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Panthers 2019 D-Camp Storylines to Watch

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

What's summer without spending at least one week at camp?

From recent first-round draft picks to undrafted amateurs, 40 current and potential future Florida Panthers prospects will gather at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs this week to take part in the organization's annual development camp, which begins on Thursday and wraps up Sunday.

A four-day camp designed to check-in on prospects while also acclimating them to the day-to-day rigors of the NHL, the itinerary for the week includes everything from various on and off-ice workouts to team bonding activities. Last year, prospects spent an afternoon getting to know each other while hitting the range at TopGolf. The year before that, it was beach volleyball.

"At the [rink], you know them a little bit already," Panthers 2018 sixth-round pick Justin Schütz said last year. "Now, we've talked more and know each other much better. We're all friends."

While the camp certainly provides a great opportunity for players to get to know one another, it's also the best chance fans will get to see some prospects up close before they become stars. As usual, all on-ice sessions are free and open to the public, so come snap some photos and snag some autographs with the whole family. Sunday's scrimmage will also be livestreamed starting at 9 a.m. on the team's Facebook page.

The roster for this year's camp can be found HERE, while schedule for the week is as follows:

Thursday, June 27

Red Squad - 1:55 P.M. - 3:10 P.M.

Blue Squad - 3:30 P.M. - 4:45 P.M.

Friday, June 28

Blue Squad - 8:40 A.M. - 10:25 A.M.

Red Squad - 10:40 A.M. - 12:25 P.M.

Saturday, June 29

Red Squad - 8:40 A.M. - 10:25 A.M.

Blue Squad - 10:40 A.M. - 12:25 P.M.

Sunday, June 30

Red/Blue Squad Scrimmage - 9 A.M. - 11 A.M.

As for interesting storylines, there's definitely no shortage of those.

You can check out a few of them below.

TIPP OF THE ICEBERG

All eyes will be on Owen Tippett at this year's camp.

The 10th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, the sizeable sniper (he stands 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds) made his NHL debut during the 2017-18 season, scoring one goal in seven games before being sent back to juniors. Cut from last year's NHL training camp, he spent the entire 2018-19 campaign working on improving his all-around game in the OHL. In 54 regular-season games split between Mississauga and Saginaw (he was traded from the Steelheads in January for a heap of draft picks), he registered 33 goals and a career-high 41 assists for 74 total points.

In the OHL playoffs, Tippett, 20, helped the Spirit reach the semifinals with a team-leading 22 points.

"He's really bought into playing a more 200-foot game," Panthers Director of Player Personnel Bryan McCabe said of Tippett in November. "He's going through bodies, tracking through the neutral zone, doing the other things that are going to make him successful at this level."

At the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, Tippett, who inked his entry-level contract with the Panthers on July 19, 2017, registered four points (two goals, two assists) in five games while competing for Team Canada, earning playing time on the club's top line and power-play unit.

Hoping to earn a spot with the Panthers in the upcoming season, this week's camp - the first of three the Panthers host before October -- will be Tippett's first big step in making that happen.

SERRON SET TO RETURN

Noel is ready to show how far he's come along since his first camp last summer.

A second-round pick (34th overall in 2018), the 18-year-old was named the Oshawa Generals top forward during the 2018-19 campaign, finishing with career-highs in goals (34), assists (47) and points (81). In the OHL playoffs, he accumulated four goals and seven assists in 14 games.

"I was just working on earning the coach's trust and trying to bring that level of consistency," Noel said in March. "I just wanted to be a factor or have an impact on the game every single time that I was on the ice. That's something I've been really trying to focus and dial in on."

Easily one of the biggest prospects at this year's camp - both in terms of actual size (he stands 6-foot-5 and 211 pounds) and potential, it will be exciting to see how far Noel's come in a year.

Noel signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers on March 8.

KNIGHT LIFE

Less than a week after he put on a Panthers jersey for the first time at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, goaltender Spencer Knight will take the ice for the first time in Florida this week.

The top-ranked goaltender in this year's class, Knight is the first netminder to ever be drafted by the Panthers in the first round and the first in the league to be taken within the top-20 selections since 2019 Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy went 19th overall to Tampa Bay in 2012.

"Hearing your name called is a dream come true," said Knight, the first goalie drafted in the top-15 since 2010. "It doesn't seem real, almost. Growing up, it's all you dream of. [The Panthers] are all great people. We had a lot of good conversations and made a good connection. Going into the draft, I had no expectations as to where I was going. I'm happy to be here, though."

The backbone of the USA Hockey's National Team Development Program's U-18 team, Knight rarely didn't come away with a win during the 2018-19 season, posting an outstanding 32-4-1 record with a 2.36 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 39 games.

Knight, 18, leaves the NTDP with the most wins (59) in the program's history.

"I think this guy is a franchise-type goalie," Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon said. "I like his size. I like his athleticism. I like his composure, his hockey-sense. He handles the puck extremely well and has great positional play. He's very aggressive at the top of the crease."

Joining Boston College in 2019-20, this week will be the only chance fans get to see Knight in Florida this summer, as NCAA prospects are unable to attend both rookie and training camps.

THE NINE

All nine members of Florida's 2019 draft class will attend this week's camp.

In addition to Knight, that very long list of newcomers also includes the following prospects: defenseman Vladislav Kolyachonok (52nd overall), defenseman John Ludvig (69th overall), forward Cole Schwindt (81st overall), defenseman Carter Berger (106th overall), forward Henrik Rybinski (136th overall), forward Owen Lindmark (137th overall), forward Greg Meireles (168th overall) and forward Matthew Wedman (199th overall).

"It was necessary to improve our team defense and our depth chart," Tallon said of the team's latest crop of prospects. "We want balance and to play with more physicality on the backend, so that's what we addressed. Goaltending was obviously a priority, then defense, and then at the end we added a lot of heavy, big players that can score. We also added a little skill as well. It's a very diverse group that we drafted. I'm excited and happy about the results of our day."

Let's give them a nice welcome to The Territory, shall we?

MORE TO COME

With 40 players at camp, those storylines are just a few things to keep an eye. So, make sure to stay tuned to FloridaPanthers.com and @FlaPanthers on Twitter and Instagram all week long for interesting videos, written features and much, much more!

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