Florida Panthers Debate: Two Young Guns, One Roster Spot

OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 29: Florida Panthers Center Henrik Borgstrom (95) skates during warm-up before National Hockey League action between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators on March 29, 2018, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 29: Florida Panthers Center Henrik Borgstrom (95) skates during warm-up before National Hockey League action between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators on March 29, 2018, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Florida Panthers have an abundance of talented, young players in their system and two of them will be fighting for a spot on the NHL roster this season.

Both of these players proved their worth with their respective clubs last year and look like they’re ready to make the jump to the NHL in the 2018-19 season. However, there is a huge logjam in the forward position, so ultimately one of these players will most likely find themselves in the AHL if eligible (Borgstrom in this case) or back to juniors (Tippett in this case).

In this piece, my good friend and site expert (Danny Janicas) and I will be pinning these two players head-to-head to figure out who we see fit to be on the Panthers roster. Without further ado, allow me to introduce our competitors:

In the red corner, standing at 6’3″,185lbs, hailing from Helsinki, Finland, we have Henrik Borgstrom. 20-year-old Borgstrom was selected 23rd overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and is the older of the two contestants. Borgstrom played his junior hockey with the University of Denver, featuring in 40 games and scoring 23 goals and 52 points last season.

And now… in the blue corner, standing at 6’2″, 203lbs, hailing from Peterborough, Ontario, we have Owen Tippett. 19-year-old Tippett was drafted 10th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, and is, of course, the younger of the two contestants.

He played his junior hockey with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, amassing 51 games played, while potting 36 goals and 75 points this past year.

The way this will work is simple, we’re going to be judging these two on five major components: skating, 200-foot game, offense, defense, and creativity.

The player we deem most NHL ready through these components will be nominated the winner and wins… absolutely nothing because we’re just bloggers with an opinion that may very well be different to Dale Tallon’s.


Colby: For me, this was a hard decision, as both players move with the puck extremely well, but I’m going to have to go with Owen Tippet on this one. Both players have exceptional speed and can beat their opponents to the net, but I honestly love what I’ve seen from Owen Tippett.

For a guy his size (standing at 6’2″, 203lbs), Owen Tippett flies out there on the ice like a rocket even with the extra weight he’s added on. He uses his speed to get around the opposition and uses his shot (which we’ll talk about later) to put up a massive amount of goals.

Danny: To choose between the two aforementioned players isn’t an easy decision, but seeing I have to select one, I’m going to have to go with Henrik Borgstrom. Both players are fast; they possess enough speed to beat their opponents in a foot race.

However, because Borgstrom has longer strides in his skating ability, it ultimately shows that he can cover more space on the ice in fewer strides than Tippett.

This also isn’t to discredit Tippett either, who possess speed in his game too. But Borgstrom has shown me that he’s the quicker player with and without the puck on his stick. Because of that, I have to take Borgstrom.

200-Foot Game

Colby: This decision was much easier for me, as Owen Tippett lacks some parts of the game involving the puck not being on his stick, and with that, I’ll have to go with Henrik Borgstrom. Borgstrom is a player who’s put much effort into every facet of the game and it really showed during his tenure at the University of Denver.

He also looked very promising in all three zones of the ice during his four-game stint with the Florida Panthers at the end of last season. Although only putting up one goal, he helped the team play smart hockey in all three zones of the ice which helped the team win when they desperately needed two points throughout the last few games of the season.

Danny: For me, this is an easy decision. I’m going with the Finnish native yet again. At the University of Denver, Borgstrom showed me that he can play in all three zones of the ice in any part of a game. His vision when spotting a player from across the ice is second to none, while his ability to play a two-way style of game is just the cherry on top for me.

Tippett, on the other hand, has shown flashes in the offensive zone, but apart from that, there are some question marks placed with his game in both the neutral and defensive zone. One of the areas that Owen needs to work on is rounding out his game. He doesn’t possess that complete game like Borgstrom does, nor does he play a 200 ft. style of game.

With all the factors taken into consideration, to me, this is just easy. Borgstrom gets my vote a second time.


Colby: Although both players are elite offensive dynamos, my vote will have to go to Owen Tippett. He has an elite shot, and that shows with the 36 goals he put up with the Steelheads last season. Tippett also put up 10 more assists than Borgstrom did, with a staggering number of 39 of those capping off his point total at 75 (in 51 games).

Tippet always finds ways to put the puck in the net, and it really showed during Tippett’s tenure in Mississauga. In my opinion, Tippett is definitely the most fit to translate his offensive game into the NHL, although Borgstrom isn’t far behind him at all.

Danny: Yes, Tippett scored more goals in juniors than Borgstrom did in college, but I still take the Finn in this category. Some of you may question why? I’ll give you my reason: Borgstrom scored against higher quality goaltenders.

As you know, Henrik played at the NCAA level the last couple of seasons, while Tippett featured in the OHL for Mississauga, respectively. One league, you’re playing against older players in their 20s and even 30s, while the latter (OHL) you’re up against kids in their teenage years. You tell me which is better competition? I think it’s self-explanatory.

With all that factored in, it’s quite clear that while Borgstrom scored at a lower rate than Tippett did, do take into account that Borgstrom scored his 23 goals on maturer goalies, while Tippett racked up his 36 on a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds

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Furthermore, if the situations were reversed and Tippett was on Denver and Borgstrom was on Mississauga, I can assure you that Tippett would score at a much lower rate than Borgstrom did in the past couple of seasons with Denver.

Don’t let Tippett’s 75 points (36G, 39A) fool you. His points were racked up in a league that is widely considered less competitive/skilled than the league (NCAA) Borgstrom was playing in. The level of competition in which both players played in matters, and in that case, Borgstrom wins solely for putting up point-per-game numbers in a superior league.


