Nearly 300 youth hockey players gathered at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs this week to try out for a spot on the 2015-16 Florida JR Panthers roster.
After a successful first three days of tryouts, the JR Panthers completed their first week of evaluations for four different age groups, including Squirt, Peewee, Bantam and U-16.
“We were thrilled with the turnout”, said Panthers IceDen Vice President & General Manager Jeff Campol. “It’s one of our largest turnouts for tryouts we’ve had, it’s been very competitive, and that’s what we want. We look forward to the 2015-16 season.”
Split into four different squads, named Team Barkov, Team Ekblad, Team Gudbranson and Team Huberdeau, the tryouts began on Monday May, 18. Evaluators for the JR Panthers included Florida Panthers alumni Bill Lindsay, Denis Shvidki, Marco Sturm and Tomas Vokoun.
Sturm, a coach for the JR Panthers Pee Wee AA team is very fond of his role behind the bench these days and instills his experience and passion for the game in his young players.
“I’ve coached kids for the past few seasons,” said Sturm. “For me [as a coach], I just want them to say at the end of the year, ‘I just got a lot better,’ because of practice, because of coaching. If I see that on the ice, how they improved, then that makes me happy. That’s why I’m still involved, that’s why I still love it.”
Sturm is joined by fellow Panthers alum Shvidki (Bantam A) and former two-time Stanley Cup Champion Petr Sykora (Squirt A Major) on the coaching staff for the program.
“It’s nice to see guys you played against and see them back at the rink.” Sturm said of his fellow NHL alums on the coaching staff.
“It’s nice to have a real mix of NHL players and former players that understand the game and can relate it to the young kids,” said Campol. “Along with our stable of coaches that we have, between all of them, we believe we’re well situated for the future.”
The tryouts included a 30-minute block of drills before two of the squads scrimmaged.
Tryouts for Squirts through U-16 will resume on May 26. The rosters for those age groups will begin to be finalized on the final day of tryouts, May 27.
The JR Panthers U-18 Midget Team will begin tryouts on May 28.