CORAL SPRING, Fla. – The Florida Panthers began Rookie Training Camp Friday, Sept. 9 at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs, Fla with medical testing and head shots. On Saturday, they opened up camp with their first practice on the ice.
The camp features Panthers prospects, as well as prospects from the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators as the three teams will all face off in a tournament.
“To try to evaluate guys, there's a lot of guys out there,” said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen following the first practice. “Some thing stick out but you like the flow and I think right now you look at those intangibles when you're early in training camp and the enthusiasm that was coming from these guys. They couldn't wait to get on the ice.
“They were strong on their execution and I think it made for a pretty good first day for us. “
The tournament part of Rookie Camp begins on Sunday, Sept. 11 with the Panthers taking on the Lightning at 6 p.m. Other games featuring the Panthers are on Tuesday, Sept. 13 against the Predators and Wednesday, Sept. 14 against the Lightning, both beginning at noon. The games give top prospects a chance to show their skills, hard work and training they have put in during the offseason.
Some of the key prospects for the Panthers are first-round picks D Erik Gudbranson
(third overall, 2010), LW Quinton Howden
(25th overall, 2010), C Jonathan Huberdeau
(third overall, 2011) and 2008 second-rounder (31st overall) G Jacob Markstrom
“I came to the camp with the idea to be prepared and make the team,” said Huberdeau. “It’s been a good two days right now for me and I just want to wear the Panthers uniform in October.”
“Of course for me being a part of the rookie camp, it's more time on the ice and more games so I'm trying to enjoy every second of it,” said Markstrom. “It will give me a head start before main camp starts.”
While playing games right away has the young guns charged up, it’s a double edged sword for the Cats bench boss.
“That's a curse and a blessing because there's so many things,” said Dineen. “We did a little bit this morning and the trick right now is not to overwhelm these guys. To let them go out and show their natural instincts and ability and go play the game but in saying that, we're looking for a few very specific areas that we feel that organizationally we're going to have success.”
The prospects for the Panthers organization were ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s 2011 NHL organizational rankings. The rankings are based on quantity of players, as well as quality, with the Panthers having a total of 15 top prospects.
The Panthers have an overall positive outlook for the season. The organization signed and traded for numerous veteran players, including Brian Campbell
, Tomas Fleischmann
, Ed Jovanovski
and Scottie Upshall
, in the off-season who they anticipate to make up for the loss of the team’s Most Valuable Player Tomas Vokoun. David Booth, one of the team’s top players, is also expected to make a comeback after a difficult last season.
With so many changes, new prospects, new coach and a look that has the entire South Florida community “Seeing Red”, the Panthers have an optimistic attitude for the season.