michigan|
So it’s a mixed bag. It probably helps that Santini and MacLeod played styles of hockey that seemed to translate well at the pro level. (And they were big.) Luce? He’s also big and plays a style that should translate.
FIT WITH THE FLAMES
Luce is a left-shooting defenseman. He’s big and physical and doesn’t seem to have a lot of offensive potential, though he’s an effective shutdown guy. The Flames also have Keegan Kanzig, Patrick Sieloff and Riley Bruce in their system (in terms of blueliners that don’t have a ton of offensive upside) and I’m not entirely sure what the tradability of those assets is. (In other words, how many players that don’t score does an organization need?) That said, the Flames don’t have a shutdown defender in their system with Luce’s skillset, but the lack of offense is a bit of a concern.
Luce is committed to the University of Michigan next season, and it’s unclear if he’s into the college experience for the long haul or just aiming to play there for a couple of years.
SUM IT UP
Luce is an effective defenseman, but given that he’s not an established offensive weapon at the junior (and international) level, it’s unclear where he’d fit in with the Flames mixture of established prospects.