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D-Camp Notebook: Lundell Getting Loose; Kiersted's Big Summer

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2021 Development Camp: Day 1

2021 Development Camp: Day 1

Forward Anton Lundell and defenseman Matt Kiersted share their thoughts and excitement as the Panthers begin their 2021 Development Camp

  • 01:50 •

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Anton Lundell couldn't wait to get started -- literally.

With about 10 minutes still left on the clock before the Panthers were slated to kick off their first on-ice session of development camp at the Panthers IceDen on Saturday morning, the former first-round pick flew right out of the locker room and grabbed the first loose puck he could find.

Even from the press room, you could sense his excitement radiating throughout the rink.

"I'm really excited," said Lundell, who has never attended an NHL camp before. "It's always been my dream to play here, and now I'm one step closer. I just try to make all of it. Every day, do my best. Of course, I can't wait to play some games and show what I can do on the ice."

Making the trip to South Florida from Finland a few weeks ago, Lundell said he's been counting down the days for camp to get started ever since he signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers in June. And even though this week's camp doesn't carry the same evaluative weight as training camp will later this month, he doesn't plan on holding back during practices.

"I just [want to] try to show how good I can play and just try to do my best every practice and every time I work here," Lundell said of his approach to the week ahead. "Of course, my goal is to just help the team in next week's games. I'm just trying to improve my game all the time."

As Lundell alluded to, the Panthers will hold three more on-ice practices in Coral Springs before traveling across the Sunshine State to compete in a Prospect Showcase Tournament in Wesley Chapel against other prospects from the Hurricanes, Predators and Lightning from Sept. 18-21.

Preparing to play for the first time professionally in North America, the 19-year-old forward said he's full of confidence after wrapping up a stellar season in Finland's top men's league, Liiga, in which he recorded a team-leading and career-best 16 goals in 26 games with HIFK in 2020-21.

Also turning heads on the international stage, Lundell helped Finland capture a bronze medal at the 2021 World Junior Championship and then a silver medal at the 2021 World Championship.

"It gave me more motivation for the summer," Lundell said of his breakout campaign. "I knew I was coming here. I had a good summer. I feel great on the ice. I can't wait for games to start."

Looking at those upcoming games, Lundell said he's most eager to get a feel for how to play on a North American rink, which is 15 feet wider than what he's used to playing on back in Finland.

"I think it's a good start for my game here," he said. "I'm just going one day ahead and trying to do my best every day. I think the games will help me out a lot. A smaller a rink, I get a good start from this camp to the next one."

Still getting used to his new surroundings, Lundell's also making adjustments off the ice.

Quickly familiarizing himself with everything that South Florida has to offer, he already met some Marlins and threw out the first pitch at LoanDepot Park on Tuesday and also spent time at the beach in Fort Lauderdale with fellow prospects John Ludvig and Logan Hutsko on Thursday.

Tweet from @JamesonCoop: Who���s ready for D-Camp?#FlaPanthers prospect Anton Lundell threw out the first pitch at tonight���s @Marlins game. His catcher? @j_chisholm3! pic.twitter.com/H8EyI4mB2O

"I'm not used to being at the beach that much," Lundell smiled. "It's fun to do something else than all the time be at the rink. We practice really hard here and then just try to relax if we have some off time."

For all prospects, team bonding is a big part of camp.

"It's very important," Lundell said. "I didn't know the guys from before, and now I get to know the guys, and everyone is really nice. The team is amazing. I can't wait for the games to start."

KIERSTED KEEPS LEARNING

Fresh off his NHL debut, Matt Kiersted had no shortage of notes heading into this offseason.

Going right from the University of North Dakota to South Florida after joining the Panthers on a two-year, entry-level contract in April, the 22-year-old defenseman went on to compete in seven games down the home stretch, producing 10 blocks and six shots on goal during his brief stint.

Averaging just over 15 minutes in those games, Kiersted said he was able to get a good sense of what he needs to work on in order to eventually become a regular in the NHL. But the lessons didn't only take place on the ice. Whether it was in the locker room or the gym, he absorbed as much as he could from the wealth of proven NHL players that surrounded him every single day.

