"It's been an exciting two days for our organization," Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon said. "We've added great skill, speed, size and character to our system. We are thrilled to have these young men join the rest of our prospects in South Florida next week for development camp and look forward to their continued development with the Panthers."
On the draft's second and final day, Florida added forward Serron Noel in the second round (34th overall), forward Logan Hutsko in the third round (89th overall), forward Justin Schütz in the sixth round (170th overall), defenseman Cole Krygier in the seventh round (201st overall) and defenseman Santtu Kinnunen (207th overall) in the seventh round.
Of those six selections, you'll find five different countries and six different leagues represented.
"It says that everybody has a voice in the room," Panthers Director of Amateur Scouting Jason Bukala said. "It's not just one or two guys that are dominating conversation for certain territories. We go through every region in the world and treat them equally…Everybody had a piece of the pie this year. That's rewarding and motivating. Kudos to everybody for working hard."
With insights from Bukala, here's how Florida's second day of the draft unfolded.
Serron Noel (2nd round, 34th overall)
Position: Right Wing
DOB: Aug. 8, 2000
Weight: 205 lbs.
Team: Oshawa Generals (OHL)
The Panthers scored quite the steal with their first pick in the second round.
After posting 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) during his rookie season in the OHL, Noel, a hulking power forward at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, really broke out this past season with the Oshawa Generals, notching 53 points (28 goals, 25 assists) in 62 games.
"I'm so excited," Noel said. "It's hard to really put the words together. I came into today having no idea where I was going at all, but I'm so happy it's the Florida Panthers."
Already boasting an NHL-ready frame, Noel plans to focus on improving his skating and all-around game in the coming seasons, with the hope of evolving into a "dominant NHL player" sometime in the next 2-3 seasons. A late birthday, he won't even turn 18 until August.
The son of a former Canadian Football League running back, Noel's physical play is much like that of a linebacker. He has the strength to dig pucks out of the trenches and can knock around opposing players at will. With size and a solid north-south game, he dominates in the crease.
At the 2018 U18 IIHF World Junior Championship, he registered six points in five games. "I've got a great opportunity in Florida to prove myself," Noel said.
BUKALA'S ASSESSMENT: "Obviously he's a big a body. I think by the time he becomes more of a man - he's more of a man-child right now - you're looking at a 235-, 240-pound forward with skill that can skate, shoot the puck and is a load to handle in the trenches. It was a real nice fit for us. We've got a lot of skill. I think everybody in the organization agrees with that. We were looking at a bigger body in the lineup with skill and speed that can also open up space for some of those other guys. I think we accomplished that with Serron. We're really excited to have him."
Logan Hutsko (3rd round, 89th overall)
Position: Center / Right Wing
DOB: Feb. 11, 1999
Weight: 172 lbs.
Team: Boston College (NCAA)
Hutsko grew up in Florida, and now he's coming home.
After overcoming both a broken neck and a knee injury, the versatile forward rediscovered his game this past season, recording 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 37 games as a freshman with NCAA powerhouse Boston College. Due to health concerns, he went undrafted in 2017.
"It's so surreal," said Hutsko, who grew up in Bradenton, Fla. "I never thought I'd be here after the last two years. To be here and be drafted by the Panthers, to be going back home to see my family and all that, it's really special."
Hutsko, 19, began the season on the BC's fourth line, but slowly made his way up through the depth chart all the way to the team's top line. The move paid off for the Eagles, as Hutsko finished with 19 points over his last 16 games to finish the season as the school's scoring leader.
"It took a lot to knock of the rust the first half," Hutsko said. "I didn't really start off playing a lot. After two seasons of being out, I finally knocked off the rust, and in the second half I was really able to do what I think I can keep continuing doing next year. It was kind of a whirlwind."
So, what's Hutsko looking forward to most about returning to Florida?
"I love the beach. I love golf. I love manatees," he said.
BUKALA'S ASSESSMENT: "He had a couple of unfortunate injuries, real freakish-type of injuries. We had our doctors take a look at the medical and it came back 100-percent clean. Then you start peeling back the onion… a diminutive player with speed and skill who can score. He had almost a point a game as a freshman. That doesn't happen too often. You pull for a kid like that. He's had to persevere already, so he's already telling you something. He's willing to work through the hard times and look forward to the good days."
Justin Schütz (6th round, 170th overall)
Position: Left Wing
DOB: June 24, 2000
Weight: 172 lbs.
Team: RB Hockey Akademie (Czech U18)
A great hockey name, but a potentially even better player.
Hailing for Kassel, Germany, Schütz was one of just two German-born players selected in this year's draft, joining fellow forward Dominik Bokk, who went 25th overall to Vancouver. He appeared in 40 games with Red Bull Hockey Akademie in the Czech U18 league this season, recording 24 goals and a league-leading 38 assists in 62 games.
At the 2018 U-18 World Championship Division 1A tournament, he caught Florida's attention.
"It won't be my last trip to the B-Pool World Championship," Bukala said. "Kids like[Schütz] make it worth your while. Germany was by far the best team. But you know how it is sometimes in tournaments, they just had an off day and didn't advance to the next stage."
As Germany's captain, Schütz, 17, scored a team-leading two goals in four tournament games.
BUKALA'S ASSESSMENT: "He's a really relentless competitor. He's mid-size, but has speed and plays in all situations. He's a leader and a captain on his team. He's either going to be playing pro over there or come to North America to continue his development."
Cole Krygier (7th round, 201st overall)
DOB: May 5, 2000
Weight: 192 lbs.
Team: Lincoln Stars (USHL)
You can never question the allure of a strong hockey-playing pedigree.
The son of former NHL defenseman Todd Krygier, who played 543 career games split between for the Hartford, Washington and Anaheim, Cole finished his second season with the USHL's Lincoln Stars by putting up a career-high 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 58 games. The 18-year-old defenseman also posted a plus-12 rating and compiled 107 penalty minutes.
A native of Orlando, Fla., Krygier, whose twin brother Christian was taken five picks earlier in the seventh round by the New York Islanders, has also represented the United States on the international stage, suiting up in four games at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
Both of the Krygier twins are committed to play at Michigan State in 2018-19.
BUKALA'S ASSESSMENT: "He's going away to college, going to Michigan State. They're turning over a new leaf there with their program. They went through a coaching change and a kind of change in philosophy. He's a big, strong, competitive player that can skate. He doesn't shy away from the physical stuff. He's probably going to need a full three years there, but we're looking forward to monitoring his development."
Santtu Kinnunen (7th round, 207th overall)
DOB: March 25, 1999
Weight: 154 lbs.
Team: Pelicans U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
You know the Panthers couldn't go an entire draft without selecting a Finn, right?
With their final pick in the draft, Florida took a flyer on an intriguing defenseman in Kinnunen. At 6-foot-2 and 154 pounds, the Lahti, Finland native is still growing into his frame, but the potential is certainly there. In 43 games with Pelicans U-20, he posted 24 points (four goals, 20 assists).
Kinnunen also played in 11 games with Peliitat of Mestis, the country's second-tier league, tallying four assists. In four relegation games with Peliitat, he notched a goal and an assist. Florida has now taken at least one Finnish-born player in five of the last six drafts.
BUKALA'S ASSESSMENT: "He's a late bloomer. He grew tall, so he's still light and needs to add weight. He's a transitional, two-way type of a player. He's on the World Junior summer roster for Finland, so he's just developing a little bit later. He's just light right now. He retrieves pucks and moves up the ice great. He's a nice fit for us."
The Panthers will hold their annual development camp next week, June 26-June 29, at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, Fla. All on-ice sessions are free and open to the public.