SUNRISE, Fla. – With a revamped front office and an unrelenting desire to capture the organization’s first Stanley Cup, the Florida Panthers are expected to add a few more key pieces to their championship blueprint during 2016 NHL Draft at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y. this weekend.
The first round of the draft will take place Friday, June 24 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with Rounds 2 through 7 running the following day starting at 10 a.m. ET on NHL Network.
“It’s nice to know that there’s going to be a good pool of players,” Panthers General Manager Tom Rowe said. “You know that you’re going to end up with at least two really good players that you can foresee in your lineup in two to three years.”
After setting franchise records for wins (47) and points (103), while also capturing the Atlantic Division title, the Panthers currently hold five picks in this year’s draft, including the 23rd and 33rd overall selections.
“We’re looking at every option to make our team better,” Rowe said of the team’s draft-day desires. “We really want to fill the pipeline with the best possible skill players that we can find… We’re coming into the draft with the goal to get the very best player we can find, someone that is going to bring an offensive flare and high level of skill.”
In recent years, the first round of the draft has certainly been very kind to the Panthers. The team has selected a pair of Calder Trophy winners in forward Jonathan Huberdeau (3rd overall, 2011) and defenseman Aaron Ekblad (1st overall, 2014), while also securing a bonafide No. 1 center in Aleksander Barkov (2nd overall, 2013).
As for who will be joining Florida’s talented young core this weekend, attempting to predict exactly where certain players will land on draft day has long proven to be an inexact science. Once the first few big names come off the board, usually something inexplicable happens that forces even the wisest hockey pundits to slap shot their mock drafts straight into the nearest trash can.
That being said, the Panthers are confident that regardless of how the chips fall before they find themselves on the clock, they will still be bringing several top-tier talents to South Florida.
“I think it’s a pretty solid draft class,” Panthers President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon said after the visiting the NHL Draft Combine earlier this month. “I think we’re going to get two really good players. We’re in good shape and we’re going to keep adding depth to our already deep depth chart. We’re really excited about it.”
You can check out our full drafter primer below…
PANTHERS SELECTIONS IN THE 2016 NHL DRAFT
Round 1 - 23rd overall
Round 2 - 33rd* overall
Round 4 - 94th* and 114th overall
Round 6 - 175th* overall
*Florida acquired the Vancouver Canucks second-round pick (33rd overall), fourth-round pick (94th overall) and Jared McCann in exchange for Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth-round pick (140th overall) originally from the New York Islanders.
*Florida acquired the Anaheim Ducks sixth-round pick (175th overall) in exchange for Brandon Pirri.
RECENT FIRST-ROUND PICKS
2015: Lawson Crouse (11th overall)
2014: Aaron Ekblad (1st overall)
2013: Aleksander Barkov (2nd overall)
2012: Mike Matheson (23rd overall)
2011: Jonathan Huberdeau (3rd overall)
2013: Aleksander Barkov, first round, 2nd overall (Panthers)
“For me, it started at the combine in Toronto. That weekend opened my eyes and it was a big thing. There were so many NHL guys there and ever body was asking me questions and stuff like that. Then, when I came to the draft, I still had a couple media things over there. Sitting in the crowd, though, waiting for your name was, like, so exciting. When I heard my name, I don’t even remember what happened. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy that I got drafted by Florida.”
2012: Mike Matheson, first round, 23rd overall (Panthers)
“It’s kind of a blur, to be honest. I remember having a meeting with the Panthers the morning of the draft. I met with (Dale Tallon) in a room filled with what seemed like every scout in the organization. I thought it went really well. They kind of hinted at the fact that I was projected to go in the range that they were picking. But you hear those types of rumors throughout the process, so you never really know how seriously to take them. Once the draft started going, I wasn’t sure if I’d go in the first round or slip into the second. I knew that I wouldn’t be going for a long time, so I was able to enjoy most of it and not be very nervous. But once the late teens and early twenties started for the picks, I definitely started to get a little bit nervous. Then, when Dale got up (on stage) and said my name, it was actually really cool. I think from that second on, I really don’t remember much. I don’t really remember walking to the stage or being on the stage. It was all a pretty big blur.”
2007: Steven Kampfer, fourth round, 93rd overall (Ducks)
“I wasn’t actually there! I got a call from my agent around 11 o’clock telling me that I got drafted (he actually woke me up). I was still in college, so I was sleeping and he called me and told me that I had been drafted by Anaheim. I didn’t think that I was going to get drafted at all that year, so it was kind of a shock. It was awesome to get drafted and be a part of it. At the time, my parents lived in Michigan and we had a boat on a lake, so I went back home that day to spend time with my family. We went out on the lake and had some fun. The rest of the night was a little bit of a blur.”
No one should be alone on draft night!
If you’re looking to spend the weekend surrounded by fellow Panthers fans, then head on over to the team’s official 2016 NHL Draft Watch Party at the Panther Point Bar & Grill on Friday beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs.