"Incredible," Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon said of the turnout. "This is an exciting time for our franchise moving forward. It was really a nice day."
Putting a period on the team's annual four-day summer camp for prospects, forward Karch Bachman, a fifth-round pick in 2015, netted a pair of goals to lead Team Red to a 3-2 win over Team White.
"It felt great," said Bachman, who is entering his senior season at Miami University of Ohio. "I thought the pace was really good. This is my fourth or fifth camp now. Every year it feels like it gets a little bit faster... I thought it was really quick out there. It was a good pace."
It took less than a minute for the scrimmage to bring the huddled mass of fans surrounding the ice to their feet, as 2019 third-round pick Cole Schwindt jumped on a loose puck in front of the net and sent it past camp invite Stefanos Lekkas to give Team White an early 1-0 lead at 0:25.
Feeding off familiarity, Owen Tippett, who spent parts of two seasons suiting up with Schwindt while playing for the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads, created the rebound that led to the goal.
"It was pretty cool," said Tippett, who the Panthers selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft. "Obviously we played together a bit in Mississauga, so it was good to play with him again."
Making his development camp debut, Schwindt said the goal alleviated a lot of nerves.
"I knew I was playing with Tipp," said Schwindt, a versatile forward. "He's such a great player. He kind of calmed me down a bit. After that goal went in, it felt good… A big thing that we worked on this whole week was stopping in the blue paint. Luckily, I remembered to do that. That's a big part of my game."
Following Schwindt's opening tally, the game was highlighted by numerous physical plays. From very big hits to relentless battles along the boards, prospects gave it their all in hopes of leaving a lasting impression on the team's management and coaches watching from high above the ice.
John Ludvig, a defenseman selected in the third round of last weekend's draft, had one of the most bone-crushing hits of the day along the end boards, while fellow blueliners Jake Massie and William Lochead, both new camp invitees, were involved in a handful of big body checks.
Tallon, grinning ear to ear, professed he "loved every second" of the scrimmage.
"The physicality, we haven't had that in a long time," Tallon said. "We had some kids that really hit hard and played hard. It was a great camp. There were a lot of positives, great speed and great intensity. There was also a lot of camaraderie. I really enjoyed this week."
Just past the midway point of the first of two 25-minute halves the prospects would play (there was also a running clock), Bachman made it 1-1 when he swept in a loose puck past Spencer Knight, the 13th overall pick in the 2019 draft, into the back of the net from the top of the crease.
Later, with time winding down in the first half, Bachman lit the lamp once again, this time re-directing a pass from defenseman Dylan
MacPherson past Knight to make it 2-1 Team Red. MacPherson was credited with the primary assist on both of Bachman's goals.
"As the game gets faster and faster, it kind of plays to my advantage with that skating," said Bachman, whose skating is one of his biggest weapons. "There's a lot of parts of my game that I still need to develop, but I always go back to skating… It's just kind of a consistency thing."
With less than three minutes left in the first half, defenseman Tyler Inamoto, a fifth-round pick in 2017 who led the University of Wisconsin in blocks as a sophomore in 2018-19, kept the puck in a 2-on-1 break and buried a blistering wrist shot to make it a 2-2 game heading into the first intermission.
Knight, who is heading to Boston College in the fall, finished with 11 saves.
"It was good," said Knight, the first goaltender ever drafted in the first round in franchise history. "I thought I got better as each day went by. It was good to get a little game going… It was my fist development camp. It was fun to meet all of the guys and play a little hockey."
Widely considered one of the best goaltending prospects the NHL has seen in a while, the most impressive thing about Knight's performance was his ability make saves in succession, stopping the initial shot and then withstanding the fervent flurry of follow-up chances that quickly ensued.
Tallon said Knight has a certain "it" factor to him.
"I really like what I see, his calmness and his ability," Tallon said. "He's got swagger. He's got 'it.' It's very rare to find a goaltender with the kind of mentality that he has and his ability, his hockey sense, all those things. He's so calm in net and he's so fluid. He's very fun to watch."
In the second half, forward Nathan Dunkley, another camp invite, corralled a cross-ice pass from Ludvig and sent a shot past the outstretched pads of goalie Ryan Bednard to put Team Red ahead 3-2 with roughly a minute left in the game - a clutch score that secured the victory.
Following the scrimmage, the prospects participated in a fun-filled shootout that featured plenty of highlight-reel goals, including a slick far-side snipe from just inside the left circle from Tippett.
"I thought the pace was really good the whole week," said Tippett, who's turning pro. "I think a lot of guys came in with the right mindset. I think a lot of us learned a lot, and we developed."
Didn't have a chance to catch the scrimmage? You can watch the full replay HERE.