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Draft provided plenty of movement for Panthers

by Mike G. Morreale

OTTAWA -- Florida Panthers General Manager Jacques Martin likes to refer to the NHL Entry Draft as “Scouts Day.’’

But there’s no denying the fact that, in addition to plucking young prospects, the Panthers have traditionally used the two-day event as an opportunity to potentially bolster the team’s roster through trades.

This year was no different, as Martin dealt star center Olli Jokinen to the Phoenix Coyotes for defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton to fill a glaring need along the blue line.

If you’ll recall, the organization traded for Roberto Luongo in 2000 and then traded him away in 2006 during the draft for a package that included Todd Bertuzzi. Florida also traded for goalie Tomas Vokoun last year and traded away Rob Niedermayer at the 2001 Draft.

Despite the absence of a first-round pick this time around, Martin feels his team came away victorious on draft day, particularly with the acquisitions of goalie Jacob Markstrom and stout defenseman Colby Robak.

Here is a look at Florida’s 2008 NHL Entry Draft class:

No. 31 Jacob Markstrom, G, Brynas (Sweden) – The highest-rated European goalie according to the NHL’s Central Scouting came on strong for Team Sweden’s Under-18 Team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last August against Team Canada when he stopped 38 of 40 shots in regulation before denying Canadians Kyle Beach (drafted No. 11 by Chicago), Kelsey Tessier (No. 110, Colorado) and Steven Stamkos (No. 1, Tampa Bay) en route to a 3-2 victory.

“We got a guy projected as a franchise elite, No. 1 goalie,” said Scott Luce, the Panthers’ director of amateur scouting. “For him to slip to No. 31 is a good day for us. He’s a big, athletic goaltender who’s a real competitor and who was a leader on the national team. That speaks volumes for his character.”

Martin was also ecstatic over the fact his team was able to draft Markstrom despite not having a first-round selection.

“He’s a prospect who, down the road, has the potential to be a No. 1 goalie,’’ Martin said.

No. 46 Colby Robak, D, Brandon (WHL) – Robak was selected at No. 46 after the Panthers traded the No. 49 pick and a fourth-round pick in the 2009 Draft to Phoenix. Robak, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound defenseman from the Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, was ranked No. 13 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Robak, who wasn’t in attendance after flying back home Saturday morning to attend his high-school graduation, had six goals and 30 points in 71 games last season.

“We had to move up a few picks to get him but we felt it was too good an opportunity,’’ Luce said. “We feel he could be a top four defenseman in the NHL. His upside is very high.’’

No. 80 Adam Comrie, D, Saginaw (OHL) – Comrie, who models his game after Chris Pronger, was born in Ottawa but moved to Virginia when he was 9. He was ranked No. 81 in Central Scouting’s mid-term report but was No. 44 among North American skaters by Central Scouting at the end of the year.

“He’s another good skater,” Luce said of Comrie. “He brings a dimension of a little bit of grit and a little bit of bite to his game. He has a big shot from the point and he’s very competitive.’’

No. 100 A.J. Jenks, LW, Plymouth (OHL) – Jenks finished third on the Whalers in scoring with 55 points and second with 15 power-play goals. He also finished in second place in the hardest shot competition at the 2008 CHL Top Prospects game (94 MPH).

No. 190 Matthew Bartkowski, D, Lincoln (USHL) – Bartkowski (6-1, 200 pounds), an unranked player from the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League, had four goals, 37 assists, 135 penalty minutes and was a plus-19 last season.

Contact Mike Morreale at

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