Florida Panthers: Management Needs to Draft a Goaltender in Later Rounds

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26: General Manager Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers walks on the draft floor during Round One of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26: General Manager Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers walks on the draft floor during Round One of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Florida Panthers have only drafted five goalies since Dale Tallon took over as the team’s GM in 2010.

To make matters even worse in regards to the Panthers’ goaltending depth, Dale Tallon and Co. have yet to draft a goalkeeper within the first two rounds leaving the team’s goaltending depth thin.

The theme of poor drafting in the goalie department is nothing new for the Florida Panthers. Since the team’s inception back in 1993, Florida has drafted 22 netminders with only four playing more than one NHL game; Kevin Weekes (1993), Alex Auld (1999), Jacob Markstrom (2008) and Sam Montembeault (2015).

Weekes and Auld never amounted to consistent starting goalies and the jury is still out on Markstrom and Montembeault.

Dale Tallon has the chance to change the narrative if he decides to pull the trigger on a goaltender in this upcoming NHL entry draft.

According to TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s latest NHL mock draft, top-ranked goalkeeper Spencer Knight is expected to be the only goalie taken in the first round.

Button has Knight going 22nd to the Los Angeles Kings but don’t be surprised if he gets snatched up earlier than that.

Knight has seen great success on the international stage winning the silver medal at this year’s IIHF World U18 Championship with Team USA while posting a tournament-best .936 save percentage and 1.51 GAA.

However, both Draft Site and The Draft Analyst have the top-ranked goalie in the draft getting scooped up 13th overall by Florida in their mock drafts.

For a more in-depth analysis, check out Dave Stevenson’s prospect profile on Knight here.

Personally, I would prefer to see the Panthers select a defenseman with their first-round pick. There will be some enticing defensive options available when the time comes for Tallon and the scouting staff to make their selection and it would be a shame to pass up on some of the talent that will be up for grabs.

Blueliners like Philip Broberg, Cam York, and Moritz Seider should be high on Florida’s list of targets entering the draft and if one of them is up for grabs, the Cats should jump at the opportunity to bolster their underwhelming defensive depth.

In recent years, teams have been hesitant to select goalies in the first round. It can be difficult for scouts to properly asses a goalie’s potential and it sometimes seems like a shot in the dark.

There’s also the fact that historically, many goalies drafted after the first two rounds amount to legit NHL starters.

Names like Pekka Rinne (8th round, 2004), Braden Holtby (4th round, 2008) and Matt Murray (3rd round, 2012) come to mind.

Assuming Panthers management elects to pick up a defenseman with their first-round pick and Knight gets drafted before the Cats are back on the clock at 52nd overall (barring a trade), who could the Panthers look at selecting in the later rounds of the draft?

Mads Søgaard is one player that has sparked a lot of interest this season with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The massive 6-foot-7 Dane is ranked second by NHL Central Scouting among North American goalies after a respectable campaign with the Tigers. He finished the regular season with a record of 19-8-2 and a .921 save percentage.

Søgaard is expected to go in the second or third round of the draft and should excite the fanbase of whichever team lands him.

The Tigers’ tender was one of just two goalies to be named the Vaughn CHL goalie of the week twice this season and was in the running for the Del Wilson Trophy as the WHL’s top goalie.

Unfortunately for Søgaard, Prince Albert Raiders starter, Ian Scott, ended up having a miraculous end to the year and took home the award.

With the Panthers holding Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (part of the McCann, Bjugstad trade), Florida should be willing to take a chance on Søgaard if he’s still on the board when it’s their turn to pick.

The top-ranked netminder out of Europe on the NHL Central Scouting list is 6-foot-3 Russian, Pyotr Kochetkov.

Kochetkov actually played two games in the KHL for Sochi which is quite rare for a goalie in his draft year. The majority of his season, however, was spent with HK Ryazan in the VHL, essentially Russia’s AHL, where he was an elite performer.

Kochetkov may end up being the biggest steal of the draft with some mock drafts having him going as late as the fourth round.

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A major contributor to his current draft ranking is due to the “Russian factor”. He may take much longer to come to the NHL or may decide to simply stay in his home country for the entirety of his career.

Regardless of the risk, if the Panthers select Kochetkov in the third or fourth round, he would instantly give their goaltending prospect cupboard some real credibility.

Playing for Russia at this year’s World Junior Championships, Kotchetkov was lights out. He was named the best goaltender of the tournament after posting an incredible 1.45 GAA and a .953 save percentage on-route to a bronze medal finish.

According to Senior NHL Prospect Writer for The Athletic, Corey Pronman, Kochetkov is quick and intelligent which is a great combo for someone of his size.

He plays an aggressive style but has the agility and the speed to get back into position if he loses track of the puck. (Note: the article is behind a paywall)

Even if the Panthers do end up signing Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency, he would be in his late thirties before any goalie in this year’s draft class is ready for a starting position in the NHL.

It would be a clever move for the Cats to focus in net when they head to Vancouver for the NHL Entry Draft on June 21st.

Next. What To Do With Goaltender James Reimer?. dark

The Panthers have a potential starter in Montembeault but the team still lacks goaltending prospects. In a league where elite goalies are so hard to find and even more difficult to acquire in a trade, drafting a young puck-stopping prospect is always worth the gamble.