The Panthers walked away from the table Saturday at this weekend’s NHL Draft at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Oh., pleased with adding depth, speed, size and passion to its roster of players.
Starting Friday evening with first-round selection Keaton Ellerby
and ending seven picks later Saturday afternoon with 6-5 Russian goalie Sergei Gayduchenko
, GM and coach Jacques Martin and director of scouting Scott Luce returned to South Florida pleased with what they had accomplished.
“What we tried to do with the draft was fill different spots,” Martin said. “With our seventh pick we took a goalie. We got a left winger, a center, two right wingers and three or four defensemen. Some are going to college, but that gives them four, five years to develop.”
The draft, coupled with the acquisition of No. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun, continued the team’s philosophy Martin said of “acquiring players with tremendous character and players who have good skating ability.”
“Players who fit in to what is a Florida Panther.”
It started Friday at the Draft by acquiring Ellerby, a 6-4 defenseman from the Western Hockey League ranked as the No. 4 North American skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau.
“The thing that impressed me was his character,” Martin said. “He’s well-grounded, the cousin of Shane Doan, and to me those are great bloodlines.”
Martin was also high on the Panthers’ second and third picks at the Draft: right wingers Michal Repik
of the Vancouver Giants and Evgeni Dadonov of Chelyabinsk in Russia.
Martin, who watched Repik during the Memorial Cup, thought he was the best player during the playoffs. And Dadonov is “highly skilled” who has a “tremendous upside,” according to Martin. Repik had 24 goals (55 points) in 56 games with Vancouver.
Repik was rated the 58th top North American skater by Central Scouting and 44th among all skaters by International Scouting. Central Scouting reported Repik was a “shifty skater” and skilled forward who “has good on-ice awareness and is opportunistic in the offensive zone.”
Dadonov moved up from 20th in Central Scouting’s Mid-Season rankings to 10th in its Final Ranking. Playing for Chelyabinsk, Dadonov scored a goal in 24 games. Central Scouting reported Dadonov to be a skilled forward with good hands who creates opportunities.
The Panthers originally had three picks in the second round. But they allowed Tampa to take the conditional 47th pick as part of the Chris Gratton deal and traded away the 58th pick Friday to Nashville as part of the Vokoun deal.
The Panthers, feeling next year’s draft will be stronger than this weekends, will take Tampa’s second round selection in the ’08 draft as another twist in the Gratton deal.
Luce broke down the Panthers picks in rounds 2-7.
Right winger Michal Repik
(2nd round, 40th pick), 5-10, 180 pounds: “Michal had a great playoffs. He’s a smart two-way player who was highly rated on our lists. We couldn’t pass up on him. Jacques saw him play in the Memorial Cup and was impressed with his good hockey sense.”
Right winger Evgeni Dadonov: (3rd round, 71st pick), 5-10, 178 pounds: “He’s smaller in size but he’s a very brave player. He plays more of a North American style shift to shift. Very consistent. (Because Russia hasn’t signed an agreement regulating transfer fees of players from Europe to the NHL) we view him as a bit of a wild card. But he has trenemdous talent and a large upside.”
Center Matt Rust (4th round, 101st pick), 5-9, 192 pounds: “A very good skater who had more of an offensive side prior to joining the US Under-18 Team, where he took on more of a defensive style. He brings a complete game. He’s very good on the draw (faceoffs). No, he’s outstanding on the draw.”
Defenseman John Lee
(5th round, 131st pick), 6-1, 173 pounds: “He’s the brother of Brian Lee (9th overall pick by Ottawa in 2005 Draft). He’s at Waterloo (of the United States Hockey League) and he’ll be going to the University of Denver. He think he’s got a good upside to develop and become kind of like a Derrick LaPoint-type player (the Panthers’ fourth pick in the ’06 Draft).”
Defenseman Corey Syvret (6th round, 181st pick), 6-2, 193 pounds: “He’s the brother of Danny (drafted in 2005 by Edmonton). He struggled a bit in London when his older brother was there but had a great second half this year in Guelph. He’s a kid we think is just starting to show his upside.”
Left winger Ryan Watson (7th round, 191st pick), 6-1, 175 pounds: “He’s going to Western Michigan. He was drafted by Kingston (of the Ontario Hockey League) but decided to play in a junior elite league (Mid-Western Junior Hockey). He’s known as one of the tougher players in that league. We added grit and character here. He’ll get bigger and stronger (at Western Michigan) and when he graduates at 22 or 23 he’s more likely to step up rather than spending two or three years in juniors.”
Goalie Sergei Gayduchenko
: (7th round, 202st pick), 6-5, 222 pounds: “He has very good technical skills. We believe he’s a diamond in the rough from a goalkeeper’s view. I think because of our depth, we can roll the dice a little bit. I think with (Gayduchenko) the rewards exceed the risk.”