"I saw what it takes to play at the top level and see some of the guys on the team and how they go about their day in a professional way," Kiersted said. "I think I just took little things from them -- showing up to work every day, no days off, other things like that -- into my summer routine."

The majority of that summer routine took place in Minnesota.

Able to get in some solid on-ice action in addition to regular off-ice workouts, Kiersted was one of many professional hockey players that laced up their skates in Da Beauty League in July and August. Established in 2015, the no-hit, 4-on-4 league consists of both pros and prospects split between eight teams. With fans filling the stands, proceeds from the tournament benefit charity.

Playing with fellow pros like Nick Bjugstad and Derek Forbort on Team Nor-Son, Kiersted, who grew up in Elk River, tallied six points (two goals, four assists) in four games at the tournament.

Tweet from @DaBeautyLeague: Goal! Making its 10-7 for team Nor-Son - From the @FlaPanthersPR Matt Kiersted! pic.twitter.com/hJbSJwyR80

"I know I can play in the NHL, it's just whether I can do it on a consistent basis and show up every day," Kiersted said. "I can't show up one day and then take a day off and have a bad game. It doesn't work that way. You've got to do it every day. It's a matter of me finding that."

The good news is that he doesn't have to figure all of that out this week.

With development camp serving as more of an instructive rather than evaluative tool for the Panthers, Kiersted views this week as a chance to get to know the organization a bit better -- everyone from teammates to coaches -- before kicking things up a notch during training camp.

"It's my first time coming to development camp here in Florida," said Kiersted, who previously attended camps with Anaheim and Winnipeg during his time in college. "Coming down now compared to coming down in the middle of the season, it's a little more calm. You get a chance to come and meet the staff more and the player development guys. I'm excited for this week."

BOWLBY THE BEAUTY

Kiersted isn't the only veteran of Da Beauty League at this year's camp.

A native of Edina, Minnesota, forward Henry Bowlby suited up in 11 games with Team Waser during the annual tournament, registering 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 11 contests.

"It's awesome," Bowlby said. "I feel like Minnesota is one of the few places you can do a summer league like that and get a lot of fans. At least for me specifically, it was fun to play in front of some fans again. It was a great time. There's some great guys to play with there."

Tweet from @DaBeautyLeague: And another HATTY ALERT 🚨🎩We���re pretty sure Henry Bowlby made it his mission to hit every pipe with this shotMission successful ���Jimmy John���s leads Walser 9-7#DaBL // @FlaPanthers pic.twitter.com/YPhZXtQJAz

For Bowlby, who went from Harvard University to the AHL after signing a two-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers in August of 2020, the biggest benefit of participating in Da Beauty League was being able to rub elbows with a bevy of NHL veterans from the North Star State. Among those players were forwards Brock Nelson, Jake Guentzel and Jason Zucker.

"Seeing what they do day in and day out, you're just trying to take your game and model it after them, trying to add some things to your repertoire," Bowlby said. "It's good to see how they all prepare before and after and how they take care of themselves. It's really good to be with them."

During his debut season in the AHL in 2020-21, Bowlby led all Panthers prospects in Syracuse in scoring with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 23 games. When asked about the biggest challenge of his transition, the 24-year-old pointed first to the increased physicality of the pros.

"It was good to get in some games there and see what the pro level is all about," Bowlby said. "I definitely took some things from last year [with the Crunch] as far as the pace and the physicality of the game and kind of got used to it and feel like I can build on that and keep getting better."

Looking to build off his strong showing in Syracuse, Bowlby wants to be a sponge at camp.

"I'm hoping I can just keep talking to the coaches," he said. "I want to find things I can work on in my game, take those things out of camp and continue to build and make myself a better player."

As for getting to spend September in South Florida, that's hard to beat.

"It's been an unbelievable experience so far," Bowlby said. "The hotel is right on the beach."

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