If you’re a Florida Panther fan, October probably seems like a year and a half away. After the dramatic overhaul of a roster in need of it, a fan base long in the doldrums is excited for the season to begin. And while that overhaul will make the present much more fun, the future of this organization hits the ice in Coral Springs this week for three practices. Tuesday, the team holds their Rookie Development Camp at Saveology IcePlex and for fans, it’s a chance to get an idea of what the Florida Panthers will look like in three-four seasons.
Thirty-five rookies (22 F, 9 D, 4G) will make the trek from their summer homes to the brutally hot conditions of South Florida to work with new coach Kevin Dineen and his coaching staff. Most of the picks from the past two NHL Entry Drafts will be attending, including first rounders Erik Gudbranson, Quinton Howden, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau. Notable picks from the previous regime that will be there are Drew Shore, Garrett Wilson, and Jacob Markstrom. These are some of the guys who have made the Panthers prospect system so highly thought of around the league (thanks in most part to two great, deep drafts by Dale Tallon).
These are some of the guys we’ll be keeping our eyes on:
Bjugstad, who is going into his sophomore season at Minnesota, started slow in his freshman year due to a case of mono. He was well enough to make the United States World Junior Team where he recorded four points (two goals) in six games for the bronze winning team. Once back with the Gophers, he finished the season strong and is expected to be a first-line player next winter. BIG kid who, if not a future center, will make a great power forward.
Alex Petrovic is the ‘other’ defenseman drafted high in last year’s draft. After a good 2009-10 season with Red Deer in the Western Hockey League
with 27 points (8 goals), he answered it with an even stronger 2010-11 with 57 points (7 goals). He’s a big, physical kid who is developing his offensive game. Gudbranson/Petrovic might end up a great first pairing a few years down the line.
Had Rocco Grimaldi been a few inches taller, he wouldn’t have been there at 33, when the Cats made their second round selection in the most-recent draft. At 5-6, 160 pounds, he doesn’t have prototypical size for a typical NHL center but by all accounts, the kid can flat out play. He already endeared himself to Panther fans, and hockey fans in general, with his Twitter feed, @RGrimaldi23 and now he gets a chance win everyone over with his play.
Let’s be honest, it’s July, I’m curious to see everyone play! Anyone in particular you’re excited to see? Let us know! You can find the full camp roster here.
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