The Florida Panthers and Dale Tallon have said they want to get bigger, stronger and tougher. Well after last night’s wheeling and dealing that would make Monty Hall blush, the Florida Panthers are well on there way to doing so. Tallon looked refreshed, looked like he was having fun, yet was very businesslike in his approach. When he stepped to the podium, he made his announcement of the pick. No B.S. No rah, rah. Just here’s our choice. Boys and girls, I’ve watched this man operate in Chicago, and what you saw yesterday, is what you’ll continue to see going forward. The Panthers are going to matter. It all started Friday night, June 25th!
The first order of business was the drafting of big and physical defenceman Eric Gudbranson. Gudbranson who stands at 6′-4″ is posied to be a perfect defensive partner for last year’s number one pick Dmitry Kulikov. Picture this in your mind: Did you like watching the Chicago Blackhawks defensive pair of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith? That’s what Tallon’s planning on here with this pick. And there’s alot to like about this kid.
Here’s one of Gudbranson’s quotes from last night:“I portray a tough image, and I back it up. I play tough, like to drop the big hits. When it comes to dropping the gloves, I have no fear in doing that, whether it’s a small guy or a big guy. That’s a part of my game that I like to portray, and that’s not going to change.”
How does that sound Panther fans! This kid has all the tools to be the big, burly brawny backliner we’ve been looking for for years. He’s well spoken, he’s gonna work hard, and he’s got the character that Tallon and the organization is looking for. He validated that character by indicating the coming day in August when his younger brother, who at 13 has been battleing luekemia, will be cancer free. More on Eric coming soon.
In addition to Gudbranson, the Panthers did some wheeling and dealing that when finalized got us a couple wingers and another draft pick. Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich were sent to the Vancouver Canucks for forwards Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner, and the 25th pick in this year’s draft. Bernier is a big winger who has the ability to score from in front of the net, and can use his body to make space for others. He’s had some struggles and needs to be more consistent, but this will be his third trade in his young career. Could be the motivator to allow him to reach his potential. Bernier was the 16th overall pick by the San Jose Sharks in 2003.
Michael Grabner was drafted 14th overall by Vancouver in 2006. He’s known for his speed and his shot. It is believed that Grabner was the key to this deal and people in Vancouver are grumbling about losing him. Grabner tasted the NHL last season playing 20 games and getting 11 points on five goals and six assists. We are goona like this kid alot!
In other news, the 15th pick that we had from Boston in the Norton deal was traded Los Angeles for their 19th and 59th picks. With that 19th pick we chose Nick Bjugstad a big 6′-4″ center who will play next year for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Bjugstad has some pedigree in him as he’s the nephew of former NHLer Scott Bjugstad. Labeled Mr. Hockey for all his skill and natural abilities. He’ll get to work on them at Minnesota, and we should be getting a solid player by the time he’s ready for NHL duty. Only blemish that I’ve read is that he needs to work on his consistency.
With the 25th pick the Panthers chose Quinton Howden, who last year played for the Mosse Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League. Got to love these kids that come out of the West. Solid, tough character players. Howden is good sized center, 6′-2″ and plays well in all three zones. As one scout said, “he’s doesn’t do anyting spectacularly, but he doesn’t do anyhting badly either. He could have a real solid NHL career”.
Well, that wraps it up for the activity from Friday. What a night! When you take a step back, the Panthers gave up an expendable defenceman, a minor league player, who at best is a fourth liner, and acquired five former and current number one draft picks! Three of which are probably ready to play in the NHL this coming season! Not a bad night, and certainly the hope and outlook of this franchise has changed tremendously. If we had no more picks, I think we’d be satisfied where we are right here. But guess what? We have nine more to grab today, four of which are in the second round!
Tallon commented, “We’re going to have some fun, experiment and take some risks. We’re going to see what happens.” He also added, “We’re taking one step at a time. We have a ton of picks, we’re going to address some needs and see where we go from there,”.
Here are his comments about Steve Bernier: “He’s a low-down guy, has a good shot, can score some goals from the slot and the corner. He’s good down low, a strong kid who was a former first round pick.”
And also about Michael Grabner: He has tremendous speed. He can really skate. That’s something I love, a lot of speed. He’s an upside guy. He’s just starting to develop. That’s good for us. He can grow with our other young players. Once that first round pick was in, it was an easy deal to do.”
Stevie Weiss was coveted by Minnesota, but much to my disappointment, is still here. Well, if that’s the only thing I have to complain about, I’ll survive. Hey, we’re just getting started! Lot’s can happen.
Over the next few days, I’ll give you some deeper analysis of the Ballard trade, and some further info about our picks.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned to the draft as rounds 2 through 7 start today at 1:00 P.M.
Please leave your comments about how you felt this night went.
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