For more than 50 years, the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, or ‘The Aud’ as it’s affectionately known, has hosted everything from horseshoe pitching to curling, from the Muppets to Pearl Jam.
And now, for the next week, the venerable building some 70 miles outside Toronto will be home to 22 of the Panthers most promising rookies.
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Under the direction of GM and coach Jacques Martin, the Panthers top rookies will spend a week practicing and participating in a four-team tournament against the top rookies from the Penguins, Maple Leafs and Senators.
“It’s a great way to evaluate the players in your organization against players in other organizations in the same position,” Martin said.
And that position is as a promising rookie. In fact, with the exception of Keaton Ellerby
, who is participating in the ‘Super Series’ between Canada and Russia, all of the Panthers most promising players will be in Kitchener. They include:
*Center Michael Frolik, the Panthers’ No. 1 pick (10th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and coming off a promising season in the Quebec Major Junior League.
*Left winger Kenndal McArdle, drafted first (20th overall) in the 2005 Entry Draft and coming off a season in which he helped Vancouver in the Western Hockey League win the Memorial Cup.
*Right winger Michal Repik
, drafted in the second round (40th overall) in June and McArdle’s teammate in Vancouver.
, the 6-3, 211-pound center who was acquired from the Red Wings in February in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi.
“I’m excited, especially with our players up front (at forward),” Martin said. “We have Frolik, who had a good season last year in the Quebec League, we have Shawn Matthias
and Mike Repik. I’m excited to see them and watch them and see where they’re at in their development.”
Martin is also interested in watching the development of two goalies, both former second-round draft picks. Tyler Plante (2005), who spent last season in juniors, and David Shantz (2004), who spent much of last season in Florida with the Everblades.
Defensively, Martin will be evaluating a group that includes 6-2, 225-pound Martin Tuma, former third-round pick Michael Caruso
, and former fifth-round pick Peter Aston.
After a team meeting and dinner Wednesday evening, the team will begin practice at The Aud on Thursday with its first tournament game Friday against Ottawa. The team will play Pittsburgh at 2 p.m., on Saturday before meeting Toronto at 6:30 p.m., on Sunday evening. The tournament will conclude Monday afternoon with a championship game.
Martin is hoping that of the 22 rookies, as many as 15 will report to the team’s main training camp, which begins Sept. 13 with physicals and begins on ice Sept. 14 in Colorado.
“We’re hoping between 10 and 15 of the kids this week will earn the right to make it to the major camp,” Martin said. “I’m thinking we’ll take something like 43 players on the first part of training camp and through our first three or four (preseason) games in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and then Chicago.”
Martin said he’ll reduce the roster when the Panthers return Sept. 21 from their eight-day trip.Come back to FloridaPanthers.com for daily updates and features from Rookie Camp.
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