Amateur scouting is a huge part of any NHL organization. They are the scouts that are out there looking for potential draft picks and evaluating players. Drafting in a salary cap world has become huge for teams. The Tampa Bay Lightning are no exception to that. Of the 22 players on the current Lightning roster, 10 were drafted by the team and five were acquired in trades that included players the Lightning had drafted. Six were signed as free agents (though Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde were signed as undrafted free agents and then developed). The one outlier is Erik Cernak who was acquired young in the Ben Bishop trade. Bishop of course was acquired in a trade for a player that was acquired in the same way as Johnson and Gourde in Cory Conacher.
But what do we know about the scouts that are helping to make these decisions on player drafting? The reality is not a lot, but I’m going to “scout” the internet and find out as much as I can about this group of people that are so integral to the success the Lightning organization as had. This is also the time of year when things get really busy for the amateur scouts. The NHL Entry Draft is coming up fast and they need to get all of their viewings in to help form the Lightning’s final draft list by June.
Al Murray, Assistant General Manager and Director of Amateur Scouting
Al Murray is certainly well known as the leader of the amateur scouting department. Steve Yzerman worked with him during their time with Team Canada and hired him to lead up the scouting department when he took over as General Manager of the Lightning. With the re-organization of the front office after Yzerman’s departure, Murray was promoted to being an Assistant General Manager. That may not have changed his job duties very much, but it does offer more prestige to his resume. Prior to the Lightning and his time with Team Canada, Murray was the Director of Amateur Scouting for the Los Angeles Kings where he oversaw some very good drafting.
Murray never played professional hockey, but coached for five seasons, including three at the University of Regina, before becoming a scout.
Darryl Plandowski, Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting
Plandowski has been with the Lightning since 2008-09 serving as the Head Amateur Scout before being bumped up to Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting this season. Prior to joining the Lightning, he was an amateur scout for ten seasons with the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. He was also a scout for four years in the WHL for the Seattle Thunderbirds and spent two seasons as an assistant coach for Seattle before that.
Plandowski played NCAA hockey for four seasons at Norther Michigan University serving as Captain in his senior season. He put up four straight years of 30+ points as a forward. Plandowski never played professional hockey. He has two sons that play hockey, the younger of the two, Oscar, currently playing on the blue line in the QMJHL.
Brad Whelen, Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting
Whelen joined the Lightning staff in 2011-12 as an Amateur Scout after a long career with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL as a Scout there. This is his 9th season with the Lightning. Whelen never played hockey at a high level. Actually, EliteProspects.com doesn’t list any playing time for Whelen. They don’t even have his date of birth, age, or place of birth. He has won two WHL Championships with the Hitmen though.
Grant Armstrong, Amateur Scout
Armstrong is a newcomer to the Lightning’s scouting staff. He began his front office career in the WHL in 2007-08 with the Portland Winter Hawks as Director of Player Personnel for a season and then four seasons as Head Scout. In 2013-14, he moved on to the Victoria Royals as Director of Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager for three seasons. He’s spent the past three seasons as the General Manager of the Brandon Wheat Kings. Armstrong also doesn’t have a player profile on EliteProspects.
Michel Boucher, Amateur Scout
Boucher has a log history of scouting. He began in the QMJHL at various times serving as General Manager, Head Coach, and Head Scout for five different teams over 13 seasons starting in 1986-87. He also was the Director of Scouting for Team Canada in 1994 for the Olympics and World Championships where Canada won a Silver in the Olympics and Gold in World Championships.
Boucher moved into the NHL ranks in 2000-01 with the Los Angeles Kings as an Amateur Scout for six years and another four years with the Montreal Canadiens. He has been with the Lightning since the 2010-11 season. Considering his time with Los Angeles and Montreal, I wonder if he came to the Lightning because of his connections with Al Murray and Julien BriseBois during his time with those organizations. This is his tenth season with the Lightning.
John Burkart, Amateur Scout
Burkart is a younger scout at 45 years old, joining the Lightning scouting department for the the 2011-12 season and is in his ninth season. Prior to joining the Lightning, he was a scout in the USHL and NAHL. Something interesting to note about Burkart is that he spent a lot of time with Jon Cooper. After spending a couple years as an assistant coach, he joined Jon Cooper as an assistant coach for the Honeybaked U18 Midget team. He then followed Cooper to the Texarcana/St. Louis Bandits in the NAHL as a Scout and then to the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL. He spent one more season with Green Bay after Cooper left to take the Lightning’s AHL head coach postion in Norfolk before being hired by the Lightning.
Josh Dye, Amateur Scout
Dye spent ten seasons scouting for the Portland Winterhawks in two stints and was the Director of U.S. Scouting and Player Development. He was hired this summer to join the Lightning’s amateur scouting staff. Also of note is that Dye’s time in Portland overlapped with Grant Armstrong and both were hired this summer.
