August 31-in-31: Florida Panthers

Peter Harling

2017-08-19

courtesy: news.sportslogos.net

Florida has done a great job of drafting and developing their players. The Panthers are a young team with a core of impressive youth the like of Alex Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Vincent Trocheck, Aaron Ekblad, and Mike Matheson.  The Pipeline isn’t depleted either as there are plenty of quality prospects both ready now and some quality long term potential as well.

While there are some ready now prospects, GM Dale Tallon looked to free agency to bolster his roster depth. Tallon made a big splash by signing former Florida draft pick Evgeni Dadonov from the KHL. Dadonov had a previous three year North American debut where he split time between the NHL and AHL before bolting to Russia. The past three years he has been one of the KHL top scorers and has also been impressive for Russia at the World Championship. Another veteran goal scorer signed in the off-season is Radim Vrbata, those two veterans should play top six on the right wing this coming season. Another free agent addition is prospect Henrik Haapala, the Liiga leading scorer coming in hot from Finland. Florida had a glimpse of his skill during their development camp this summer and Haapala left an impression as Tallon suggested he looked NHL ready now and thinks the 23-year-old could compete for top six minutes as well.

Graduates

Florida didn’t have many prospects poised to graduate from junior to the pro level outside of goalie Samuel Montembeault, so they looked to add prospects to fill that void in the off-season. Free agent additions namely goalie Harri Sateri and Russian winger Maxim Mamin are projected to debut with Springfield. Other additions with less probability to play above the AHL include Chase Bailey, Connor Brickley, Reece Scarlett, and Curtis Valk. Defenseman Linus Hultstrom is expected to make another attempt to play in North America and could see some NHL time but is likely to play in the AHL.

There will be plenty of quality competition among prospects vying for NHL ice time. Jayce Hawryluk, Denis Malgin and Henrik Haapala will all be fighting for both NHL duty and top six minutes. As injuries present opportunity these prospects need to seize their chance when it comes around. These are good watch list candidates for medium depth leagues with free agent add options.

On defense, Ian McCoshen and Mackenzie Weegar are both NHL ready and ahead of Michael Downing and Hultstrom on the depth charts, but all four are realistic options for NHL call up duty.

Top Ten Prospects

1. Owen Tippett, RW/LW – Mississauga (OHL) Tippett has size, skating and a lethal shot.

2. Henrik Borgstrom, C – Denver (NCAA) 43 points in 37 games as a freshman in Denver

3. Jayce Hawryluk, RW/C – Springfield (AHL) An injury to start the season cost him a roster spot a year ago, but finished the year strong in the AHL and will see NHL time this year

4.  Adam Mascherin, LW – Kitchener (OHL) A 100 point season is hard to ignore, Mascherin is trending up fast.

5. Samuel Montembeault, G – Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL) The future starting goalie will make his pro debut.

6. Henrik Haapala, LW/RW – Tappara (Liiga) Liiga leading s