Florida Panthers: Mocking the Future of the Cats’ 15th Overall Pick at the Draft

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: The Florida Panthers select right wing Owen Tippett with the 10th pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft on June 23, 2017, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: The Florida Panthers select right wing Owen Tippett with the 10th pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft on June 23, 2017, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Florida Panthers’ very slim hopes of winning the lottery and drafting Rasmus Dahlin (or Andrei Svechnikov) were dashed about 30 seconds into Bill Daly’s annual exhibition of delayed card turning, meaning the Cats stayed at the 15th overall pick for the upcoming draft.

Now that Dale Tallon and company know where they’ll be picking, what might they be thinking of for their next first round pick, and what does everyone else think Florida may consider worthy of their prized first round pick?

Early consensus from scouts and people who know the draft well say that this draft beyond the first six to eight picks is lacking immediate impact players and is filled with players who may need a few years of seasoning. That shouldn’t be a problem for a Panthers’ team that can find other ways to immediately strengthen their NHL roster, but the cupboard of prospects is still slightly bare.

Missing on first round picks is never optimal, and the Panthers’ history is littered with major first round misses, although recent history has been better for them. While the farm system isn’t exactly loaded, it does lack some depth in some spots where a first round pick here could help fill some holes.

Previous 15th overall picks have included Erik Brannstrom (VGK), Luke Kunin (MIN), Zach Senyshyn (BOS), Dylan Larkin (DET), and Ryan Pulock (NYI). With a pick in this spot in the first round, the Panthers should hopefully be drafting a potential impact NHL’er for a few years down the line, but getting someone of Larkin’s caliber is a fairly rare animal.

Though the draft is about two months away, here are who a few mock drafts have the Panthers taking:

Sporting News: Barrett Hayton, C, Sault St. Marie (OHL)

NHL.com: Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL), Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk (KHL) and Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP (USHL) (three writers with different mocks)


(Here’s one from the Athletic if you have a subscription)

Most of the mock drafts have the Panthers going for forwards, particularly centers. Florida is obviously locked and loaded down the middle for the next decade with Barkov and Trocheck as #1 and #2 centers, with Henrik Borgstrom potentially figuring in down the middle as well, so it’s mildly surprising to see centers selected in these mock drafts.

Florida is a little bit lighter on the wings, especially since Adam Mascherin no longer figures to be a part of the future. They certainly have some needs on the blueline, since most of the blue chip prospects have graduated to the NHL or are multiple years away from NHL readiness.

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With some younger players taking a step forward in 2017-18 like Malgin, Weegar and Borgstrom, among others, the Panthers should be able to draft the best available player, which might be why center could be an option even though it’s the Panthers’ deepest position organizationally. Where they are lightest is clearly in-goal, but no goalie has been drafted before or at the 15th position since Jack Campbell in 2010, and there is no goalie prospect worth drafting that high this year.

Considering the Panthers’ organizational strengths and needs, since it’s likely most of the best non-Dahlin defensemen could be taken before they pick at 15, a winger seems the most likely option from where things stand on April 30th, and this includes centers who project as wingers at the next level. Players like Farabee, Kravtsov and a host of others could be decent fits, especially since the Panthers won’t be expecting them to reach the show for a few years.

What the Cats will likely be drafting for in 2018 is organizational depth, which in comparison to recent years is a welcome relief. Their draft hit rate has been getting better over the past few seasons too, which means they could end up taking a few potential gems (especially if they’re from Finland).

While their slimmer than slim odds of striking it rich and getting Rasmus Dahlin didn’t come through, Florida has a chance to deepen their organization with a smart pick at 15th overall even in a slightly shallow first round, which should be the priority now that they’re a bonafide playoff contender. Picks like these become the way teams contend consistently, which is something the Panthers have never done before, so even now, drafting well is critical.

Next: Florida Panthers Should Look Into the Detroit Red Wings’ Restricted Free Agents

It seems like the Cats will have options, and if recent history is an indication, they’re more likely to hit than miss.