Florida Panthers 2019 NHL Draft: Seven-Round Draft Board

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: (l-r) Chris Pronger and Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers attend the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: (l-r) Chris Pronger and Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers attend the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

I started ranking and listing prospects years ago when the only thing worthwhile about the second half of the Florida Panthers’ season was who they would select in the draft.

The task would consume time and my thoughts, and give me confidence in critiquing Florida’s drafting decisions. I made the long wait to October bearable, and I became a more knowledgeable hockey fan.

Players I grew to enjoy watching before the draft day would get selected by “Insert Any Team I Don’t Like Very Much” and thus, even gained more appreciation of ‘those’ teams.

Looking into the past, I’ve ‘hit’ on a few Florida opinions. Denisenko was one of my top three options for FLA last year, and that worked out well.

I had Heponiemi as a first rounder, over Owen Tippett even. Shouted from the BB&T stands ‘Anyone But Crouse’ (with matching sign) as they walked up to announce their pick. I didn’t want to be right about that.

Luckily, they also drafted my early second rounder ranked Denis Malgin in the fourth round. I got my wish for Barkov and Huberdeau at No. 2 & 3 in past years when I just started out doing this. Many were disappointed with those picks.

I also had Montembeault as the best goalie in his draft year, and so far that isn’t a crazy statement. So let’s see how it plays out this year!

Florida’s prospect pool is deep enough that after the 13th overall pick they can afford to adopt one of many strategies. They could go for long-term, big-reward picks, take prospects who fall, look for the inefficiency of the class, or go after some overagers.

They could go strict best player available. They could decide to trade back or trade away picks to stock more draft choices in 2020, possibly a better class. Or make the needed improvements to their blue line immediately.

Why is that?

All signs point to win now. Coach Q is here. Barkov’s contract ends in three seasons (also known as the cup window).

Tallon is expected to throw money at Bobrovsky and Panarin, and most of the media and fans believe him (or want to).

They have their NHL level centers and some defensemen locked up, for better or for worse, and plan on adding more long-term contracts.

That all means Florida isn’t looking for immediate help through their draft picks (finally). Other than hoping to spend 13th overall on a blue chip defender, Florida probably has more leeway this draft to kick it to the scouts and say, “who can we hit some home runs with?”

The main goal is to have some contributing NHLers when the roster is cratered after three seasons of ‘going for it.’

Options for 13th Overall

I’m heading into the draft with little expectations. The draft team seems to be a stronger muscle of the Florida Panther’s body, and with flexibility, the only real expectation Florida fans should hold is that the scouts and PCS team are given the ability to run with it. Maybe that Q gets some input on 13th overall (maybe).

Florida needs to walk away with a blue-chip defenseman, preferably to be Ekblad’s partner; or drive the other pairing to take the stress off Ekblad.

A defensive back that needs to skate 20+ minutes a night. If not two of those defenders. Obviously, the 13th overall pick would be an easy place to grab this D.

In all likelihood, this is as long as the list needs to be for Florida’s draft table. It’s unlikely all four defenders are selected by the 13th pick Friday night. But let’s round out the list with some options that could be considered along with the ones above.

Florida has eight (!) selections over six rounds and should look for the best defenders, centers, and goalies available.

Day Two is the best day of the hockey calendar year for me. The first round has all the cameras, drama, and glory but round two has the quiet, controlled prospect chaos.

The tension built up all year viewing and ranking players is released rapidly as teams fire off moves and picks with no reverence for commercial break timing.

And the downtime between the close of the first round and start of the second round – the overnight Christmas Eve feeling – can provide more anticipation than the easy to guess early picks of night one.

Day Two is also where scouts earn their reputation and paychecks. It’s where championship contending teams are built, and the best time to pick up any skill set or player type low risk and free of charge.

The following is my prescribed course of action for the Florida Panthers on Day Two of the draft.

More from Draft

Even with Barkov, Trochek, and Borgstrom on the team, Florida could use a potential top-nine center. Looking in their system, they don’t have any real options and may lose Malgin this offseason on top of McCann.

This draft is short on centers, so that may mean using a second or third-round pick on a center to make sure you get a decent shot at an NHLer.

Remember, it will likely be 4-5 years before this player makes the NHL. You may be down a few of those big centers you think allow you to skimp on pivots. Logan Hutsko and Jonathan Ang aren’t encouraging enough depth prospects.

Florida should plan to walk away with a goalie in this year’s draft (and next year’s draft) no matter what the plan with Bobrovsky is. Florida should aim to be overstocked with goalies in a few years, and drafting one every year on top of signings should do the trick.

Obviously, if you know for a fact Bobrovsky is coming, or likely, you take a later round, project goalie instead of one in the first or second. With the number of picks Florida has, and the number of wingers in their system, they should really have no excuse to not get a goalie.

Hypothetical Draft Board Rounds 2-7

52nd (PIT) – Nathan Legare RW – Legare will go before a lot of players ranked higher on my list who play in Europe. Low to the ground, big paddle forward who attacks with pace ripping a rocket shot. Possibility to become a center with his puck management and ability to play F3 well. 45 goals says it all.

69th (EDM) – Ilya Nikolayev C – Ranked high on my list but should be around this late judging by most public rankings and betting on the ‘Russian Factor.’ Nikolayev is a strong center who plays through the middle of the ice, wins draws, and ended the year well. He takes care of his end first, and let’s his wingers carry the puck. He makes simple plays mainly but flashes dekes and point potential is there.

104th (MIN) – Amir Miftakkhov G – Favorite goalie in draft to watch play. Few inches shorter than other top goalies. Movements are so quick and exact, like a robot. Follows the puck well – stick, glove, and eyes tracking in unison – the best consistent posture I have seen in this draft.

106th – Iivari Rasanen D – Someone who should be drafted higher based on my list but you can afford to wait, seems to be a well-kept secret. Great gaps, excellent stick work, and has a great first pass and first step acceleration. Plays strong and with urgency. Can he do it next year outside junior?

114th (PIT) – Karl Henriksson C – Another center who doesn’t mind playing through the middle ice but could convert to wing. He possesses great awareness, he is smart defensively, and gives plus effort. Kills penalties, blocks shots. Good hands and passing, just not sure he will score 20 goals. At fourth-round value, less of an issue.

137th – Semyon Chistyakov D – a high-pace defender who has some finish but excels transitioning the puck and stepping up in the neutral zone. He has the ability to steal momentum and knows when to step up for a rush or big hit. Decision making with the puck is simple but should improve to a solid playmaker.

168th – Elmer Soderblom W – A huge Swedish tree worth taking a flier on at this point. Three fourth rounders, you aren’t throwing this away. Could also use this for an overager but… 6’7” and his hands and head are above average for the size. I won’t critique his skating, or any of that. It’s clear that it isn’t a finished product after growth spurts. Unique to say the least.

199th – Kari Piiroinen G – Tough year jumping to OHL but one of youngest goalies in the draft. Low risk, high reward bet this year, could go as high as the third round next year. Strong base and active stick and tracking. Handles crowds in crease well.

Next. Aleksander Barkov Takes Home the Lady Byng Trophy. dark

Be sure to tune in tonight @ 8 P.M. to catch the Panthers on the clock and to see what type of player they will select at No. 13.