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Noel aims to compete for roster spot with Panthers

Forward prospect could be physical presence missing from Florida lineup

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Serron Noel is optimistic about what's in store for Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League this season but he wouldn't mind if those plans were set aside for a role with the Florida Panthers.

Noel, a second-round pick (No. 34) in the 2018 NHL Draft, will be among several forwards looking to earn a roster spot at Panthers training camp.

"I'm hoping that next year if I'm back in the OHL that it's really our year," Noel said during Florida development camp in June. "We've got a good group of guys back in Oshawa and we could really do some damage next year. I'm just kind of focusing on getting better and talking to the coaches and learning as much as I can this camp and training hard over the summer and trying to get myself the best shot of being here full time.

"It's all based off of what I do. I'm going to work hard this summer and try to come into main camp and turn some heads a little bit."

 

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Noel has played three seasons for Oshawa and signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Florida on March 8. Because he turns 19 on Aug. 8, he is ineligible to play in the American Hockey League this season because of the agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League requiring players to be at least 20 years old or have completed four years of major junior hockey.

The Panthers will have a lot of competition for roster spots at forward after the free agent acquisitions of Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari to complement a nucleus led by Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck.

"The work kind of starts now," Noel said. "They've given me a lot of good advice and told me to be confident and to know that I'm here and that I definitely have a shot if I put in the work and get better."

Noel (6-foot-5, 205 pounds) brings the size and physical presence the Panthers forwards are lacking. He had 81 points (34 goals, 47 assists) and 54 penalty minutes in 68 regular-season games with Oshawa last season and 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 14 playoff games.

Bryan McCabe, the Panthers director of player personnel, said the key for Noel will be consistency.

"When he's on, he's unstoppable. But the nights that he's mentally not in it, those are the nights that he's just a regular player on the ice," McCabe said. "Moving forward we'd like to see him definitely shore that up, because playing in the NHL is definitely a grind when you're playing 82 games and a lot of travel and stuff. You've really got to be mentally ready to get through that. It's something we talked about. I'm excited for a big year from him."

"He's a lot different than other players because physically he's ready to play as a pro. He's a beast. All the chips are in his corner and we'll (see) how he does at camp, and if he can impress maybe he'll stick around a while."

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