CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- After starring for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the past four seasons, goaltender Samuel Montembeault believes he's finally ready to make the leap from junior to professional hockey in 2017-18.
"I think I'm ready," Montembeault said after the third day of development camp at the Panthers IceDen on Thursday. "They sent me back to junior for one reason: to play more games and to get that mature level. I'm ready for the next level. I've worked out all year long; had a great season back in junior. I'm looking forward to the next step."
A third-round pick (77th overall) of the Florida Panthers in the 2015 NHL Draft, the 20-year-old netminder posted a 28-9-0 record with a 2.40 goals-against average and career-best .907 save percentage for the Armada this past season, earning a spot on the QMJHL's Second All-Star Team.
"We had a great team back in juniors," Montembeault said of his success last season. "I played lots of games, more than I would have played if I were in the AHL. I've been working with my goalie coach there for four years now and he really helped me to improve. Now, I'm ready for the next step."
At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Montembeault has good athleticism and flexibility, which allows him to maneuver from post to post with ease. Looking ahead, he hopes to better incorporate his large frame into his game.
"I want to simplify my game," he said. "I want to play bigger in the net."
At this week's camp, Montembeault has been working closely with Springfield Thunderbirds goaltending coach Leo Luongo, brother of Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, who just happens to be a childhood idol of the Quebec native.
"When I was young, Roberto Luongo was one of the goalies I looked up to," Montembeault said. "He was from Montreal, Quebec, just like me. I really liked him when he was here during his first time in Florida."
Video: Meet the Coaches
STILLMAN STILL LEARNING
A fourth-round pick (114th overall) of the Panthers in the 2016 NHL Draft, Riley Stillman arrived to this year's development camp on the heels of a breakout season for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League.
"It was good to go back to Oshawa as a second-year guy," said Stillman, who is attending his second development camp. "Obviously, your rookie year, you just kind of want to make a splash and make a name for yourself. The second year, going back to Oshawa, I really wanted to improve, to turn my game more into a pro game - play harder, play faster, be in the rush, be better defensively. I had a good year this year and I'm excited to move forward."
A two-way defenseman, Stillman tallied a career-high 33 points (11-22-33) in 62 games for the Generals in 2016-17, while also serving as one of the club's assistant captains. His 11 goals were tied for 19th among OHL defenseman.
In his first season since being drafted, Stillman says knowing that he was now representing the Panthers also drove him to perform better, believing that every game he played - good or bad - reflected on his new organization.
"You're being watched all the time," said Stillman, the son of former NHL-er Corey Stillman, who played for the Panthers from 2009-11. "With my family name, with dad playing here, with me in Florida, anytime you go anywhere you have that name. You're part of the Florida Panthers.
"You have that. If I were to mess up, it'd be would read 'Florida Panthers prospect' in the paper. It's not 'some kid's in the paper.' It's a pride thing. It's a big thing moving forward that a National Hockey League team is on your back and looking at you all the time. You represent them every day."
The next step, Stillman says, is earning an NHL contract.
"Everyone wants to get a contract," the 19-year-old said. "[The goal] your first year is to get drafted. After you get drafted, the goal is to sign that contract… You really want to work and push yourself to get that contract. That's the next step towards playing pro."
Stillman is planning to return to Oshawa for the 2017-18 season.