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Panthers Insider: Rookie Camp

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
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Rookie Cuts
9.16.10 6:00 PM

Dale Tallon and his staff had to make some tough decisions following the second rookie camp game as they had to determine who of the 28 players would move on to main Training Camp on Saturday.

And with that, only 12 of the 28 players were invited to the main camp. Those players are F Alain Berger, D Adam Comrie, F Evgeny Dadanov, F Cory Durocher, D Erik Gudbranson, F Quinton Howden, G Jacob Markstrom, F John McFarland, D Alexander Petrovic, D Colby Robak, F Scott Timmins and F Garrett Wilson.

It seems that Tallon and head coach Peter DeBoer want to get their latest draft picks more time of practicing in a pro setting as Gudbranson, Howden, McFarland, Petrovic and Durocher are all going to be suiting up Saturday. Only Zach Hyman and Ben Gallacher were not added but they will also have college hockey in their futures so they have a little more time to develop.

The two biggest surprises of the guys left of the list have to be forwards AJ Jenks and Josh Birkholz. Both showed tremendous speed and were around the puck throughout camp.

Berger is the only rookie tryout to be moving on.

Main camp starts Saturday at Iceplex at 9am.

Markstrom's Competitiveness On Display
9.16.10 3:50 PM

We've all heard about the competitiveness that Panthers rookie goaltender Jacob Markstrom has and in Tuesday's rookie finale against Nashville we saw it post game.

And while it was just a scrimmage, one in which the Panthers lost 5-1 to get swept in the two games at Iceplex, for Markstrom it didn't matter.

"Maybe that but I still remember it," said Markstrom when asked if it was easy to forget the outcome since it was just a scrimmage. "I wanted to win this game today. I want to play my best and I didn't play my best."

Markstrom believes he could have a better showing for the coaches and scouts in his exhibition game.

"You want to show your best side and I think I didn't do that today so that's why I'm disappointed about myself," said Markstrom.

Now many pundits have Markstrom as the goalie of the future for the Panthers. And why not. The 20-year old Swede has the size (6-4, 180 lbs) and the skill. That's why Florida took him with their first pick in the 2008 NHL draft (31st overall).

But his attributes are just the tip of the iceberg with Markstrom. He's a winner who often carries the rest of his team on his back by making save after save. Even though he gave up five goals to Nashville, he did turn aside 32 others as the Predators outshot the Panthers 37-31 in the contest.

Most likely to start the season in Rochester thanks to the log jam at goalie with Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen having a dearth of NHL experience, the Amerks head coach likes what he sees from the rookie.

"As a coach, you never want a puck to get through him and i thought he did a good job of that," said Chuck Weber. "He's really a calm, cool and collected."

"I think he does a great job staying square to the puck. He takes up a lot of net."

While not all the way there, Weber and his staff think they can get him to the NHL sooner rather than later. "

"We'll work on his puck handling a little bit as I think that's really the next evolution in his game," said Weber. "And it's just playing the North American style, playing a lot of hockey, playing two three sometimes four games a week and he's going to get that done in Rochester and we'll continue to develop his game."

Game 2 Primer
9.16.10 9:40 AM

A quick turnaround here at Rookie Camp as both the Panthers and Predators play a noon game at Iceplex.

With that, just a quick update as the Panthers players will skate around 10:40 to prepare for the contest.

With such a packed crowd last night, it was a bad break that they didn't get to see highly touted keepr Jacob Markstrom turning shots aside. But as long as everything goes as planned, he should be starting between the pipes for the Panthers in today's contest. We'll make sure we get plenty of video highlights of him (as long as he makes the saves of course).

Other changes in the lineup have Quinton Howden and AJ Jenks switching spots in the first two lines and Brady Calla centers Mike Vaskivuo and Corey Durocher. Yannick Dube is the extra forward for the contest.

On defense, tryout Hayden Rintoul is in at left d on the third pairing as TJ Fast moves over to the right side.

