If there’s one thing we learned from the Florida Panthers’ development camp this year, it’s that the Cats are knee deep in great centers. Quinton Howden has been playing up in Moose Jaw for the last several years. He’s been kept far away from the fans in South Florida but after this year’s camp everyone got a taste of how good this kid can be.
Howden is ready for the next level. In his last three seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors he has averaged almost 70 points a season, an average that is well over a point per game. With numbers like that, Howden has nothing left to prove in the WHL.
Dale Tallon knows that young prospects must keep progressing in their level of play and I think Howden’s reached a dead end in Moose Jaw but where to the Cats put him? Center is a key position that the Panthers happen to have well in hand at the moment. Stephen Weiss, Marcel Goc, and Shawn Matthias have the position locked down. If Jonathan Huberdeau comes up this year, which he probably will, the Cats may have to make some tough choices.
There is no way that Howden will find a place on the Panthers this year as a center but I think he has a strong chance as a winger. The Panthers website has Howden listed as a center but he plays left wing for the Warriors. The Cats may be grooming the kid as an eventual center but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute on the wing right away.
The Panthers are especially thin on the flanks, especially right wing and a kid like Howden could make an immediate impact on next year’s team. His speed and agile two-way play make him a perfect candidate for the position. I’m certainly not suggesting that he could replace a guys like Kris Versteeg or Tomas Fleischmann but I do think he could contribute to the third line.
The Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage would be a good place for Howden as well. The Rampage have a couple of good centers in the form of Jon Matsumoto and Bracken Kearns but if Howden could go down to Texas and learn to contriute in several different positions he will become that much more valuable when one of the Panthers go down to an injury.
The level of play in the NHL and AHL is much higher than that of junior hockey. Howden will have to adapt to a level of physical play that he hasn’t had to face in juniors but the sooner the better. If Howden can adapt his game to the next level he has all the trademarks of a future all-star.
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