Drafting Skills: Florida Panthers

Recent Draft History – Evaluating the first 3 rounds of the last 5 Drafts for each team. I’ve left out 2016, as it’s way too early to tell on 95% of the picks. Instead, this will be examining drafts from 2011 to 2015.

Florida Panthers

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Jonathan Huberdeau (LW) 3rd overall – Huberdeau was arguably the first piece brought in that started pointing the Panthers in the right direction. He’s played in 303 NHL games, scoring 198 points. He’s been part of the top line in Florida for the past two years, and when he missed 50 games this year, it showed for the Panthers. He has a great vision of the ice, and sets-up plays with the best of them. There are many that believe he still has another level he could reach, as he was a dominant force in junior hockey. Either way, very solid pick by the Panthers in this draft.

Round 2 – Rocco Grimaldi (C) 33rd overall – Grimaldi has never grown into the player many thought he’d be, as he’s never played more than 20 games in an NHL season. This year, even with the amount of injuries suffered up front for Florida, he played in 4 games. He had a great year in the AHL, with 31 goals and 55 points in 72 games, but looks like he’ll be nothing more than a depth call-up. This was a miss by the Panthers, as there were at least half-a-dozen other players taken in the 2nd round that have played more than 100 NHL games to date.

Round 2 – Rasmus Bengtsson (D) 59th overall – Pick was received in a swap of picks, that resulted in the Sharks getting Matt Nieto, and the pick they then traded to Philadelphia that ended up in Shayne Gostisbehere. Doesn’t look like a great trade for the Panthers, as Bengtsson hasn’t played an NHL to date, while the other 2 have.

Round 3 – Vincent Trocheck (C) 64th overall – Trocheck on the other hand, was a steal in the 3rd round. It took him a while to grow into an NHLer, making an impact for the first time last season, with 53 points in 76 games. He added another 50+ point campaign this year, and was one of the main reasons that Florida was hanging onto playoff hopes late in the year. He’s a great second-line centre that can really drive play in both ends of the ice. A great find in the 3rd round for Florida, making up for a couple of misses in the 2nd round.

Round 3 – Logan Shaw (RW) 76th overall – Received this pick along with Tim Kennedy from the Rangers for Bryan McCabe. This was a good deal for Florida, as McCabe was at the end of his career, and Logan Shaw played 50 games for the big club this season. He doesn’t add any offense, but is a reliable 4th line player. He likely won’t last long in the NHL, but has already eclipsed the 100 games played mark, which is a rare feat for a 3rd rounder.

Round 3 – Jonathan Racine (D) 87th overall – Received this pick from Boston with Dennis Wideman, a 1st rounder in 2010 for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell. Racine was then to Montreal for Tim Bozon in 2016. Neither player has amounted to anything, and looks like a missed opportunity here for Florida.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Michael Matheson (D) 23rd overall – Matheson played his first full season in the NHL this year, adding 17 points in 81 games. He was a late first-round pick in 2012, and many believe he’s still a top-4 prospect, however he looked out place at times this year. Florida didn’t have a solid group of forwards for most of this season, but I expected a better showing out of Matheson. He’s going to need a better second season if I’m going to believe he’ll be anything more than a 3rd pairing player.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to Philly for Kris Versteeg. Good trade for Florida, as he scored 54 points in 71 games in his first year, but then found injury trouble the following year before being dealt to Chicago. The pick hasn’t amassed into anything, as Brian Hart is currently in the ECHL.

Round 3 – Steve Hodges (C) 84th overall – A miss here by Florida, as Hodges has yet to play a game at the NHL level, and appears to have left hockey. He last played in the ECHL in 2015-2016, only playing 8 games. Swing-and-a-miss by Florida, not a great draft for them in 2012.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Aleksander Barkov (C) 2nd overall – Barkov is the franchise centre that every team is hoping for. He plays a great two-way game, and is the driving force behind Florida’s offense. He’s had back-to-back great offensive campaigns, but has yet to play more than 71 games in a season. He’s had trouble staying healthy, and when he’s out of the lineup it really shows. In my opinion, he’s the best pick from that draft, and I don’t think Florida would change a thing if they had to re-do this draft.

Round 2 – Ian McCoshen (D) 31st overall – McCoshen made his NHL debut this year, playing in only 3 games. In 68 AHL games, he had 16 points, which is an dedication he won’t be much of an offensive contributor. 2013 wasn’t a very strong draft year, and there haven’t been many out of the 2nd round that have made a great impact as of yet. McCoshen will need to continue to grow his game before he bumps anyone off the blueline for the Panthers.

Round 3 – Pick was traded to the Rangers for Wojtek Wolski. I would consider this a poor trade, as Wolski only played in 22 games for the Panthers. The pick didn’t turn into anyone effective, but it would still have been a better gamble than Wolski at this point.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Aaron Ekblad (D) 1st overall – Ekblad is the franchise defenceman that teams crave. He’s a big body, who plays well at both ends of the rink. He made the jump immediately, scoring 39 points in 81 games as a rookie. He is the backbone of this team, and is one of the best young defenders in today’s game. He’s played in 30 more games than any other player from this draft, and ranks 4th in points despite playing D. No way anyone would argue Ekblad as the 1st overall pick from 2014.

Round 2 – Jyce Hawryluk (C) 32nd overall – He made his AHL debut this year, scoring 26 points in 47 games. Those are good numbers for a 1st year pro, and he could likely battle for a spot in the bottom-6 as early as next season. He had great numbers in junior, and with the Panthers likely to lose a forward to Vegas there will be openings.

Round 3 – Juho Lammikko (C) 65th overall – I don’t really like this pick by the Panthers, as Lammikko hasn’t really shown great promise at any level. He played well in his only year in junior in 2015-2016 (55 points in 59 games), but followed that up with only 11 points in 47 AHL games. It was only his second season in North America, but will need to show better numbers if he has hopes of cracking an NHL roster someday.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Lawson Crouse (LW) 11th overall – This was a poor pick by Florida, as there were more skilled players available. The Panthers traded Crouse to Arizona in the salary dumping of Dave Bolland. Tough to give away an early 1st round pick so early on, but needed in order to get rid of that awful contract. Bad pick, but necessary trade in hopes of moving the organization forward.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to New Jersey for Jaromir Jagr. Great trade for the Panthers, didn’t give up a high pick and got someone to play with their young forward group, and still contribute at a high level.

Round 3 – Samuel Montembeault (G) 77th overall – Drafting goalies is always risky, as they generally take longer to develop. There are many that have high hopes for Montembeault, as he possesses NHL size and plays well for a young netminder. He had 6 shutouts in 41 games this year in the QMJHL, and finished with a GAA of 2.40 and SV% of 0.907. He will make his pro debut next year, and with Roberto Luongo and James Reimer at the helm in the NHL, Florida can be patient in his development. I like this pick a lot for Florida.

Round 3 – Tomas Schemitsch (D) 88th overall – Schemitsch split this season between the AHL and ECHL. He’s a big kid, but will need some seasoning if he and the Panthers ever hope he can play with the big club. He has always put up solid offensive numbers, but needs to work on his defensive game big time.

Overall, the Panthers have built themselves a very good team in these 5 drafts. They missed on a few picks in Crouse and a couple of their 2nd rounders in 2011, but overall have generally selected the best player available. They should be a strong team for the next few seasons, and can look directly back to these drafts as to why. Great job by the scouting and management team to build what many hope will be a contender in the near future.

Sources: www.hockeydb.com ; http://www.prosportstransactions.com/hockey/DraftTrades/Years/index.htm


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