Welcome back to my weekly Prospects Ramblings column! While I had planned on unveiling a mock draft that was conducted by myself and a few other members of the scouting community, the multiple seven game series have delayed that to next week. Stay tuned, as I’ll unveil the first round next Friday, coupled with the second round the following Friday. Instead, today I look at the questionable moves of the Florida Panthers, the Championship Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL, and the top goaltenders rated for the upcoming draft.
For lack of a better term, I believe the Florida Panthers are allergic to success.
Dale Tallon, a well-respected hockey man who has been steering the ship for this moribund club since 2010, has been “promoted” to another position within the club. This new position happens to carry less authority over hockey operations. Mike Dixon, the Director of Hockey Operations, has also been relieved of his duties, as has associate coach John Madden.
The expectation is that Tom Rowe, currently Associate General Manager, will assume the role of GM in the near future.
There is little to support that Tallon is happy with this move – frankly, it would appear on the outside that it wouldn’t be his first choice as he was “moved out” of the role. This, to me, is positively baffling.
Over the past season, the Panthers enjoyed arguably their most successful campaign in recent memory. Though falling in the first round to the New York Islanders, the club reenergized their fan-base and emerged as a legitimate threat for the first time in years. This was in no small part to Tallon’s influence, particularly on the draft floor.
Under the former Blackhawks GM’s guidance, the club has built a highly impressive core. Below is listed some of the players drafted and developed during his regime.
Erik Gudbranson (2010), Nick Bjugstad (2010), Jonathan Huberdeau (2011), Vincent Trochek (2011), Aleksander Barkov (2013), and Aaron Ekblad (2015) have all had their names on a Panthers jersey during this time. This is also to say nothing of the fact that names like Mike Matheson, Ian McCoshen, and Lawson Crouse among others remain developing for the club.
Why is it, then, that the Viola family ownership group decides to make a switch?
While there is likely to be a great deal behind the scenes going on here, it is absolutely beyond rational though that such sweeping changes are made. True, a first-round let down was a disappointment for fans and club alike… but that is the nature of sport.
While it’s unlikely the team will suffer in performance, this appears to be a black eye on the organization from those looking in… that loyalty to those who deliver does not run deep.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies have punched their ticket to the Memorial Cup, marking the first time in 20 years that the club has taken the trophy for top club in the QMJHL.
After a dominating conclusion to the regular season, the Huskies continued their stellar play throughout the post-season. Beginning with a first round sweep of the Drummondville Voltigeurs, the club posted a 16-4 record through the post-season. This effort was spearheaded by the brilliant play of Francis Perron (OTT), Timo Meier (SJ), and Martins Dzierkals (TOR).
The Memorial Cup will begin May 19th in Red Deer Alberta.
Could this year’s NHL Entry Draft see a goaltender drafted in the first round?
Last year, the Washington Capitals surprised some by drafting highly-touted Russian netminder Ilya Samsonov 22nd overall. Prior to that, 2013 saw both Andrei Vasilevskiy (19th overall to Tampa Bay) and Malcom Subban (24th overall to Boston).
It is a debate that is a more polarizing discussion topic in the scouting community. Some feel that drafting a goaltender high is too risky a gamble with such a valuable asset. Looking at examples such as Jack Campbell and Mark Vistentin, drafted 11th and 27th overall respectively in 2010, it’s hard to disagree. Others feel that there is no greater return you can have on a high-round pick… after all, how many other positions can win (or lose) a game on their own?
In the upcoming draft, there are five names that have been floated out as potentially starting goalies at the pro level – specifically, I’m talking about Carter Hart, Filip Gustavsson, Dylan Wells, Tyler Parsons, and Evan Fitzpatrick.
Hart, playing for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, is a strong candidate to be the first to hear his name called from this group on draft day. With remarkable agility and surprisingly good rebound control for a player of his age, he will make a strong case for any club requiring an upgrade between the pipes. This bodes well for his future at the professional level, as it appears his skill-set will translate well in the next phase of his career.
Gustavsson displayed he was not prepared to go into the draft without making an impression himself. An excellent positional goaltender and one who shows remarkable technique and fundamentals, the young Swede was excellent at this years World Junior Hockey Championships. Not only could he do it against his peers, he could do it against grown men – as a 17-year-old, and albeit through only six games for Lulea HF of the SHL, he posted a 2.17 goals-against-average.
Wells is a bit more of dark horse. As the starter for the Peterborough Petes, the young man has shown strong abilities to track the puck and never seems to give up on a play. This level of concentration and competitiveness bodes well, as it helps overcome some of his technical mistakes. These are facets that can be ironed out with proper coaching, but may not have him in the same tier as Hart or Gustavsson.
Tyler Parsons continues to pump his draft stock. Not on the draft radar at the beginning of the season, Parsons earned the top spot on the London Knights through camp and ran with it through the year. Though not terribly big, and with such an outstanding team in front of him, it is debatable if he is the product of his own talent or if his job is made that much easier. Not withstanding, he makes key saves when they’re needed most – arguably the most important attribute any goalie can have.
Last but certainly not least, Evan Fitzpatrick of the Sherbrooke Phoenix may have the greatest potential of any goaltender in the draft. Though posting relatively weak numbers this past season, Fitzpatrick carries the typical stature expected to play goal in the NHL by standing 6-4 and tipping the scales at 206 pounds. It is also important to note that, as the Q is a highly offensively-minded league, production can be inflated for better or for worse. It would be highly intriguing to see what the Newfoundland native could do playing in a more balanced league.
As far as my own estimation, I predict that either Toronto or Calgary will select the first goaltender early in the second round either 31st or 36th overall… and from there, a goalie run will start that will have at least four of these five selected by the end of the second round.
Thanks for reading! Check back next week where I release the first round of an NHL Mock Draft, comprised of myself and 6 other independent scouts! And feel free to give me a follow on Twitter!