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Finding The Right Piece(s)

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com


SUNISE - OK, kids. Ready? Hands on buzzers.

What do Stephen Weiss, David Booth, Nathan Horton, Jay Bouwmeester, Michael Frolik, Rostislav Olesz, Michal Repik and Keaton Ellerby have in common?

If you said those eight players were Panther selections at the NHL Entry Draft, you’d be correct. And now, less than eight weeks from the Draft, the Panthers are preparing to head to Montreal come the end of June hoping to add more players to the ‘core’ of their team.

The Entry Draft, so important to the Panthers in selecting young prospects and also making deals that reverberate around the league (you can’t forget draft day moves involving Keith Ballard, Tomas Vokoun and Roberto Luongo), will once again test the Panthers and every other NHL organization when it comes to projecting 18-year-olds two, three or four years into the future.

The Panthers hold the No. 14 pick in the first round and No. 44 pick in the second round.

Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting, defines the upcoming draft, featuring top-rated North American skater John Tavares and top-rated European skater Victor Hedman, as “average to slightly above average.”

“I don’t think you have a great number of potential superstar players,” Luce said. “But I think you have a lot of players who could become above average NHL players and contribute on NHL teams sooner rather than later.”

CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKINGS
FINAL RANK

North American
 
European
Skaters
John Tavares (C)
1
Victor Hedman (D)
Matt Duchene (C)
2
Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (LW)
Evander Kane (C)
3
Jacob Josefson (C)
Brayden Schenn (C)
4
Oliver Ekman Larsson (D)
Jordan Schroeder (C)
5
Tim Erixon (D)
John Moore (D)
6
David Rundblad (D)
Scott Glennie (RW)
7
Carl Klingberg (LW)
Simon Depres (D)
8
Marcus Johansson (C)
Jared Cowen (D)
9
Dmitri Orlov (D)
Zach Kassian (RW)
10
Joonas Nattinen (C)
11
Toni Rajala (RW)
Carter Ashton (RW)
12
Jakob Silfverberg (LW)
Louis Leblanc (C)
13
Richard Panik (RW)
Chris Kreider (C)
14
Tomas Tatar (C)
Nazem Kadri (C)
15
Anton Rodin (LW)
 
Goaltenders
Matthew Hackett
1
Robin Lehner
Oliver Roy
2
Mikko Koskinen
 Edward Pasquale
3
 Juraj Holly
 Michael Lee
4
Lukas Flueler
 Scott Stajcer
5
Anders Nilsson
The Entry Draft is always part puzzle, part mystery. You can walk from the late rounds with diamonds in the rough (Henrik Zetterberg) or get burned by high picks (Patrik Stefan).

As for this draft? After Tavares, who led the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 58 goals and 104 points, and the 6-6 defenseman Hedman from Sweden, there’s OHL center Matt Duchene and WHL pivot Evander Kane.

“You have your high-end guys in the top three or four (selections),” Luce said. “After that you have a good quality of young forwards who could go in any order. There’s no set order to the next seven guys. So your top 10 will be pretty forward dominated, with a couple defensemen and, for sure, a couple wild cards.”

One of those wild cards will be defenseman Jared Cowen of the Western Hockey League (WHL), who is ranked No. 9 by the NHL’s Central Scouting. The first overall selection in the WHL’s 2006 Bantam Draft, Cowen helped lead Spokane to WHL and Memorial Cup titles in 2008. But after a slow start, his season was cut short Jan. 30 by season-ending knee surgery.

What does this all mean for the Panthers?

“Basically, we feel we’re going to have a guy on our list that will potentially slip to us at 14 who we value around the 10 spot,” Luce said. “That’s how our lists have worked out in the past. But we’re also looking at different scenarios of trading a pick down and-or up to get the player we want.”

But it will all depend on the Panthers strategy and needs, and that changes every year depending on circumstances.

“Every year a team’s draft strategy changes due to what slot their picking and how many picks they have,” Luce said. “Then you have to apply that information to your list. What are the two guys we’re looking at in general? Then we say, ‘OK, are we happy with that? Are we comfortable? If not, then can we strategize on whether we should trade up to get the guy we want? Or should we trade down and acquire more picks and still get a guy we like?

“Teams with multiple second-round picks will probably take a guy they like with the first pick, but with their second pick in that round they may take a flyer on a guy, take him maybe prematurely from a consensus point of view but take him because they like him enough in that spot and believe he has a strong upside.”

Luce, the Panthers scouting staff and GM Jacques Martin will all converge upon Toronto in late May for the NHL Scouting Combine. Then it’s less than a month before they head to Montreal for the Entry Draft…and more pieces to the core.
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