Mike Santorelli

The Maturation Of Mike Santorelli.

Today’s music video is The Letter by Veils.

One of the brights spots of the Florida Panthers this season has been the play of center Mike Santorelli, who was acquired this summer from the Nashville Predators for a 5th round draft pick in 2011.  Based on what we’ve seen so far in the first part of the year I think it would be safe to say that Santorelli is developing into one of the better acquisitions so far by General Manager Dale Tallon, who had help on this from Assistant General Manager Mike Santos.  Santos was was previously with the Predators organEYEzation and very familiar with Santorelli.

The scouting report from CBC Sports earlier this season described Santorelli as fast with lively legs and a lot of enthusiasm.  The 25 year old center has seen his ice time increase since the beginning of the season especially since he scored his first goal of the year in his eighth game with the Panthers against the Ottawa Senators. Santorelli’s play has improved so much that after starting the season on the fourth line, he’s moved up to the second line, and has seen minutes on both special teams.

Upon arriving this summer from Nashville, if you were like me when hearing about the deal,  I’m sure you didn’t jump up and down as though we had found the answer to our scoring woes, but you have to admit, he’s been a very pleasant surprise and has worked hard since training camp to be where he’s at right now.  Not an overly physical player by any means, he’s been solid on the forecheck, and is aggressive when he’s on the penalty killing unit, contributing to their success.  He brings youthful energy and seems to be fitting into his role with the team.  Playing on the second line, lately with David Booth on his left side, his right wingers have included either Evgeny Dadonov or sometimes Chris Higgins, or Michael Frolik , he’s easily adapted to his linemates.  His speed along with that of his wingers has created an exciting second line to watch as well as one to get some scoring from.

Drafted in the 6th round by Nashville in 2004, the 178th player chosen, Santorelli enjoyed some success playing for Northern Michigan in the CCHA, with his point totals increasing each of his three years there.  In 2006-2007 he had his best season with 47 points in 41 games.  In the 2007-2008 season playing for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL, Mike had 42 points in 8o games.  However it was the next season where he showed his potential.  70 points in 70 games for Milwaukee including 12 of his 27 goals coming on the power play.  He had the proverbial cup of coffee with Nasvhille in 2008-2009 getting into 7 games, but had no points.

Last season he did the Milwaukee-Nashville shuffle for the Predators organization playing in 25 games for Nashville.  Unfortunately he had only 3 points and was a minus 8.  Still in 57 games with Milwaukee he again showed his promise with 59 points of which 26 were goals, and he was a healthy plus 17.

As of today he’s on pace for a 36 point season, but with his ice time increasing to almost 19 minutes per night, I believe that he’ll actually achieve a higher number.  He’s playing more, he’s more confident, and the coaching staff is more confident in him by putting him in situations where he can be successful.  He’s not a number one center at this point, and that’s not a knock on him at all.  However, he appears to be a very reliable and consistent number two.

Santorelli is signed for one year at $600,000 and is a restricted free agent this summer.  In a season of change and patience, Mike Santorelli has quietly been one of the bright spots on this Panther team.  If he keeps improving and showing that he deserves the top six minutes that he’s been getting, I see no reason why he won’t be resigned.  No, not an Uncle Jack 6 year special.  Too early for that.  But I’d be comfortable with a 2 or 3 year deal at somewhere around the $1.5 million range (give or take $250,000), with some bonus money built in.

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Tags: Dale Tallon Florida Panthers Maturation Mike Santorelli Mike Santos Nashville Predators

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