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.
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 scorer could debut in NHL in a top six role
7. Ian McCoshen, D – Springfield (AHL) He is NHL ready but offers more value in multi cat leagues
8. Dryden Hunt, LW – Springfiled (AHL) After a rocky start to his first year as a pro, the 100 point CHL scorer finished in the AHL with a respectable 31 points
9. Jonathan Ang, C/LW – Peterborough (OHL) Ang is a speed demon and he has the mitts to keep up with his feet.
10. Aleksi Heponiemi, C – Swift Current (WHL) Undersized but dynamic offensive weapon, needs to bulk up.
Prospects Trending Up
Jayce Hawryluk – Until he broke his hand in a preseason fight, Hawryluk looked like a legit contender to make the Panthers out of training camp. The former 100+ point scorer in the WHL had slow start coming back from the injury but finished the year strong in the AHL with nine goals and 26 points. The undersized winger plays an aggressive game and can contribute in a multi cat league.
Denis Malgin – Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Malgin an undersized Swiss winger surprisingly made the NHL in his first year in North America playing 47 games with the Panthers. His ten points are underwhelming but he had a hot streak of seven points in nine games and he posted 12 points in a short 15 game stint in the AHL. Keep an eye on Malgin.
Adam Mascherin – Mascherin had another solid development season and he continues to improve and trend up. His point production in his three year OHL career has increased in every season from 29 points in his rookie season to 81 in his draft year to 100 last year. The stalky winger will play his final year in junior and should be a CHL scoring champion contender.
Mackenzie Weegar – The 23-year-old defenseman is NHL ready now and made his NHL debut last season playing in three games with the big club. He played 60 games in the AHL as a top defenseman for Springfield scoring 14 goals and 36 points. The 2013 seventh round pick is passing other players on his way up the depth chart
Prospects Trending Down
Linus Hultstrom – Last summer’s free agent signing was expected to make the Panthers roster and provide some offensive and fantasy value. It didn’t happen and he was loaned back to the SHL where he scored seven goals and 20 points in 44 games, a step back from his previous season of 31 points.
Connor Brickley – Originally drafted by Florida, he was traded to Carolina in 2016 and claimed in the expansion draft by Vegas. The 25-year-old career AHL player was signed by Florida as a free agent but his future as a NHL player and a fantasy option is all but gone.
Juho Lammikko – His first pro season in the AHL was disappointing. The former Kingston Frontenac had 55 points in his final year with the Fronts but was held to just six goals and 11 points in 47 games as a rookie with Springfield. The big Finn is a two-way forward but needs to find some pro level offensive upside to be considered fantasy relevant.
Thomas Schemitsch – After a good final year in junior where he scored 31 points, his debut as a pro was a letdown. Held to just one goal and four points and a minus -7 in 37 AHL games he also spent some time in the ECHL and lost ground on the depth chart.
Prospect Organizational Depth Chart