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Tippett will get opportunity to stick with Panthers

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop /

SUNRISE, Fla. - With the puck on his stick in the shootout, Owen Tippett made a few quick dekes before burying a nifty top-shelf, backhand goal that caused his Florida Panthers teammates leap off the bench and mob the rookie at center ice of the BB&T Center.

This, of course, was just practice.

With less than one week remaining until the Panthers begin their 2017-18 campaign, Tippett, the 10th overall pick in June's NHL Entry Draft, will soon have a chance to experience the real thing after making Florida's final 23-man roster on Sunday.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Tippett, who learned of the news via social media. "It's something that I've been working for every since I was a little kid. To be on an NHL roster, it's something I've been working for even harder ever since I got drafted. It's a special feeling."

Tippett, 18, is eligible to play nine NHL games before his entry-level contract kicks in, after which the Panthers will have to decide whether he'll remain with the team for the remainder of the season or be returned to Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League.

"I just look at is as I've been playing hockey to get here and it's something I know I am capable of doing," said Tippett, who tallied a career-high 44 goals and 31 assists in 60 games with Mississauga last season. "Now it's just continuing to play my game and the rest will fall into place."

A big forward with an elite shot, Tippett recorded one assist and seven shots on goal in four preseason games with the Panthers. Coming directly from the junior hockey ranks, the Peterborough, Ontario native says he's already learned a lot in his brief time playing against NHL-caliber competition.

"I learned what kind of game it is," Tippet said. "It's a lot faster game, maybe not in terms of foot speed, but in the way things happen with the puck movement. Just the way the game's thought, it's a lot faster."

With Friday's Opening Night matchup against Tampa Bay on the horizon, Tippett will attempt to become the first 18-year-old to stick with the Panthers since Aaron Ekblad won the Calder Trophy in 2014-15.

"He's like everybody else," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said of Tippett. "He's going to get his opportunity and hopefully he plays well when he gets in there. Obviously after nine games it's a big decision, but we're not looking at spreading his games out or anything like that. If he plays well, he's going to stay in and he's going to play."

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