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Young Guns Fire on all Cylinders at Rookie Tournament

by Mike Lewis / Florida Panthers

The Panthers Young Guns came into Nashville blazing and left with a perfect record. The Cats finished the 2014 Prospect Tournament with a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning rookies, to secure their 3-0 record.

The tournament which took place from Sept.13-16 at the Ford Ice Center in Nashville, featured some of the most talked-about prospects in hockey from not only the Panthers and Lightning, but the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators.

The Panthers opened the tournament against the Bruins rookies on Saturday the 13th with a 2-0 shutout victory, where F Steven Hodges scored the game-winner for Florida.

Hodges, F Logan Shaw, F Vincent Trocheck and D MacKenzie Weegar scored three points apiece in the tournament, finishing as the team leaders in scoring.

While Shaw, Trocheck and Weegar return to camp this year, many of the Panthers prospects played together for the first time at the tournament.

“It’s been great,” said 2014 Panthers draft pick (2/32), Jayce Hawryluk about his experience at camp so far.

“I’ve learned a lot, being here with the older guys, on the pro life and what it takes to make it to the next level. You learn a lot here, and I’ve learned a lot. It’s been a tricky camp, and I’ve enjoyed it and had a lot of fun. At the same time, it’s business and I feel like I’ve gotten better and I’ve learned some things about what it takes to be a pro," said Hawryluk

Backstopping the Panthers with a solid showing was G Sam Brittain. Participating in his first rookie tournament, the 22-year old netminder turned away 55 of 57 shots at the tournament.

“It was a great experience. It was the first time we all really get to play together and compete together”, said Brittain, after the win against Tampa Bay.

“I think for me, the biggest thing is to make sure that I understand what the coaches want out of myself and the rest of the guys as well as what they want going into the season.”

Florida’s 2014 first overall pick, Aaron Ekblad posted an assist in the team’s 3-1 victory over Nashville on Sunday and was quick to adjust to the tempo of the tournament versus the speed of Major Junior Hockey.

“The difference is huge. It’s crazy,” said Ekblad.

“The speed and the impacts out there is pretty crazy. I’m happy to get this experience here and hopefully it’s another good and positive step forward, as well as another milestone to playing in the NHL. “

As the tournament and rookie camp come to a close, a new door opens for the prospects as the Panthers’ training camp officially begins on Thursday Sept. 18 and the rookies look to earn a spot on the Panthers opening night roster.

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