That's all for now. If you want to follow along on the game, make sure you follow us on twitter or run on over to the Miami Herald's site as George Richards will most likely be keeping a running blog.

Panthers Lineup
Quinton Howden (42) Scott Timmins (75) Evgeny Dadonov (63)
John McFarland (45) AJ Jenks (59) Josh Birkholz (53)
Mike Vaskivuo (58) Brady Calla (46) Corey Durocher (54)
Yannick Dube (70)
Colby Robak (47)     Erik Gudbranson (44)
Adam Comrie (56)     Alex Petrovic (72)
Hayden Rintoul (68)       TJ Fast (49)
Jacob Markstrom (33)
Brian Foster (60)

Game 1 Look Back
9.15.10  11:20 PM

Video Highlights: Game
Video Highlights: Shootout
Video Interview:
Chuck Weber
Video Interview:
Erik Gudbranson
Video Interview:
Quinton Howden
After putting in four solid on-ice workouts, the Panthers rookies took it on the chin in their first game against the Nashville Predators rookies. In front of a packed crowd at the Iceplex, Florida fell 5-0 and 2-1 in the shootout to their Western Conference foes.

Watching the game, there were some positives that can be taken from the first game.

The Panthers were the more physical team which fans in South Florida know, hasn't always been the case in years past. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson seemed to be in the middle of every single check and if it wasn't him, then it was most likely tryout forward Chris Clackson. Both used their big bodies to get numerous checks on the Nashville opponents.

"They competed," said Rookie/Amerks head coach Chuck Weber of the Panthers physicality. "And that's what we want to see out of these guys. There's going to be a lot of mistakes made system wise. If they're going to make a mistake, we wanted to make sure it was an aggressive mistake but I like the fact that we were finishing bumps."

Being physical right from the get go, was something that Weber and the other coaches stressed prior to the contest.

"Yeah absolutely," said Gudbranson. "The physicality is a huge thing for the game of hockey and if you throw the body around, you create space for yourself. I think that's a gameplan for any team, it's just we came out and we wanted it more. We threw the body, made the heavier hits and made sure that we got as many pucks back as we could."

While being ahead in the hit count is a good thing, ultimately it didn't factor as much as the Panthers would have hoped. But that's in large part due to the quick scoring of the Predators and the lethality of the power play unit.

Luckily there's another game for the Panthers to come out and get redemption as the two teams meet again at Iceplex for a noon game.

"We got bumped tonight," said Weber. "I'm really looking forward to seeing how these kids respond. It's easy to play when you win. This is a good test for these guys to see how these guys respond."

Game Day #1
09.15.10 2:30 PM

After three days of going hard in practice and a morning skate, the rookies are ready to take on some new opponents.

The puck drops at 7pm at Iceplex as the Panthers rooks take on those from Nashville for a full length game followed by a shootout.

The Panthers (lineup listed below) are playing most of their big name guys sans Jacob Markstrom who should be playing in tomorrow's contest (12 noon at Iceplex).

AJ Jenks (59) Scott Timmins (75) Evgeny Dadonov (63)
John McFarland (45) Quinton Howden (42) Josh Birkholz (53)
Garrett Wilson (57) Chris Clackson (71) Alain Berger (73)
Eric Selleck (76)

Colby Robak (47)     Erik Gudbranson (44)
Adam Comrie (56)     Alex Petrovic (72)
TJ Fast (49)       Paul Baier (64)


Marc Cheverie (31)

Brian Foster (60)

It should be a highly spirited affair as the Predators bring in some highly touted prospects of their own including Austin Watson and Blake Geoffrion up front, Ryan Ellis and Jonathon Blum along the blue line and Chet Pickard between the pipes.

Behind the bench for the Panthers will be new Amerks head coach Chuck Weber along with his assistants as Peter DeBoer and the rest of the coaching staff watch the game from up above.

For Weber, it's a chance to coach some of the same guys he'll be tutoring in Rochester (most likely), including Scott Timmins, AJ Jenks, Colby Robak and Adam Comrie.

