OTTAWA – In the days leading up to the Entry Draft, Scott Luce had a list of five players he was hoping would be available when the Panthers started selecting in the second round.
Two of the players on Luce’s short list wound up as Florida Panthers this weekend.
Despite not having a first-round pick, Luce and the Panthers walked away from this NHL Entry Draft feeling good about themselves after acquiring some top-end draft picks and acquiring defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton from the Coyotes.
The Panthers started their day picking the No. 1-ranked European goaltender in Jacob Markstrom
at 31 and then the No. 13th-ranked skater in North America in Colby Robak
with the 46th pick.
“Getting Jacob and Roback was a heck of a way for us to start day two of this draft,” said Luce moments after the draft.
GM Jacques Martin said Markstrom “is a prospect, down the road, who has the potential to be a No. 1 goalie.”
Luce said with each pick Friday evening during the first round “we were all doing our lucky finger crossing” in hopes that Markstrom would slip to Saturday’s second round.
“Before we left the draft floor (Friday night), the trade offers were coming in,” Luce said. “We met last night after we got back to our hotel and discussed as a staff and said we’d make Jacob our pick.”
Markstrom, the No. 1 ranked European goalie by Central Scouting, led Sweden to its first-ever gold medal at the 2007 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial. He stopped 36 of 40 shots against Team Canada and stoned Steven Stamkos in overtime. He posted a 2.57 goals against and a .924 save percentage for Sweden’s national Under-17 team.
“We got a guy we love,” Luce said. “He’s a big, ,athletic goaltender who’s a real competitor. He was a leader on the national team, that speaks volumes for his character.”
A native of Gavle, Sweden, Markstrom’s father and brother were soccer goalies and his mother was a handball goalie. Luce said the Panthers listened to several “significant offers” overnight, “but we decided we wanted to keep the pick.”
Robak, a 6-3, 195-pound defenseman, was another player Luce had ranked on his short list. To make sure Roback was still around when it was their time to pick, the Panthers traded up three spots with Phoenix and gave away their fourth-round pick next year to land the 6-3, 195-pound defenseman.
“We had to move up a few picks to get him but we felt it was too good an opportunity,” Luce said. “We feel he could be a top four defenseman in the National Hockey League.”
A member of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, Robak is described by Luce as a “big guy with very good skating ability.”
“His upside is very high,” said Luce, who added Robak flew back Saturday morning from Ottawa to Manitoba to attend his high school graduation.
Adam Comrie, a 6-4, 205-pound defenseman from Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League, was chosen in the third round (80th overall). Born in Ottawa, Comrie moved to Virginia when he was nine. He models his game after Chris Pronger. Ranked in the 80s during Central Scouting’s midterm report, he ended up being the No. 44-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting at the end of the year.
“He’s another good skater,” Luce said. “He brings a dimension of a little bit of grit and a little bit of bite to his game. He has a big shot from the point and he’s very competitive.”
A.J. Jenks was selected in the fourth round (100th overall). A forward who may project best as a winger in the NHL, Jenks is a “versatile forward and a very good two way player,” Luce added.
The Panthers last selection in the draft was Matt Bartkowski (190th overall), an unranked player from the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. Bartkowski, a 6-1, 200-pound defenseman, had four goals and 37 assists with 135 penalty minutes last season. He was also a plus 19.
“He has a hell of a shot from the point and a lot of grit,” Luce said.
The Panthers will head back Sunday to South Florida. Martin will meet Tuesday with head coach Peter DeBoer and re-evaluate the roster and staff in the next several weeks.