One of the best ways to distract yourself from the Florida Panthers’ struggles is to look towards the future. The Panthers have been selling their fan base on the future for the past decade but at this rate, it looks like we will see drone delivered packages before we see the Panthers emerge as an annual playoff participant. Alas, being a Panthers fan can be tough and sometimes all you can do is drink the Kool-Aid, sit back, close your eyes and tell yourself that everything will be alright in a couple of years.
Today is one of those ‘Kool-Aid’ days as we will be taking a look at the progress of the Panthers top prospects in an attempt to generate some excitement about the future while at the same time distracting ourselves from the miseries of the present.
(ed. note: hmmm that seems like an unnecessarily dark introduction to an innocuous post that simply recaps the progress of the players in the Panthers’ system…..eh….whatever)
Two things jump off the page when looking at the stats from the Panthers’ minor league affiliates the San Antonio Rampage (AHL) and the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). First s the performance of Vincent Trocheck who right now has to be considered the Panthers best prospect and the player closest to establishing himself with the big club. After leading the OHL in points and being named the league’s most outstanding player last season, Trocheck has made a seamless jump to the professional ranks.
The second thing that jumps off is the lack of production from the other top prospects. Quinton Howden and Drew Shore are two players that are considered to be close to being NHL ready but their performance in the minors seems to say otherwise. Howden only has three goals through 19 games while Shore has zero. Those numbers are not exactly breaking down the door to get into the big leagues.
Finally, Wade Megan has impressed while playing for the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL. He recently spent a four game stint in the AHL with the Rampage where he tallied one assist but he has since been returned to the ECHL. He is one to keep an eye on.
Jacob Markstrom has played well since being demoted from the Panthers. As long as Tim Thomas is healthy, the best thing for Markstrom is to hone his game in the minors. Michael Houser has looked strong in net for the Cyclones. He has jumped back and forth between the AHL and ECHL and in five games with the Rampage he has put up a 2.17 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
Age: 18 School: North Dakota Draft: 2nd round (33rd overall) 2011
GP: 13 G: 4 A: 7 Pts: 11
Age: 21 School: Minnesota Draft: 3rd round (91st overall) 2011
GP: 14 G: 3 A: 13 Pts: 16
Age: 21 School: Michigan Draft: 5th round (123rd overall) 2010
GP: 12 G: 0 A: 2 Pts: 2
Age: 19 School: Boston College Draft: 1st round (23rd) 2012
GP: 14 G: 2 A: 5 Pts: 7
Age: 18 School: Boston College Draft: 2nd round (31st) 2013
GP: 14 G: 3 A: 5 Pts: 8
Age: 21 School: Wisconsin Draft: 6th round (154th) 2011
GP: 10 G: 0 A: 2 Pts: 2
Age: 18 School: Michigan Draft: 4th round (97th) 2013
GP: 12 G: 0 A: 4 Pts: 4
Age: 21 School: Denver Draft: 4th round (92nd) 2010
GP: 13 W: 7 GAA: 1.66 Sv%: .945
Age: 18 School: Denver Draft: 4th round (92nd) 2013
GP: 1 W:0 GAA: 2.83 Sv%: .917
The big names to watch in the college game are forward Rocco Grimaldi, and defensemen Mike Matheson and Ian McCoshen. Grimaldi is small 5’6″, but he is loaded to the brim with talent. The obvious comparable is Martin St. Louis but time will tell if he can live up to such a big name. Matheson and McCoshen are BC defensemen taken in back-to-back drafts for the Panthers. They both may be a couple years away but they both have big potential on the Panthers blue line.
Age: 19 Team: Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL) Draft: 5th round (122nd) 2013
GP: 22 G: 12 A: 21 Pts: 33
Age: 20 Team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) Draft: 6th round (174th) 2012
GP: 25 G: 6 A: 12 Pts: 18
Age: 19 Team: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) Draft: 4th round (114th) 2012
GP: 28 G: 14 A: 12 Pts: 26
Age: 19 Team: Victoria Royals (WHL) Draft: 3rd round (84th) 2012
GP: 13 G: 1 A: 5 Pts: 6
Age: 19 Team: Oshawa Generals (OHL) Draft: 6th round (152nd) 2013
GP: 25 G: 1 A: 5 Pts: 6
Age: 19 Team Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) Draft: 7th round (206th) 2013
GP: 24 G: 5 A: 18 Pts: 23
The Panthers pool of prospects playing in the Canadian Junior Leagues is lacking in big name prospects. The group consists mostly of players taken in the later rounds of the 2012 and 2013 drafts. That being said, there are some players here who could outperform their draft position in the long run. Two players to watch are Christopher Clapperton and Mackenzie Weegar. Taken in the 5th and 7th rounds, respectively, of the 2013 draft, both players have looked like good picks so far. Clapperton started the season red-hot and his 33 points are 20th best in the QMJHL. Weegar impressed in Panthers training camp this season and he has carried that success into his season with the Halifax Moosheads where he is almost a point-per-game defenseman.
So there you have it, a brief peek into the world of the best young talent in the Florida Panthers’ system. Some of these guys may become household names in the near future while others, we may never hear from again.