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31 in 31

Top prospects for Florida Panthers

Borgstrom, Tippett lead retooled forward group

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers have built their roster around homegrown players in recent years, and they appear to have successfully replenished their prospect pool.

Despite trading forward Lawson Crouse, their first-round pick (No. 11) at the 2015 NHL Draft, to the Arizona Coyotes along with veteran center Dave Bolland for two draft picks Aug. 25, 2016, Florida still appears to be well-stocked with forward prospects. General manager Dale Tallon said one or more of those prospects could wind up with the Panthers this season.

 

[PANTHERS 31 in 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]

 

Florida has shown an affinity for Finland-born prospects in recent years, selecting a player from that country in one of the first three rounds three times in the past four drafts. The latest example is Aleksi Heponiemi, who was selected in the second round (No. 40) in the 2017 NHL Draft after he had 86 points in 72 games last season for Swift Current of the Western Hockey League.

Here are the Panthers' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

 

1. Henrik Borgstrom, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 23 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: University of Denver (NCAA): 37 GP, 22-21-43

Borgstrom, who turned 20 on Aug. 6, had a spectacular North American debut last season when he helped Denver win the NCAA title, showing off dazzling puck-handling moves on a regular basis.

Borgstrom (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) will be among the prospects in the mix for a roster spot with the Panthers this season, although he likely could use another year to bulk up.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

2. Owen Tippett, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 10 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Mississauga (OHL): 60 GP, 44-31-75

Tippett, 18, also will be given a long look in training camp, assuming he's fully recovered from the undisclosed injury that knocked him out of the July 28-Aug. 5 World Junior Summer Showcase.

Tippett (6-1, 200) emerged as a big-time scorer last season when he increased his goal total from 15 to 44, thanks in large part to a shot that's already NHL-caliber.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: Panthers draft F Owen Tippett No. 10

 

3. Henrik Haapala, F

How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent June 1

Last season: Tappara Tampere (FIN): 51 GP, 15-45-60

The Panthers signed Haapala in the offseason after he led the Finnish Elite League in scoring and helped Tappara Tampere to the league title. Haapala, 23, doesn't have great size (5-9, 165), but he's a savvy playmaker with good skating ability.

Tallon said he expected Haapala to skate on the second line with veteran right wing Radim Vrbata and center Vincent Trocheck, whose 54 points led the Panthers last season.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

4. Samuel Montembeault, G

How acquired: Selected with No. 77 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL): 41 GP, 28-9-0, 2.40 GAA, .907 save percentage

Montembeault could be the Panthers' goalie of the future, but the 20-year-old will have to wait his turn behind Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, who are signed through the 2020-21 season.

Montembeault (6-3, 192), who grew up admiring Luongo, helped Blainville-Boisbriand to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final last season. He'll be making his professional debut this season for Springfield of the American Hockey League.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: 31 in 31: Florida Panthers 2017-18 season preview

 

5. Ian McCoshen, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 31 pick in 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Florida: 3 GP, 0-1-1; Springfield (AHL): 68 GP, 4-12-16

The native of Anaheim, California, made his professional debut for Springfield and had the opportunity to play in the Panthers' final three games last season.

McCoshen (6-3, 217) is a physical, stay-at-home defenseman with solid skating ability. The 22-year-old has a chance to make the Panthers roster, but the top six defensemen from last season -- Aaron Ekblad, former Boston College teammate Michael Matheson, Keith Yandle, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk and Jason Demers -- are all returning, so the decision likely will be made to let McCoshen get more playing time with Springfield.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

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