After adding a Director of Hockey Legal Affairs earlier today in Andrew Lugerner, the Las Vegas expansion team is now pursuing a much more veteran hockey voice. Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News is hearing that GM George McPhee is set to hire David Conte, a long-time scouting director.
Conte worked for 31 years in the New Jersey Devils organization, mostly under Lou Lamoriello (now the Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM), but was let go last year when Ray Shero took over. While Kennedy doesn’t say what role he would be filling for the the club, bringing in an uber-experienced hockey mind like Conte can never be a bad thing.
Conte, 67, has a solid draft record. With picks like Bill Guerin (#5), Martin Brodeur (#20), Scott Niedermayer (#3), Brian Rolston (#11), Brendan Morrison (#39), Steve Sullivan (#233), Patrik Elias (#51), Scott Gomez (#27), Brian Gionta (#82) and many more elite NHLers being at least somewhat influenced by him, he’s proved that he can spot talent in a draft in the first few picks and in later rounds. According to an NHL.com article from the time of his dismissal, he was also very influential in signing undrafted free agents John Madden and Brian Rafalski.
His detractors however, say that the game may have passed him by, as shown by his most recent draft record. Players from the Devils’ 2012, 2013, 2014 drafts have played in a total of two NHL games thus far, and only Damon Severson has played a full season from the 2011 group.
Whether the Vegas team is competitive right away is yet to be seen, and will rely heavily on who is available at next year’s expansion draft. But with the team McPhee is building, they’ll at least have the potential for long-term success. Whether it comes, will be one of the biggest stories to watch over the next decade.