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Cats and Coffee: Summer Dates to Remember (Part 1)

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

Good morning and welcome to "Cats & Coffee," a weekly segment presented by Community Coffee in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers' season may be over, but there are still plenty of exciting things to look forward to in between now and the team's highly anticipated 2017-18 campaign.

With that in mind, here are several key dates to mark on your Panthers-themed calendar for the first half of this summer:

May 5-21: World Championship

The Panthers are ready to take on the world. 

Florida is expected to have several representatives competing at the 2017 IIHF Men's World Championship, held from May 5-21, at AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France and LANXESS Arena in Cologne, Germany.

At last week's locker cleanout at the BB&T Center, Denis Malgin (Switzerland), Jason Demers (Canada) and Mike Matheson (Canada) all said they would be competing at this year's event, while Nick Bjugstad was recently named as an official member of Team USA's roster. 

"I'm honored and lucky to be doing that," said Bjugstad, who helped Team USA win a bronze medal at the event in 2013. "I obviously didn't have a full season, so I'll get some more games in and maybe find my confidence a little. I think it'll be good going over there to play. I'm excited."

Tweet from @FlaPanthersPR: #FlaPanthers @NBjugstad72 has been named to @usahockey's team for the the 2017 IIHF Men's Worlds.�� https://t.co/BM272emFPF pic.twitter.com/09uvdbMJxD

More roster updates and information is expected in the coming weeks.

May 6: Hockeyfest at Panthers IceDen

The Panthers IceDen will be hosting its seventh annual Hockeyfest on May 6, giving local hockey fans a unique chance to demo some of the game's latest and greatest sticks, skates and more through an unbeatable interactive experience. 

Hockeyfest will feature exclusive demo opportunities from top equipment manufacturers, including Bauer, CCM, Warrior and True, as well as numerous off-ice activates such as street hockey, music, inflatables and food trucks.

In addition to radio and TV personalities, a special meet-and-greet table featuring select soon-to-be-announced Panthers players will also be available to meet all of your autograph and selfie needs. 

"It's great to see these guys excited about hockey down in South Florida," Panthers center Nick Bjugstad said at last year's event. "It's a great way to get the kids into it and get the fans into it. To take a few hours out of my day to come down here for that, it was no problem. I look forward to meeting these fans. They're the reason why we're playing and it's nice to be able to thank them today."

Keep and eye on FloridaPanthers.com and @FlaPanthers on Twitter for more updates in the coming weeks.

Tweet from @PanthersIceDen: HOCKEYFEST IS COMING....Save the date now, more information to be released in the coming weeks. #Hockeyfest2017 #PanthersIceDen pic.twitter.com/YH4iKdHR4j

April 29: NHL Draft Lottery

So you're saying there's a chance?

The Panthers are hoping the ping pong balls will fall in their favor when the order of the first 15 picks in the first round of June's draft are decided at the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery on April 29 in Toronto.

The lottery will consist of three drawings to determine who'll pick first, second and third overall. The remaining 12 teams will be slotted in order of their records, from worst to best.

After finishing with a 35-36-11 record, the Panthers will enter the lottery with a 5.4 percent chance of landing this year's No. 1 overall selection. Florida has previously won the lottery in 2002, 2003 and 2014.

June 21: Expansion Draft 

The NHL will officially welcome its newest franchise into the fold when the Las Vegas Golden Knights build their inaugural roster through an expansion draft on June 21.

In order to fill their initial roster of at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies, with a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2017-18 season, the Golden Knights will select one player from each of the league's 30 teams.

Luckily, Vegas won't have free reign when it comes to plucking certain players from other teams, as each team will submit a list of protected players on June 17. 

Who will be considered protected? Well, I'm glad you asked.

When it comes to protecting their players, the Panthers will have two options -- protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender; or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender.

All first- and second-year professional players, such as defenseman Michael Matheson, and unsigned draft choices, such as 2016 first-round pick Henrik Borgstrom, are exempt from selection by Vegas and do not have to be protected. 

Additionally, any player with a no-movement clause in their contract at the time of the expansion draft must be protected unless it is waived. 

The list of each team's protected players is expected to be released on June 18.

June 23-24: NHL Draft

The Panthers will have an opportunity to add a few more key pieces to their prospect pool when the 2017 NHL Draft goes down at the United Center in Chicago on June 23-24.

The Panthers, who have a 5.4 percent chance of landing the top pick, currently have a total of five picks in this year's draft, including selections in the first, second, third, fifth and sixth rounds.

At last year's draft, the Panthers made a total of seven selections, including center Henrik Borgstorm (23rd overall) and winger Adam Mascherin (38th overall). 

As we get closer to draft day, keep an eye on FloridaPanthers.com, as we will have all of the draft previews, player profiles and on-site coverage that you crave for one of hockey's most exciting annual events.

Note: We will provide important dates for July and August later this summer!

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