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Good view from the back

by Adam Kimelman
TORONTO -- Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said the best part of being at the draft is sitting in the back row on the draft floor.

With the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Panthers will sit near the back of the room at Consol Energy Center for the first time in Tallon's tenure with the team -- Florida had the third pick of the draft the last two years.

However, he's quick to say getting to the back of the room is nice, but staying there is the key.

"It feels great," Tallon told "That's the goal, to stay back there. It's out of necessity you stay in the front row. To be good, you have to be bad. You've got to make the best of the opportunities when you're there. Hopefully the result is a back-row position for a long time."

The Panthers selected defenseman Erik Gudbranson two years ago, and he emerged as a solid player as a rookie in 2011-12. Jonathan Huberdeau, the third pick in 2011, almost made the team in training camp, then went back to Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and had another outstanding season that resulted in a second straight trip to the Memorial Cup. It's likely Huberdeau starts the 2012-13 season in Florida.

Tallon said despite picking lower down in the opening round, nothing changes as far as the team's approach to the draft.

"Nothing changes for us -- for me, anyway," Tallon said. "We'll take the best player that we can possibly get at 23 and go with our formula that's worked in the past and keep at it."

For Tallon, meeting the kids at the Scouting Combine is a process he really enjoys.

"These interviews … the kids are a lot more in-tune now, they're more comfortable," he said. "They're not as forced as they used to be. I'm enjoying the give-and-take with some of these kids. I try to get them relaxed and off-guard a little bit, have fun with them. It's not easy for a young 17-, 18-year-old to be talking to 10, 12 people [who are] strangers. They walk into a bee's nest there and I try to make them relax and try to enjoy the process."

Tallon said he didn't plan on locking into one particular position, but did say he was impressed by the high number of talented defensemen in this year's draft class.

"Lot of good defensemen, especially in the first round," he said. "You don't know what's going to happen, but there's a lot of good, young defensemen in this draft. There are 10 [real] good ones. I like a lot of them."

However, he said the Panthers will stick with the plan that Tallon put in place when he joined the franchise.

"We're going to go with the best athlete probably at the first pick and then we'll start to look at our depth chart again," he said. "That's what we've done in the past and we'll continue to do the same thing."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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