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Assessing The Cats Young Guns

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
By Dave Joseph for

GM and coach Jacques Martin will tell you he likes the promise of the next wave of Panther players toiling in juniors and the American Hockey League (AHL).
He”ll also tell you he didn’t think he would see so many donning Panthers jerseys during the course of the 2007-08 season.
With the Panthers leading the league in man games lost (311 at last count), Martin has been pulling players out of the team’s AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., and, once, bringing up junior sensation Shawn Matthias on an emergency recall.
The walking wounded this year has included Brett McLean (15 games) Jozef Stumpel (18), Ville Peltonen (24), Mike Van Ryn (43), Noah Welch (59), Rostislav Olesz (26), Richard Zednik (9), Cory Murphy (30), Garth Murray (37) and David Booth (8).
With seven different players getting trips from Rochester to South Florida this season, and another in Matthias coming from Belleville of the Ontario Hockey League, Martin took time recently to assess the talents and promise of those he’s seen.
Panthers forward Shawn Matthias made his NHL debut against the Devils on January 18th. (Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Panthers – 4 games, 2 goals.
Belleville – 44 games, 27 goals, 44 assists.
“Shawn is having an excellent season. He’s going to be a kid who’s going to have a very important summer. He’s a kid who will be at our development camp in late May, the beginning of June, and someone we’ll monitor closely.
“Whether he’s ready to play on our team next year, his performance at training camp will dictate that. I think in a lot of cases, and this is a personal philosophy, a lot of youngsters need time in the American Hockey League, unless they really out-perform other people in camp. I really like what Anaheim did in a first year of a Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. They started in the American Hockey League, were dominate there, then came up halfway through the season to joins the Ducks.
“It’s up to them to dictate whether they play next year, but there are players we feel will be impact players for this organization for many years to come.”
Panthers forward David Brine (Getty Images)
Panthers – 10 games, 1 assist
Rochester – 49 games, 7 goals, 8 assists.
“David has been a pleasant surprise. He was signed for ‘Making the Cut,’ and played most of last year in the East Coast Hockey League with the Florida Everblades. But it’s a sign of a character kid that when he came to our development camp last year, he was kind of weak. But he learned a lot, and then had an outstanding summer. All you have to do is ask (strength coach) Andy O’Brien. He was amazed at the improvement this kid made. He was amazed at the improvement this kid made.
“I think in David’s case, it’s a long-term project, but I like what he has. He has the understanding, the hockey sense, he’s a tremendous competitor and very reliable defensively. This year in Rochester he’s been a shutdown player for (coach) Randy Cunneyworth; on the ice the last minute of the game to defend and killing penalties.
“The areas he needs to improve is his quickness and speed. That’s a matter of time. He understands that. He works extremely hard. I think we’re looking at a player down the road who could be a bottom line of your forwards who has character, competes hard every night, and, hopefully, will improve his speed.”
Forward Tanner Glass
Panthers - 38 games, two goals
Rochester – 25 games, 2 goals, 2 assists
“It’s a surprise that Tanner has played so many games at the National Hockey League level. That’s a real reflection of his character, a reflection of his maturity, his understanding of the game and his professionalism. Several times, when it came time to acquire a player from Rochester when we had an injury, I call Randy Cunneyworth and ask, ‘Who’s been your best player? Who’s the hardest worker and deserves time here?’  That’s how Tanner Glass got here. He was just unbelievable as far as his work ethic, his dedication and commitment, and also what he brought to our team before the acquisition of Wade Belak. He was kind of our player who protected his teammates.
“He still needs to improve. He realizes that. He probably, at some point in time when we get some people back, will return to the American Hockey League and keep honing his skills and work to get better. But we feel good about Tanner because he’s a character individual.”
Panthers – 26 games, one assist
Rochester – 34 games, 11 goals, 12 assists
“Well, Anthony is probably the most skilled of our players in Rochester. So, you say, why isn’t he here? Well, skill is not enough to play in the National Hockey League. You need to have the work ethic, the commitment and determination. Until Anthony realizes that, it hurts him.
“I’d love to have Anthony Stewart on my team because he’s a big body, a good skater, and he has some skill. But he hasn’t progressed the way we expect him to progress because he hasn’t put forth the effort, the commitment, to become a better player. You look at the number of games he’s been up here, you look at his stats. I talked to him several times. He’s no different that David Booth was when he came here last year. David Booth made an impact our on club by his determination, his aggressive style of play and ability to skate hard whether it was four minutes, eight minutes or 12 minutes. Anthony hasn’t done that yet. Until he realizes he needs to improve his work ethic…that’s what’s going to get him to the next level.”
Panthers – 4 games, no points
Rochester – 53 games, 16 goals, 14 assists
“He’s had good points and good production. He works hard. We like what he brings. He’s a veteran. He just needs to keep working hard and improve his hockey sense. He’s a player getting fairly decent stats. It’s probably the first time in the American Hockey League he’s getting decent ice time, playing the power play, and getting better. We’re monitoring his progress.
Panthers – 2 games, no points
Rochester – 36 games, 5 goals, 5 assists.
“Martin probably is a disappointment this year. We felt last year he made tremendous progress. We called him up, he played well. This year when he came to camp we felt he was heavy, overweight. He lost that weight. When we brought him back up in an emergency situation, I felt he didn’t show the assertiveness you’d like to see in him. He just has to keep progressing and developing more assertiveness. We expect him in his third year in the American Hockey league to be a leader in Rochester. So he still has to do some work.”
Panthers – 4 games, no points
Rochester – 37 games, 6 goals, 7 assists.
“Last year we were really happy when we called Drew up. He suffered some injuries this year that have set him back. He had a concussion, a shoulder injury, and I think it’s hampered his development. But, lately, he’s come back strong and since he’s been called up I think he’s filled in pretty good with the team. He’s in a similar situation as Brine. He’s a smart player who needs to improve his speed and quickness.”
Panthers – 9 games, no points
Rochester – 49 games, 8 goals, 11 assists
“Rob started the season here and got sent back and went through an extended period of time where he probably wasn’t at his best. I think maybe he thought he should have been in the National Hockey League, but he wasn’t playing as well as he was capable. A tremendous individual who has really picked up his game during the last month in Rochester and that’s why a couple weeks ago when we needed players, he got recommended.
“He just has to keep improving his skill. Keep fighting. He’s given us some decent games here. Just keep battling.”
On other players in the Panther system of interest, Martin said:
Michal Repik (Western Hockey League) is doing well. He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s not big, but has tremendous hockey sense and competes hard and goes to the net. I think he’ll be a good player.
“Michael Frolik has had real good production in Rimouski (Quebec Major Junior). It’s been good for him. He has good coaching there this year and I think his team game is improving.
“Again, we feel very good about Repik, Frolik, Matthias, (Keaton) Ellerby, and, don’t forget (Mike) Duco, who we signed at our rookie camp. He’s in Kitchener, who will also be in the Memorial Cup. He has 303 goals. He’s the kind of a player who’s tough to play against. He’s in your face, finishes checks.
“It will be interesting to see these kids in training camp.”
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