Rob Kitamura, Amateur Scout
Kitamura was hired by the Lightning as an Amateur Scout prior to the 2011-12 season and is in his ninth season with the Lightning. Prior to joining the Lightning, Kitamura was a scout for the Barrie Colts in the OHL. He then ended up being the head scout for the OHL’s Central Scouting. There isn’t much out there about him, but I did find this article from when he was hired that gives a little background on him.
Brian Putnam, Amateur Scout
Like many of the scouts on the staff, Putnam joined the Lightning after Yzerman and Murray’s takeover of the franchise. He joined the Lightning in 2010-11 and is in his tenth season as an Amateur Scout. Putnam previously served as a scout for the Los Angeles kings for four seasons overlapping with Al Murray’s time in that organization. Prior to scouting, he was an assistant coach at the NCAA level after finishing a four year career at the University of New Hampshire.
Gord Weatherall, Amateur Scout
Weatherall is another scout where there isn’t much information out there on him. According to EliteProspects he was the Head Coach of the Ottawa Senators Minor Bantam AAA team in the OEMBHL and they were the OEMBHL Champions in 2018-19. Elite Prospects also lists him as having been a scout last year for the Lightning as well. Google did not turn up much information on him and he also does not have a player profile page on Elite Prospects.
Mikael Andersson, European Scout
Andersson is a long time scout for the Lightning having been a member of the staff since 2003-04. He, along with Plandowski, is one of the only holdovers from the Pre-Yzerman/Murray era on the scouting staff. There were a few more scouts that had been with the team since prior the change, but it seems most of them are no longer with the team.
Andersson is also the only scout we’ve covered so far that had an NHL career. He broke into the NHL in 1985-86 with the Buffalo Sabres. He also played with the Lightning starting in 1992-93 and was traded during the 1998-99 season. He finished his NHL career in 1999-00 and spent three seasons playing in Sweden before retiring. Upon retirement, he joined the Lightning coaching staff. He played 761 games in the NHL with 264 points as a forward. Also of note is his nephew Lias Andersson has spent parts of the past three seasons with the New York Rangers.
Kari Kettunen, European Scout
Like Andersson, Kettunen has also spent a long time with the Lightning having joined the organization in 1998-99. This is his 22nd season as a European Scout for the Lightning’s scouting staff. Other than that, there’s not much more that I can find on Kettunen.
Anton Routa, European Scout
Routa joined the Lightning scouting staff in 2012-13 as a European Scout. He had previously spent six seasons as a European Scout for the Montreal Canadiens. He played a little bit of Professional hockey in Czechoslovakia in the 80s and also played 28 games in the AHL in 1990-91. He was a ninth round pick in 1986 by the Canadiens. Also something funny to note on his player profile is that apparently he’s played six games this season for TJ Hvezda Kladno in a very low level Czech league? I do wonder if maybe it’s a mix up by EliteProspects, but if it’s not, it’s pretty funny to me. Also an interesting note is that his son of the same name has also become a European Scout, working for the Detroit Red Wings since 2015-16.
Yuri Yanchenkov, European Scout
Yanchenkov is an interesting scout to look at. He was a scout for the Lightning from 1999-2000 through the 2007-08 season. He then left the Lightning and became a senior scout for the KHL’s Central Scouting Bureau. In 2013, he began the National Scouting Association, which is an independent scouting service in Russia. From what I can find on the internet, it seems he is still scouting for NSA, but has also worked once again for the Lightning since the 2016-17 season.
Jared Waimon, Goaltending Scout
Waimon spent the past six seasons as a Goaltending Scout, including the past five at Quinnipiac University. Waimon spent some time as a player in NCAA, but only played two games for Stonehill College in Division three. Having a goaltending scout is possibly a bit of a novel approach the Lightning have added to their scouting staff. We always joke that “goalies are voodoo,” but the reality is that scouting goaltenders is a much different beast from scouting skaters. Someone that has spent time being a goaltending coach will know what to look for in a goaltender when scouting.
The most interesting thing to me is how few former players are in this scouting staff. We have a handful of scouts that played NCAA hockey or other lower levels of hockey. Maybe they played as kids or high schoolers. But Andersson is the only one to have a professional career, much less make it to the NHL. Also as I noted, there’s only a couple of scouts that were carried over from prior to Steve Yzerman and Al Murray joining the Tampa Bay Lightning front office. Granted, it’s been ten years, so they’ve had plenty of time to remake the scouting staff in their image and for scouts to have decided to move to new teams on their own terms.
Many of these scouts toil in the shadows for the organization. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle and most scouts don’t make very much money. But they are such a vital part of an NHL organization’s success. Almost all of our favorite players on the Lightning roster are the result of their work. Al Murray gets most of the credit for the successes of the Lightning in drafting, but he couldn’t have achieved that without the work of all of the scouts that have contributed over the past ten seasons.