Aaron Ekblad (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
There isn’t much star power among the Panthers’ non-NHL youngsters, but Florida can remedy that in this draft with the 11th overall pick – a player who should be good enough to contribute, since it’s such a deep draft, but not one who will face the pressure of stepping into the lineup right away.
When it comes to future prospects, the Florida Panthers are the envy of many teams around the NHL. But when you have a top-five pick in four of the past five drafts, you’d better be stockpiling some young players who will eventually show the way. That’s why so much of the strength in the Panthers prospect list is already on the NHL roster. There isn’t much star power among the Panthers’ non-NHL youngsters, but Florida can remedy that in this draft with the 11th overall pick – a player who should be good enough to contribute, since it’s such a deep draft, but not one who will face the pressure of stepping into the lineup right away.
Round 1, pick 11
Round 3, picks 77, 88
Round 4, pick 102
Round 5, picks 132, 147
Round 6, pick 162
Round 7, picks 192, 206
The Panthers were just 25th in goals scored. Their leading scorer had only 54 points, and their power play ranked 24th in the league. This team desperately has to find a way to create more offense 5-on-5 and with the extra man.
Florida’s top two right wingers – Jaromir Jagr and Brad Boyes – have a lot of NHL miles on them. They’ll be able to fill the breach next season, but the Panthers have to find more wingers to complement Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov.
The cap is never really an issue for Florida, which has about $52 million committed next season. The budget, however, is an issue. The two big projects in the off-season will be getting RFAs Jonathan Huberdeau and Jimmy Hayes signed to long-term deals. They’ve already taken care of Jagr, their biggest unrestricted player, with a one-year deal.
IN THE SYSTEM 2015-16:
The Panthers are banking heavily on Boston College D-men. There’s a good chance Mike Matheson will sign a pro contract after three years of college hockey, while Ian McCoshen is a few years away.
DID YOU KNOW:
Florida hopes it has the next Johnny Gaudreau. Rocco Grimaldi, a standout at North Dakota despite being just 5-foot-6, had a solid rookie season in the AHL. He’s been lauded for his character and hockey IQ.