With the 2019 IIHF World Championship kicking off this week in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia, six members of the Panthers organization - four players, one executive and one coach - will soon begin their quest for a gold medal. The tournament features 16 nations and will take place from May 10-26.
Representing the Panthers on the ice at this year's event are forwards Evgenii Dadonov (Russia), Frank Vatrano (USA), Vincent Praplan (Switzerland) and Juho Lammikko (Finland). Florida's goaltending coach Robb Tallas will assume the same position for Italy, while President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Dale Tallon will serve on an advisory role for Team USA - a role he's held since 2010.
Of the group, Dadonov boasts the most tournament experience. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, will be competing in his sixth World Championship, having previously won a gold medal in 2014, a silver medal in 2015 and bronze medals in 2016 and 2017.
Dadonov, who set a new career-high with 70 points (28 goals, 42 assists) during the 2018-19 season, has produced at nearly a point-per-game clip throughout his career at the World Championship, registering 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 48 tournament contests.
As for Vatrano, the 5-foot-9, 201-pound native of East Longmeadow, Mass., earned a return trip to the World Championship after reaching new career-bests in goals (24) and points (39) this past season. In his only other trip to the tournament in 2016, he posted four goals and four assists but didn't medal.
"Whenever you can wear the USA jersey, it's a dream come true," Vatrano told FloridaPanthers.com. "You never know when you're going to get to wear that jersey again, so whenever you can represent your country, it's an honor."
Vatrano hopes to help Team USA end a gold-medal drought that dates back to 1960.
"Our goal is to win the gold medal," Vatrano said. "That's what you want to come home with. Hopefully we jell well together right away. It's going to be a quick turnaround. I'm excited to see what we can do."
Lammikko will be getting his first taste of the World Championship. The 6-foot-2, 191-pound native of Noormarkku, Finland split time this past season between the NHL and AHL, recording six assists in 40 games with Florida and 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 36 games with the Springfield Thunderbirds.
One of the newest additions to the Panthers organization, Praplan appeared in 14 games with Springfield this past season after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 22 in exchange for future considerations. In 14 games with the Thunderbirds, he tallied two goals and five assists. A 6-foot, 190-pound native of Sierre, Switzerland, he previously competed at the World Championship in 2017 but has yet to medal.
Stay tuned to @FlaPanthers and @JamesonCoop on Twitter for updates throughout the tournament.
The full schedule for Panthers at World Championship this week is as follows:
Friday, May 10
10:15 a.m. ET: Finland (Lammikko) vs. Canada
10:15 a.m. ET: Russia (Dadonov) vs. Norway
2:15 p.m. ET: USA (Vatrano) vs. Slovakia
Saturday, May 11
6:15 a.m. ET: Switzerland (Praplan) vs. Italy
2:15 p.m. ET: Slovakia vs. Finland (Lammikko)
Sunday, May 12
6:15 a.m. ET: USA (Vatrano) vs. France
6:15 a.m. ET: Russia (Dadonov) vs. Austria
2:15 p.m. ET: Latvia vs. Switzerland (Praplan)
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
It's never too late to lace up a pair of skates for the first time.
With the recent launch of another Panthers "Learn to Skate" program, the opportunity for you or your children to feel the ice beneath your feet has never been easier. Designed for people ages four and above with little to no ice-skating experience, the program offers everything you'll need to get started.
Every participant in the program not only receives eight weeks of incredibly supportive on-ice training from certified instructors, but also a pair of brand-new hockey skates or figure skates - you never forget your first pair! -- to use during each of the sessions and keep upon the program's conclusion.
The program will be held at four local rinks in South Florida, including: Florida Panthers IceDen (Coral Springs), The Rink on the Beach (formerly Glacier Ice & Snow Arena- Pompano Beach), Palm Beach Ice Works (West Palm Beach) and Palm Beach Skate Zone (Lake Worth).
At the end of the program, any participant looking to further their training or continue on into the world of either hockey or figure skating will be given plenty of information on all available skating avenues. The cost for the program is as follows:
Ages 12 & Under: $125
Ages 13 to 17: $175
Ages 18 & Older: $200
For more information or to register, please visit FloridaPanthers.com/LearnToSkate.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
It's time to come together, Panthers family.
Recently, the home of prospect Anthony Greco's parents burned down in New York. This was no ordinary house, however, as it had been modified greatly to fit the needs of Anthony's father, Paul. A member of the FDNY for more than 20 years, Paul Greco suffers from health conditions due to his tireless work at ground zero following the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
In order to help raise funds to rebuild the home, Florida's AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, is currently auctioning off one of Greco's game-worn jerseys from the 2017-18 season. If you win, you're not only helping a good cause, but also snagging the sweater of one of the fastest skaters on the planet.
The auction will run until 7 p.m. ET on Friday and can be found HERE.
If you'd prefer to simply send money directly (any amount is appreciated!), donations are being accepted through the FDNY Foundation. To donate by mail, checks can be sent to the address below and be made payable to the FDNY Foundation. To submit a donation online, visit www.fdnyfoundation.org.
9 MetroTech Center
Brooklyn, New York 11201
FF: Paul Greco Fund
Thank you so much for your support!
CATS CLIP OF THE WEEK
What happens when sick mitts meet sushi making? Aaron Ekblad and Mike Matheson recently found out.
Video: Etaru Sushi Rolling
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
On the latest episode of Territory Talk, former NHL defenseman and current FOX Sports Florida broadcaster Randy Moller joins the show to talk about the future of the Panthers defensive corps. On the topic of the burgeoning blueline, rearguards Mike Matheson and Keith Yandle are also interviewed.
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
-- Aleksander Barkov has been named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy.
-- The Panthers will play a preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens on September 18 in Renous, New Brunswick.
-- Frank Vatrano hopes to help Team USA end its gold-medal drought at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
-- REWIND: Keith Yandle put up some historic offensive numbers from the blue line in 2018-19.
-- The Panthers have committed to privately financing the restoration and revitalization of the historic War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.
-- Find out what Aleksander Barkov has on the docket this offseason in the latest edition of the "Summer Plans" series.
-- REWIND: Mike Matheson found his calling on the penalty kill in 2018-19.
-- The Panthers recently signed goaltender Chris Driedger to a two-year contract.