"There's definitely a lot of talent on the ice," said Weber. "You can see it from the 18-year olds to the 20-year olds. There's a lot of depth in the organization.

"You see guys like Timmins, Jenks and Robak, those types of guys that will be able to come in and have an impact. It's going to be eye opening. They're not 20 year olds playing against 16 year olds anymore, they're 20 year olds playing against 20 and 27 year olds but I like their skill set right now."

Puck drop is 7:00pm and we'll have intermission reports on the blog as well as
twitter updates throughout the game as well as post-game video up on the site following the game/shootout in case you can't make it to the Iceplex.

Scrimmage Day
09.14.10 3:29 PM

Wednesday was scrimmage day for the Panthers rookies. After an hour of drills and then a flooding of the ice, the rookies split into two teams.

Below is a listing of the teams:


AJ Jenks Scott Timmins Evgeny Dadonov
Garrett Wilson Brody Sutter Alain Berger

Zach Hyman Mike Vaskivuo

Colby Robak     Erik Gudbranson
TJ Fast      Paul Baier


Brian Foster


John McFarland Quinton Howden Josh Birkholz
Eric Selleck Chris Clackson Brady Calla
Corey Durocher

Yannick Dube

Adam Comrie     Alex Petrovic
Ben Gallacher     Hayden Rintoul


Marc Cheverie

Video Interview: Peter DeBoer
Video Interview:
Brian Skrudland
Video Interview:
A.J. Jenks
Video Interview:
John McFarland
Video Highlights:
Sights & Sounds
There was a change behind the benches as two scouts got to be the coaches while head coach Peter DeBoer got to watch with the rest of the scouts and Gord Murphy and Jim Hulton served as linesmen.

"The scouts get an opportunity to coach in a game like that and for me it's nice to stick those guys back there because they're always the ones in the back room blaming the development of the player on the coach so they can stand back there in our shoes for a change," joked DeBoer afterwards.

The scrimmage started off with both teams going guns-a-blazing as the adrenaline was pumping for everyone as they tried to make an impression for the coaches and scouts in attendance.

The hitting picked up and the two players involved in most of it were defensemen Erik Gudbranson and forward Josh Birkholz as those two had a mini-war waging on.

Despite numerous chances, both teams played to a scoreless draw through the first 20 minutes of play thanks to Marc Cheverie and Brian Foster.

Midway through the second period, the offense found the back of the net. Tryout forward Chris Clackson snapped a shot from the left slot past Foster to give the White team a 1-0 lead.

The Blue team would answer just over a minute later as South Florida's (born in Finland) Mike Vaskivuo set up Owen Sound winger Garrett Wilson. The Attack captain roofed it past Cheverie for the tying goal. The goal scoring ended about a minute later when center Scott Timmins fed Evgeny Dadonov cross ice for the easy goal past Cheverie.

"That was a nice change up from some of the other drills we were doing," said Timmins and Dadonov's linemate A.J. Jenks. "The scrimmage was good. You get a pretty good gage where you're at with the other guys."

The prospects ended the session with a shootout. After the score was tied at four after everyone went through once, the shootout went to a sudden death affair. Timmins who had scored earlier in the shootout deked out Cheverie and beat the goaltender while Foster stoned first-round pick Quinton Howden. For their efforts or lack there of, the White had to do a couple of cross-ice sprints.

Goaltender Jacob Markstrom didn't take part in practice due to a minor injury on Monday but he did say afterwards that he didn't think it was serious and that he wanted to practice on Wednesday.

After a morning skate, the Panthers rookies will take on Nashville's rooks at 7pm at the Iceplex.

Big D Making Noise
9.13.10 1:15 PM

Video Interview:
Adam Comrie
Video Interview:
Colby Robak
The defensemen have had a pretty good two days to start camp. They've constantly put pressure on the forwards and have made sure that the opposition doesn't get to the net freely.

