By Glenn Odebralski for floridapanthers.com
Talk about a busy day. Two trades, three new draft picks and the addition of two new forwards. And that's just day one.
Some teams were ecstatic getting one pick in the first round. But for the Florida Panthers, it was like Christmas three times over.
Thanks to a trade that sent defenseman Keith Ballard to the Vancouver Canucks along with Victor Oreskovich, the Panthers garnered a third first round pick to go along with the third and the 15th. The Cats also grabbed forwards Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner in the transaction.
After selecting Erik Gudbranson
with the third overall pick, Florida would trade with Los Angeles, getting the 19th and 59th picks for the 15th.
With the 19th selection, the Panthers took Minnesota's Mr. Hockey 6'4 center Nick Bjugstad
And with the final first rounder, 25th overall, Florida took Moose Jaw forward Quinton Howden
Got that all?
"It's a big turning point in our franchise," said Panthers GM Dale Tallon. "A very successful day at the draft and we got some good players that fill some needs that are still young, are still good players and I'm very elated with what happened today.
"It was a wonderful day."
All three players taken exemplify what Tallon has been looking for. Character, size, skill, speed and more character.
Gudbranson was thrilled with being taken by the Panthers.
"I did my research on their team. I felt that with Dmitry Kulikov
there, I think I could be a good compliment to him on the backend," said Gudbranson.
"A real attraction is having Dale Tallon there. You see what he did with the Chicago Blackhawks and winning a Stanley Cup and building that team from scratch. I'm really excited to be a Florida Panther now and I feel that this is a team that's going in the right direction. There's no doubt in my mind that I want to be there."
The 6'4 blueliner is seen as a Chris Pronger/Dion Phaneuf type player.
"Impeccable character," said Tallon of Gudbranson. "Good speed. Good size. Tremendous toughness. All those things really got a lot of character and will make us a tougher team to play against."
Trading with Los Angeles, Tallon was able to still get the player they wanted while picking up an extra second (the team's fourth) along the way.
The Panthers then got one of the best high school products in the United States, taking Bjugstad.
The 6'4 188 lb center tore up his high school league recording 29 goals and 31 assists in just 25 games.
"I have to give Scott Luce and Erin Ginell and the staff kudos because I relied on them really heavily and we did a lot of things that we planned, came to the table ready, very prepared and were able to accomplish the plan and then add an additional pick and still get a player we thought would get at 15 at 19," said Tallon.
"I'm definitely excited," said Bjugstad of being drafted. "The nerves have kind of gone away since it just happened so I'm really excited about going to the Florida Panthers and hopefully I can improve these next couple of years and play for them."
While the deal was technically agreed to earlier in the night, the Ballard to Vancouver deal wasn't official until right before the 25th selection. Picking up Howden with the third first of the night, the Panthers finished out the day with yet another high character kid.
"It honestly didn't matter to me where I went," said Howden. "I wanted to go to a team that wanted me. My whole goal was to get drafted and this is one of the best experiences of my life so I'm just trying to enjoy it right now.
I had some good interviews with them so obviously it was kind of a dice that was being roled for me. They made a few trades in moving up in the draft so I was excited and I'm really fortunate right now."
For the Panthers, the reason Ballard was the focal point of the trade with Vancouver was due to his value. And with 10 teams pitching trade ideas at the Panthers, it just so happened that the return for the defenseman was substantial.
"I talked about assets that were tradeable and you can't trade guys that aren't wanted," said Tallon. "They're valuable assets and we were able to fill a lot of needs and sometimes you have to make those deicisions to fill up the depth chart and go in the right direction."
With day one in the books, there's still a lot more that Tallon wants to accomplish before the Draft is done.
"I can't be satisfied," said Tallon. "How can you be satisfied? We have to turn the corner and we have to get playoff ready and we have got to start challenging and make it difficult for teams to play against."
But for the new GM, the three kids drafted were a good start to rebuilding the franchise and getting them back on track.
"We want people that really care, are passionate and will compete hard every night and have our fans be happy with the effort every night," said Tallon. "I think we addressed that today and we're going to continue to add the character, the size, the skill and the passion so that we can be successful in a hurry."