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Prospect Pool Overview: Florida Panthers

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The off-season for the Florida Panthers was pretty quiet until it hit.

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They acquired Matthew Tkachuk from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Jonathan Huberdeau, quarterback Mackenzie Vigar, center prospect Cole Schwindt, and a 2025 first-round pick.

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In Schwindt’s case, this resulted in one of the Panthers’ top prospects and a first-round pick being eliminated from an already unimpressive pool of prospects.

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The Panthers are in win mode and acquiring and developing one of the most effective wingers in the game – both offensively and defensively – was a move that would help with that.

With that said, they certainly have some talented players and already have some notable young players on the roster. Spencer Knight is the goaltender of the future, and the 21-year-old has already shown some very strong play at the NHL level. The Knight-Sergey Bobrovsky duo is one of the most talented in the NHL, even if the latter can at times be as enigmatic as a young goalie.

They boast arguably the best young two-way center in hockey, Anton Landell. Over the years, Lundell’s 18 goals and 44 points, along with his 200-foot play on the opposing team, would have been enough to make him a Calder Trophy finalist, but a strong rookie class kept him out of the final three. Lundell also received recognition in Selke Trophy voting, which shows just how respected his defensive play is.

The pipeline is not empty even after these two. They boast very experienced forwards such as Grigory Denisenko, Matthew Samoskevich and Aleksi Heponiemi. Justin Surdif and Liam Arnsby offer the team several future options for a middle line-up. With the front core loaded, the Panthers will be patient and have all of these players push their way into the roster when they’re ready.

Michael Benning and Evan Nose lead their defensive line. Benning is an offensive blueliner at the University of Denver, where he helped the team win the NCAA championship with 38 points in 41 games. Naus is a defensive blueliner who uses his mobility to pick up the puck and toss it quickly across the ice on a breakout. His offensive play is quite limited, but he plays in modern defense and transition, which should suit a stable role in the NHL.

Although Knight is the top student among their young players, they also boast a few notable prospects, such as NTDP alumnus Tyler Muzelik, whom they selected in this year’s sixth round draft. Matt Guzda is a 6ft 5in monster. The 21-year-old will make a move to the AHL this year if all goes well after putting in solid performances for two different OHL teams last season.

2022 NHL draft class

Round 3 (93 total) – Marek Alscher, defenseman, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Round 4 (Total 125) – Ludwig Jansson, D, Södertalje SK Jr. (National J20)
Round 5 (Total 157) – Sandis Vilmanis, L, Lulea H.F. ml. (J20 National)
Round 6 (186 total) – Josh Davis, LH, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Round 6 (Total 189) – Tyler Muzelik, G, US National Development Team (USHL)
Round 7 (214 total) – Liam Arnsby, center, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Round 7 (221 total) – Jack Devine, right, University of Denver (NCAA)

The Panthers made a lot of swings in the middle and late rounds of the draft, and ours of their seven picks came in the sixth and seventh rounds. Defender Marek Alscher was their first choice, finishing 93rd overall. Capable of interesting transitional play, the Winterhawks quarterback is an interesting clay figure that needs to be developed over time.

Striker Sandis Vilmanis, drafted in the fifth round, handles the puck skillfully and can release his wrist from a variety of shooting positions. Josh Davis is a physical winger who hunts opposition defenders on the forecheck and backchecks vigorously every shift. His offensive potential is not that high, but he looks like a threat to a player from the bottom six.

Liam Arnsby and Jack Devine really have solid value in the seventh round. Both play a really solid two sided game and have some safe and projected offensive tools. Arnsby plays a bit more of a physical game while Devine is a more experienced playmaker.

Strengths

The Panthers did a good job of increasing the depth of the flanks, especially on the right side. Heponiemi is incredibly technical and has been very productive in Finland and Sweden against men, but it was only last year that he seemed to catch on at the AHL level. The 23-year-old has a few more games to play in the NHL roster this year as he seems to be adjusting a bit better to play in North America.

Samoskewicz had a good season as a freshman at the University of Michigan. His impressive puck handling and playing ability saw him make an instant impact at the NCAA level. Having matured a bit in his game over the next year or two, Samoskevich could very well break into the top six in the NHL. Justin Surdif and Cerron Noel plan to continue their development in the AHL this year, giving the Panthers a pair of players with a big advantage if they need them in the next couple of years.

Weak sides

The Panthers are doing everything in their power to be a contender, which unsurprisingly means there are a couple of holes in their pool of potential customers. They are pretty fruitless in defense against a right shot, but now the middle should be dealt with. Schwindt was sent out of town in exchange for Tkachuk, leaving Liam Arnsby and Elliot Ekmark as their top center prospects. They are worthy prospects in their own right, but do not change the rules of the game. They don’t really have a future top 6 center in the group, and while you need players to develop deep, it shouldn’t be done by the best players in that position.

Next player: LD Matt Kiersted

The former University of North Dakota quarterback turned pro after his NCAA season came to an end in 2020-21. Kiersted is a smooth transitional defender with mobility and passing ability to break from the back. He has the tools to play a part in offensive play, but he has to be put in position to succeed for it to really show. The Panthers have an opportunity for Keirstad to join the roster on a regular basis, but it will only be a constant showcase of his defensive play in camp and preseason. If he can do that, he could get a job on the NHL roster.

Prospectus Depth Chart Notes

LW: Grigory Denisenko, Sandis Vilamnis
C: Liam Arnsby, Elliot Ekmark
Right Wing: Aleksi Heponiemi, Matthew Samoskevich, Justin Surdif, Cerron Noel
LD: Evan Nauz, Max Kirstad, Vladislav Lukashevich, Nathan Staios
RD: Michael Benning
G: Kirill Gerasimyuk, Tyler Muzelik, Mac Guzda

To dive deeper into the player-rated lead pool, check out Yearbook and Future Watch editions of Hockey News print edition!



Source: thehockeynews.com

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