|Goaltender Evan Cowley meets Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen after being selected with the 92nd overall pick at the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center (Getty Images)
The Panthers continued to add to their talented prospect pool on Sunday as they added eight more prospects to what has been deemed one of the deepest prospect pools in the league.
It started out with the top pick, Aleksander Barkov as Florida used the second overall pick to pick the big Finnish center.
Playing out of Tappara against men for the last two years, the 6'2 pivot has certainly excelled which earned him accolades across the board and led him to being Florida's top selection at the Prudential Center. A surprise to many, Florida targeted Barkov for his playmaking skills as well as his size.
"We went back-and-forth for a few days on this one but we felt that he was the most talented guy with size and he's left hand shot, something we didn't have in our system," said Panthers GM Dale Tallon.
Usually the Panthers would have a day break to think about their other picks but with the lockout and shortened season forcing the Draft into a condensed one day setting, all seven rounds were held in the same day. With only three minutes between picks to decide who to choose, the teams ran through their selections.
Florida believes they got a second first round pick when they picked up defenseman Ian McCoshen of the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL).
"We really like him. We had him ranked a little higher in the draft and we just liked the size, his intensity, the passion and his ability to move," said Tallon. "He's got good skills as well.
"We just felt it was a good pick at 31. We had him ranked early 20s so we felt that we had the big defenseman that we passed on with the second pick."
The 6'2", 207 lb defenseman couldn't be happier to be going to Florida. Born in Anaheim, CA, he led all United States Hockey League defensemen with a plus-35 rating while finishing second in points, posting 44 (11-33-44) in 53 games.
"I know they have had a lot of top prospects over the years," said McCoshen on what he knew about the Panthers. "They're trying to build the organization and I'm happy to be a part of the organization."
McCoshen will take his talents to Boston College next season where he'll join last year's first round pick Mike Matheson on the blueline.
"(I'm a) two way defenseman that takes care of his end first," said McCoshen. "Good skating ability, good shot and passer. I'm physical as well."
That was just the start for college players for the Panthers as their next three selects will be honing their skills at College. Picking three times in a span of seven picks, the Panthers hit all three positions in the fourth round.
With their own pick, 92nd overall, Florida picked up netminder Evan Cowley who played for Wichita Falls in the NAHL. Cowley is a big goaltender, standing 6'4" and 182 lbs.
"Obviously you get an opportunity like this, to get drafted, it's a big day," said Cowley who posted a 2.90 GAA and .900 SV% in 50 games. "Just tried to stay calm and collected and it worked out very well.
"I met with them yesterday and they mentioned to me that they might be selecting me early in the fourth round. They had a bunch of picks lined up there so I just had my fingers crossed going into the fourth round and it worked out."
Cowley is off to share netminding duties with another Panthers prospect, Sam Brittain as they will play for the University of Denver.
"I committed there a few weeks ago," said Cowley. "It's going to be great working with (Sam). I think we're going to have a good year together."
With their pick from Edmonton in the Jerred Smithson trade (97th overall), Florida went back to the blueline to select 6'3", 190 lb defensemen Michael Downing. THe recorded 23 points and 107 PIM in 52 games for Dubuque of the USHL and fans will certainly like his game.
"Just a mean, shutdown defenseman," said Downing who will attend the University of Michigan in the fall. "I'll fight if I have to. I don't mind doing it. I like playing tough. Good passer. Just an overall solid defensive defenseman."
They followed that up with the very next pick, acquired from Calgary in a trade that sent Corban Knight to the Flames, with forward Matt Buckles. He posted good numbers while playing for the St Michaels in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, recording 40 goals and 71 points in 50 games along with 107 PIM.
"I came to the draft with my family so I sort of expected to getting picked but Florida is an awesome place to play and I'm really excited. I couldn't be any happier now," said the Cornell University bound forward. "I'm just a competitor. I like to use my size. I like to use my big frame, my shot and I just hate to lose individual battles."
Flipping back to the offense, they selected Christopher Clapperton (5'9", 162 lbs) with the first pick in the fifth round (122nd overall). The Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL) winger had a solid draft season, posting 77 points in 67 games (34 goals) before posting 20 points in 17 playoff games.
They finished up the draft with two more blueliners in the sixth and seventh rounds, going to the OHL and QMJHL leagues to do so.
In the sixth (152nd overall), the Cats chose defenseman Joshua Brown. Of large stature, Brown is tied with Cowley for the tallest Panthers 2013 pick, listed at 6'4 and 206 lbs. Playing for Oshawa, Brown picked up 16 points and 79 penalty minutes in 68 games.
"Almost a little surreal," said Brown after being selected. "I'm still trying to soak it in. It's every kid's dream. Here I am now finally drafted so it's a pretty exciting experience. It's pretty cool."
Thought to be done for the night as they had traded away their seventh rounder to Dallas, Florida made a trade to gain the 206th pick while sending next year's seventh round pick to the Montreal Canadiens. There they picked up a Memorial Cup Champion in selecting defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. The Moose Heads defenseman, listed at 5'11, 183 lbs, posted 44 points (36 assists) in 62 games and another five assists in 17 games during the post season.
All-in-all, Florida selected eight players made up of four defensemen, three forwards and a goaltender. Five of the eight were Canadian with two from the US and obviously Barkov, a Finn. Half of them will attend College next season.