It doesn't hurt when most of the defensemen stand taller than six foot.

The best d-men after the first two days, actually are the tallest too. Colby Robak, Adam Comrie and top pick Erik Gudbranson all stand taller than 6'3 and weigh around the 200 lb mark and that has led to some pretty big hits at practice. They're not one-dimensional either as it seems like all three has got the foot speed to wheel the puck up the ice and get back on rushes.

"I feel good," said Comrie. "It was definitely a hard first day. Today was a little lighter but still pretty intense, pretty fun and I feel good personally."

Robak and Comrie just turned pro this season after spending time in the Juniors while Gudbranson was Florida's top pick in this past year's draft. And even though Florida has several defensive spots locked down, all three are pushing for playing time in the organization.

"The coaching staff is pushing us to do our best," said Robak. "There's jobs open and everyone's competing for them.

"Everyone wants to play and everyone knows you have to beat someone else out to get a job so it's highly competitive."

"It definetly puts a different perspective on things," said Comrie about participating in Rookie Camp as a pro. "I definitely want to make Rochester and hopefully here. It just makes me push harder to make it to the next level."

Getting Comfortable
9.13.10 - 11:50 AM

The second day of Rookie Camp seemed to go by in just a flash. It helped that practice was shortened by a half hour.

Just like the first day, the coaches put the rookies through an intense session throwing drill after drill at them to see how they responded. While a little dysfunctional on the first day, they were able to pick up the drills a lot quicker, which made for a lot faster play.

"It's what I expected and a little bit more," said winger Josh Birkholz. "Yesterday was pretty intense for all of the guys out there but that happens when you're traveling and you haven't been on the ice for a couple of days.

"I think everyone felt a lot better today, felt a little more comfortable and understand what's expected in every drill on and off the ice. Today was a better feel for everyone."

The biggest drill to be seen had to be the one where the defensemen had to get the puck out of their zone with an attacking forward hot on their trails. After moving it up to the forwards, the forward line would attack the opposing D and the goalie until the puck was cleared or a goal was scored. That made for a lot of checks, wipeouts, goals and saves.

The last drill of the day was geared to the Hail Mary, if you're speaking football terms. A player would take a puck, curl around his own net and then fire the puck the length of the ice to try and score on the empty net. It took about 15 guys to score the required four goals before the day was over.

Rookie Camp Day 1
09.12.10 11:09 AM ET

Day one for the rookies hit it's midway point around 11am as the on-ice portion came to a close after an autograph signing for the 200-300 Panther fans in attendance.

Starting with the goalies at 8:30am and everyone at 9am, Panthers head coach Peter Deboer as well as assistant coaches Jim Hulton, Gord Murphy and Robb Tallas put the young guns through a rigorous session. With quick whistles and even quicker drills, the players were gassed after the two hour session. And that's even after a break for the zamboni to clean the ice.

One of the best parts of the practice was when three guys were laying on the ice on each of the bluelines. After the whistle they had to get up and race one-on-one for the puck. With that, they would try to score on the other side's goalie and once that happened, the losing player in the one-on-one would have to skate until all three pucks were in the net. It was pure madness as sometimes a goalie would see three shooters at a time. And if you were an unlucky one, like defenseman Colby Robak who rang the puck off the crossbar twice on one shift and had to do at least three down and backs before his pairing scored, your legs were done.

While it's only the first day, a couple of the players seemed to stand out among the rest. Goalie phenom Jacob Markstrom started off a little slow but seemed to stop everything after the first half hour of drills. Third overall pick Erik Gudbranson looked to pick up the drills quickly and liked to show off his agressive side. Forward AJ Jenks was physical along the boards and loved to throw the check to get to the puck. But the player that probably stood out the most was defenseman Adam Comrie. The Virgina (born in Ontario) native looked to be in great shape and was one of the best skaters during the on-ice session.

The players are now going through an hour-and-a-half off-ice session and then will pick up tips on the proper Nutrition before calling it a day.


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