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Owen Tippett will get 'every opportunity' to make Panthers

Forward prospect in position to compete for roster spot during training camp, GM says

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- First-round pick Owen Tippett made a good first impression with the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers, who selected the right wing from Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League with the No. 10 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, already knew about his speed and big shot before they conducted their development camp last week. He showed enough during the four days on the ice with fellow Panthers prospects to put himself in position to compete for an NHL roster spot in September.

"It's uncertainty and it's something that I can only work toward," Tippett said. "I don't really have control over anything. All I can do is kind of work my hardest and develop my game the best I can to try and make the National Hockey League, and it's something that I'm going to continue to work on as I have been working on it since I was a little kid."

Tippett took advantage of his first visit to Florida to provide a glimpse of his work ethic.

"He's been fabulous," said Panthers director of player development Bryan McCabe. "He fit in seamlessly. He's a good character kid, big body. Worked his butt off and took it all in, learned, had his eyes and ears open all week."

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said Saturday he expected former KHL player Evgeny Dadonov to join Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on the first line, with veteran free agent acquisition Radim Vrabta and Finnish league scoring leader Henrik Haapala possibly joining Vincent Trocheck on the second line.

Tallon expects one or two forwards, perhaps more, from development camp to make the Panthers roster. Tippett, he said, is among those with a shot.

"He's going to get every opportunity," Tallon said. "I don't have any problem and [coach Bob Boughner] and our coaching staff don't have any issues playing young guys. We're building a team that's going to be around for a long time and we'll give him every opportunity to play this year."

Video: Panthers draft F Owen Tippett No. 10

What Tippett has the potential to provide the Panthers is some pure scoring on the wing.

Jonathan Marchessault led Florida with 30 goals last season, but the Vegas Golden Knights selected him in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. The Panthers also traded wing Reilly Smith to Vegas, bought out veteran forward Jussi Jokinen and ended contract talks with free agent forward Jaromir Jagr.

Tippett had 75 points (44 goals, 31 assists) in 60 games with Mississauga last season. His combination of skating and shooting ability have brought comparisons to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel.

"What we needed in our depth chart was a sniper, a guy who can score, a pure scorer, a shooter because we have a lot of passers and playmakers," Tallon said. "I watched him play all year. I watched him early in November, I watched him in the middle of the season, I watched him late, and he's got the ability to no-look and still shoot it and surprise goaltenders. That's something we haven't had for a while. We've got a lot of passers that'll get him the puck."

"I personally believe I have the upside of Phil Kessel with the shot and the speed that he has, as well as the capability to make plays," Tippett said. "To be compared to a back-to-back Stanley Cup champion, it's pretty special."

As Tippett left the Panthers development camp, he felt pretty confident he would be able to join Kessel in the NHL this season.

"I feel once I have the whole summer of training, I feel I can be even more confident just because I'll be bigger and stronger," he said. "I'm going to use that as another learning experience and work as hard as I can and see what comes out of it."

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