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Despite Loss Cats Rookies Earn Something More

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
By Matthew F. Sacco for

The Florida Panthers finished off their 2007 rookie camp on a sour note, losing 4-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafes in the consolation game of the four-team tournament in Kitchener, Ontario. But that doesn’t mean the five days of action didn’t have its positive merits for the Cats organization.

“I was disappointed in the outcome today obviously,” Cats assistant coach Guy Charron said. “But this camp isn’t just about wins and losses. It was still a great opportunity to learn more about the young talent we have in this organization, and to give those players an opportunity to compete at a high level.”

Though they finished 1-3 on the tourney, the Panthers staff can certainly walk away from Kitchener with confidence in the performance of a number of different players.

Young goalie Tyler Plante proved that he has a tremendous upside by making 24 saves, allowing one goal and getting the win in his only start of the tournament against runner-up Ottawa.

Big, smooth skating center Shawn Matthias, who came to Florida in the 2007 trade deadline deal that sent Todd Bertuzzi to Detroit, established himself as one of the Panthers most consistent offensive threats, registering points in three of the Cats four games and causing havoc with his physical play and soft hands.

2007 third rounder Michal Repik flashed a deft scoring touch by leading the Cats with three goals, tied for best in the tournament. Fellow Czech Michael Frolik also displayed some of the skills that make the Panthers staff salivate at his potential. Though he had only one assist in the four games, Frolik’s speed and creativity were on full display throughout.

The Panthers also had a pleasant surprise in the form of late addition Mike Duco from the hometown Kitchener Rangers. The 5-10 Duco, who was only on the team as an amateur tryout player after forward Brady Calla went down in Thursday’s practice, energized the Panthers with glass-rattling hits and a pair of fights against players twice his size – he won both. Duco apparently did enough to catch the eye of the Cats scouting staff as his play earned him an invite to Florida’s Training Camp in Vail, Colo.

The Panthers also got stand out performances from center David Brine (3 points), two-way defenseman Franklin MacDonald (2 assists) and forward Dan Collins (2 assists). Fans should also keep in mind that two of the Panthers best prospects, defenseman Keaton Ellerby and forward Evgeny Dadonov, were not in Kitchener as they were both playing in the prestigious Canada-Russia Super Series, which concluded in Vancouver on Sunday night.
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