Colby: Do I even need to write an answer for this one? Everyone who follows the Florida Panthers’ prospect pool knows that Henrik Borgstrom is far and beyond further developed on the defensive side of the ice than Owen Tippett.

Tippett has been known to have his problems in the defensive zone, while Borgstrom hasn’t. He’s been looking like a very promising piece in the defensive end, being where he needs to be to stop a play from being created and has quality defensive awareness to his game.

Although he’s not a guy like Anze Kopitar or Patrice Bergeron, I can see Henrik Borgstrom being a quality asset to the Panthers on the defensive side next season.

Danny: Some of you may know where I’m going with this debate, but for the fourth time in a row, I’m taking Borgstrom again. Henrik by no means is considered a perfect defensive player, but in comparison to Tippett, he’s shown me that he’s far more responsible in the defensive zone. Tippett lacks defensive awareness, and it’s his positioning in the defensive end that kills him.

He’s so used to floating up high, waiting for a stretch pass to go the other way. That certainly works against kids in the OHL, but when you’re playing against tougher competition in the NCAA or even in the NHL, that simply doesn’t fly, and you often get benched for that type of play.

Borgstrom has been molded into a player who can play in all three zones, and because of that, his ability to defend is competent enough to exit the defensive zone quickly, starting a rush down the ice into the opposition’s end.

There’s a lot of work to be done with Tippett’s defensive game, and for the Panthers’ sake, they better hope that he learns how to defend. If not, he may never see an opportunity to play in a top-six role.

On the other hand, Borgstrom has shown that he understands where to be and what to do when the puck is in his end, which ultimately implies that his defensive game is more polished than Tippett’s.


Colby: Yes, both players have made goalies look like fools in their respective leagues, but my vote lies with Owen Tippett. The guy is possibly the most versatile player in the Florida Panthers’ farm system.

Owen can do it all. He can go to the dirty areas and knock home a rebound, he can snipe home a shot from the slot, and he can straight up embarrass an entire defense with his speed and dangles to get in and score on another nice deke to fool the goaltender.

When I think of creativity, I think of a guy who can do it all on the offensive side of the ice, and that’s what Owen Tippett is. He can automatically kick-start an entire power play unit by screening the goaltender or being an option to pass to so he can unload that mammoth of a shot he has.

Owen Tippett has one thing many players in this league don’t have, and that’s versatility.

Danny: Don’t get me wrong, both players in their own ways are creative, but it’s Borgstrom who’s displayed the most creativity since his time in College. If you look back at both their highlight clips, you see more dangles performed by Borgstrom on defenders.

I can’t quite say the same about Tippett. And it’s not only limited to one single area, it also extends to the style in which either player beats the opposing netminder with.

Whether it’s scoring goals, creating open ice for teammates, or simply displaying creative puck handling skills, all of this is awarded to Borgstrom in my opinion.

The Finn has shown tremendous ability to find open space in tight areas while dancing and prancing around defenders at the same time. Additionally, his goals are scored in a more creative fashion, ending with a notorious backhand top-shelf. With Tippett, it’s just not the same.

Most of Owen’s goals were scored off one-timers and wrist-shots from the slot. Those goals are not discredited in any way, shape, or form, but nor are they as spectacular as some of the goals Henrik has produced.

Furthermore, Tippett doesn’t nearly possess the same quality of hands as Borgstrom does. Henrik is able to make a play out of nothing, turning it into a scoring chance or goal. Tippett doesn’t.

There’s a reason why Henrik Borgstrom is referred to as a ‘wizard’ or ‘magician.’ And that reason is simply that he’s able to turn nothing into something with the puck.

I think it’s clear who’s the more creative player, and it’s not really a debate in my eyes, either.

The Winner

Colby: It took me long and hard to make this decision, but by a vote of three to two, the winner of my selection is Owen Tippett. Sure, he’s yet to polish the defensive aspect of his game, but he’s far and beyond the better offensive player out of these two.

Owen Tippett is a great third line shooter that can fit with Nick Bjugstad and Denis Malgin like peanut butter and Nutella (I’m sorry guys, I’m not the biggest fan of jelly.) Both guys are nice two-way pieces who can feed the puck to Tippett and allow him to do his magic offensively.

Tippett will also be a nice piece to the Panthers’ powerplay as his aforementioned versatility is second to none and will allow the Cats to consistently put up points on the man advantage.

I could very well be incorrect, as both players look great and will be lighting the lamp in the future in Sunrise, but my vote ultimately goes to Owen Tippett.

Danny: After breaking down these five areas for both players, I honestly believe that Henrik Borgstrom will turn out to be the better NHL player.

Borgstrom’s ability to combine creativity and skill while packaging it all with a two-way style of game is what NHL coaches are going to be afraid to go up against. Borgstrom has played against older men, and he hasn’t struggled to play against them either.

His game from Europe has evolved nicely over into North America, which will continue to grow and flourish at the NHL level with Florida. Dale is always looking for skilled, two-way players, and that’s what you’re getting with Borgstrom.

Henrik has proven that he’s more NHL ready than Tippett, and it looks like the Finn will take place in his first full season with the Cats this upcoming year.

I could be wrong of course, and I do hope that both Tippett and Borgstrom succeed in Florida, but at this stage in their careers and from what I’ve seen in their games, Borgstrom is looking like the more complete and ready NHLer.

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In a 7-3 vote, the winner of the entire debate is Henrik Borgstrom!

These two players both have very bright futures in South Florida, but the one we agree on seeing this October is Henrik Borgstrom. The Finnish native has proven to be the most NHL ready out of the two young talents, but nobody will know for sure until the regular season rolls around.