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Prospects Tippett, Noel Off to Hot Starts in OHL

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop /

Owen Tippett is doing exactly what the Florida Panthers are asking of him.

A big-bodied forward with a rocket for a wrist shot, the former first-round pick was sent home earlier than expected from this summer's training camp. The offensive skills were clearly there, but the team wanted more out of his all-around game, especially his play away from the puck.

But with a third of the OHL season in the books, the Panthers like what they are seeing.

"He's really bought into playing a more 200-foot game," Panthers director of player personnel Bryan McCabe recently told "He's going through bodies, tracking through the neutral zone, doing the other things that are going to make him successful at this level."

As he continues to fine-tune the defensive aspects of his game, Tippett's offensive output hasn't suffered at all. The 19-year-old has tallied 30 points in 19 games and is tied for sixth in the OHL with 19 goals despite playing in noticeably fewer games than each of the players ahead of him.

Tweet from @eliteprospects: That's a good goal by Panthers prospect Owen Tippett. #FlaPanthers

In the midst of his fourth season with the Mississauga Steelheads, Tippett earned "Player of the Week" honors in the OHL for the week ending Nov. 18 after scoring five goals - including three game winners -- to go along with three assists in three games.

After scoring one goal through seven games during a brief look with the Panthers at the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Tippett is poised to make the jump from junior superstar to full-time pro next season.

"We have no doubt that he's going to be a heck of a player for us one day, but it's a process," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after Tippett, who was the 10th overall pick in 2017, was cut from training camp in September. "He's still a young guy. He's still learning, and this is part of it."

Not far behind Tippett is a newcomer to the prospect pool, Serron Noel.

The 34th overall pick in June's NHL Draft, the hulking 6-foot-5, 212-pound forward has been like a wrecking ball in his third season with the Oshawa Generals. In 25 games, Noel is tied for the team-lead with 30 points, including 16 goals - which is currently tied for 14th-most in the OHL.

"When Serron's going, he's hard to stop," McCabe said. "He's got a big body and plays a north-south game. I watched some of the highlights the other night. He scored a couple goals, dropping the leg, going to the net, going to the hard areas. He's having a great season thus far."

Tweet from @OHLHockey: It���s the goal that counts, but that @serron_noel celebration though 😂@FlaPanthers prospect scores shorthanded, his second 🚨 of the night, in @Oshawa_Generals road win.

At 18, Noel was the youngest player at Florida's training camp this summer.

"He got his feet wet and he played extremely well," Boughner said of Noel's camp. "He's going to be a heck of a player. I love the way he plays. He hunts pucks. He's got that extra gear in his speed. He's big and he protects the puck down low. I think he's going to be a really good power forward for us one day."

After earning an invite to the World Junior Summer Showcase earlier in the summer, Noel, like Tippett, hopes to crack Canada's roster for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships, which kicks off on December 26 in Vancouver. Last year, the Panthers had one prospect competing.

In looking at the torrid starts that both Noel and Tippett have gotten off to in the OHL, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said the duo's success just makes the team's already burgeoning prospect pool feel that much deeper - a good sign for any team looking for sustained success.

"They paid attention to what we told them in the exit meetings after our camp," Tallon said of Noel and Tippett. "They've improved and worked hard. They're both committed, and both have skill with size and speed, all those things that we really like. We're getting deep in our prospect pool. It's exciting for our team and the future."

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