The NHL Entry Draft is set to take place in Vancouver on June 21st and for the Florida Panthers, it’s an opportunity to bolster what’s already a deep prospect pool. Nearly ten years removed from Dale Tallon’s first entry draft with the Cats, let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the Panthers’ draft class of 2010.
To be blunt, the team had been somewhat of a joke in the league for several years leading up to the hiring of Tallon. They hadn’t made the playoffs since 1999-00 when they were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the first round, and the team was consistently near the bottom of what was then the Southeast Division.
It was no secret that after laying the foundation in Chicago that led to three Stanley Cups in five years, Tallon was staring down sizable expectations in Florida.
Upon accepting the position as Panthers GM, his philosophy was simple and similar to what he had accomplished with the Blackhawks: build through the draft and develop within the organization.
Just over a month into his new role, Tallon made a series of moves to acquire two additional first-round picks in the 2010 draft.
Once the dust had settled, the Panthers had shipped out forwards Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell, Victor Oreskovich, and defenseman Keith Ballard to bolster their footprint in the first round of the draft. Florida was now set to select 3rd, 19th and 25th overall.
This draft was a big moment for the organization and is still considered to mark the beginning of the new-age Cats. With a new managerial philosophy, the team was set to go through another rebuild with a focus on having a home-grown roster.
This goal has, for the most part, come to fruition. However, it didn’t get off to a flying start.
Coming back to the 2010 draft, the Panthers opted to select Erik Gudbranson with the third-overall selection. At the time, Gudbranson was ranked fourth among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
The 6–foot–5 defenseman came in with high expectations. Fans saw the towering D-man as the next gritty shutdown behemoth to grace the Panthers’ blue line and were anticipating him to become a number one or number two defenseman.
Clearly, the Gudbranson pick didn’t materialize the way Tallon had hoped. He played 309 games in Florida recording just 43 points and posting a -49 before getting shipped off to Vancouver in the Jared McCann trade. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it stings to see a top-three pick fail to reach stardom.
Tallon’s first ever selection as the GM of the Panthers ended up being, for all intents and purposes, a bust.
For their second pick in the 2010 NHL draft, the Panthers scooped up another large human in 6–foot–6 Nick Bjugstad at 19th overall.
Bjugstad saw more success than Gudbranson in a Panthers uniform, playing 394 games with the Cats and putting up 191 points. For a mid-round pick, that’s rather solid.
Of course, Bjugstad was traded to Pittsburgh this past trade deadline along with the aforementioned McCann, but “Big Nick’s” time with the Panthers (although disappointing at times) was seen by most as fruitful in parts.
For Tallon’s final selection in the first round of the 2010 draft, he drafted Winnipeg native Quinton Howden at 25th overall.
Howden never grew into a consistent NHL forward playing in only 97 career games (92 with Florida and 5 with Winnipeg) tallying just 17 points. I think it’s fair to say he was a bust.
All things considered, the monumental 2010 NHL Entry Draft ended up yielding subpar results for the Florida Panthers.
Sure, the team did pick up Alex Petrovic in the second-round and he played some solid minutes over his 252 games with the Cats, but he too was traded this year. The Edmonton Oilers acquired Petrovic’s services in exchange for defenseman Chris Wideman and a 2019 third-round pick.
When it was all said and done, Florida had drafted a whopping 13 players in 2010 which tied a franchise record set in 1993 and matched again in 2003. However, only three players played more than 100 games for the franchise: Gudbranson, Bjugstad, and Petrovic.
The most painful aspect of the 2010 draft for Panthers fans is probably the fact that two late-round value picks slipped choosing not to sign in Florida.
The first was Joonas Donskoi. Florida drafted him 99th overall and after playing in Finland through 2014-15, his NHL rights were relinquished by the Panthers and he opted to sign an entry-level deal with the San Jose Sharks.
Donskoi impressed during his rookie campaign in 2015-16 scoring 36 points in 76 games. He’s been a key part of San Jose’s offensive depth ever since.
The second player to choose not to sign with the team was Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman. Florida was lucky enough to draft him in the fifth-round at 123rd overall but they weren’t able to get him signed.
After the two parties failed to reach a contract agreement, Hyman’s rights, along with Florida’s 2017 seventh-round pick, were traded to Toronto in exchange for Greg McKegg.
During his rookie year in 2016-17, Hyman set the Leafs’ franchise record for most short-handed goals as a rookie with four and has since become a consistent threat in Toronto’s top nine.
Last year, Hyman posted his first 20-goal season while Donskoi set a new career high in points with 37. For a Panthers team that is lacking offense from its bottom six, it’s a real kick in the shins knowing these two guys slipped away for essentially nothing.
The 2010 draft was bizarre, to say the least. Florida drafted thirteen players and yet, not a single one remains under contract with the Panthers.
Management will look to avoid some of the blunders that were made nearly ten years ago in the upcoming draft, but at least now, the team has a real chance of winning and rebuilding is not on the radar.
2010 served as a beacon of hope for the future with Dale Tallon at the helm yet, when you look back on it, it was incredibly disappointing. Luckily, Tallon has made up for it in the eyes of most after drafting the likes of Huberdeau, Trocheck, Barkov, and Ekblad to put in place a solid core of young talent in South Florida.