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30 in 30

Top prospects for Florida Panthers

Michael Matheson, Ian McCoshen could make impact on defense

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 30 teams throughout August. Today, the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers have made good use of the NHL Draft to assemble a group of prospects who could help them take the next step.

A lot of those prospects have played key roles in turning the Panthers from a struggling franchise into a team that appears on the verge of contending for the Stanley Cup, but there could still be more help on the way.

Panthers 30 in 30: Season outlook | Burning questions, reasons for optimism | Fantasy outlook

Here are the Panthers' top five prospects, according to

1. Michael Matheson, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 23 pick of 2012 NHL Draft

Last season: Florida: 3 GP, 0-0-0; Portland (AHL): 54 GP, 8-12-20

One year after ending his career at Boston College, Matheson, 22, made his NHL debut on Feb. 20 and was recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League again for the final game of the regular season. He was a healthy scratch for the first game of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Islanders, but played on the first defensive pairing with Aaron Ekblad by the end of the series.

Matheson followed that up by winning the best defenseman award at the 2016 IIHF World Championship, helping Canada win the gold medal.

Matheson (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) will come to training camp with the expectation of not only making the Panthers roster but that he could play a significant role this season.

"There were obviously high expectations," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He finished his college career and then he comes to the American Hockey League and plays almost a full season, which is real good development for him, and then he comes to our team and he shows what he's all made of. I mean, his skating ability is second to none, he moves the puck, he skates the puck real well. He's going to be a real good hockey player for us for a long time, hopefully. We liked what we saw last year definitely, the two or three games he played and then in the playoffs he did a great job for us."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

2. Ian McCoshen, D

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

Last season: Boston College (NCAA): 40 GP, 6-15-21

Video: Florida Panthers Development Camp: Day 1

McCoshen, who played with Matheson at BC for two seasons, signed an entry-level contract with the Panthers on July 1 after completing his junior season.

McCoshen (6-3, 217) led the Eagles with a plus-30 rating last season. The 21-year-old has the kind of toughness and defense-first mentality the Panthers lost when they traded Erik Gudbranson, the No. 3 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Jared McCann and two picks on May 25.

"We definitely think he's got a great chance of making our roster right out of training camp," general manager Tom Rowe said. "We like him that much. We think he's a big, big piece of what we're trying to do. His ability is the piece that we feel can replace what we lost in Erik Gudbranson, a real steady, stay-at-home, strong defensive defenseman."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

3. Jayce Hawryluk, C 

How acquired: Selected with No. 32 pick of 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Brandon (WHL): 58 GP, 47-59-106

Hawryluk, 20, signed an entry-level contract on March 1 before helping Brandon win the Western Hockey League title. His offensive production increased dramatically last season; he finished with 41 more points than in 2014-15.

Hawryluk (5-11, 186) is a hard-nosed player with offensive ability, but he likely won't earn a roster spot this season given Florida's depth at center with Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad and Derek MacKenzie.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

4. Henrik Borgstrom, C

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

Last season: HIFK Jr. (Finland-Jr.): 40 GP, 29-26-55

The selection of Borgstrom (6-3, 185) came as a surprise to many, but the European prospect was regarded as one on the rise. Borgstrom, 19, has great playmaking and offensive skills, but he'll need to get stronger before he plays in the League. He will spend next season at the University of Denver.

Projected NHL arrival: 2019-20

Video: 30 in 30: Florida Panthers 2016-17 season preview

5. Kyle Rau, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 91 pick of 2011 NHL Draft

Last season: Florida: 9 GP, 0-0-0; Portland (AHL): 63 GP, 17-14-31

Rau (5-8, 173) lacks size, but he's a determined skater not afraid to go into the corners or in front of the net. In playing style, he draws comparisons to Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher.

Rau, 23, was held without a point during his nine games with the Panthers last season, but he was a point-a-game player in college, with 164 points (67 goals, 97 assists) in 160 games with the University of Minnesota, where he served as captain in his junior and senior seasons.

He'll battle in training camp for a spot on one of Florida's bottom two lines, although that competition got tougher after the offseason acquisitions of Jared McCann, Colton Sceviour and Jonathan Marchessault.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season


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