Following the conclusion of the preseason, the Florida Panthers management and coaching staff surprised many fans by demoting D Riley Stillman to the minors.
The 21-year-old native of Canada was previously selected by the Florida Panthers with the 114th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Level Draft.
While participating in 195 OHL contests, Riley Stillman produced 88 total points as well as a plus rating on defense. The former alternate captain of the Oshawa Generals spent the majority of the 2018-19 pro-hockey season with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League.
The transition from the OHL to the AHL was relatively smooth and successful for the promising young defenseman. While playing in 59 regular-season contests for Springfield, Stillman recorded an adequate slash line of 4 goals and 13 assists for 17 total points as a rookie.
Moreover, he also maintained a total of 52 penalty minutes as well as a plus/minus rating of +8. Essentially, Stillman was quite dominant for a 20-year-old rookie at the AHL level, producing tremendous numbers on both ends of the ice.
Stillman’s exceptional play at the AHL level was rewarded by the Panthers. Riley would participate in one NHL game, where he would play over 11 minutes and produce 5 hits on the night against the Arizona Coyotes on the road.
Objectively speaking, Stillman certainly has room for improvement in the offensive side of his game, but he’s undoubtedly developing into a potent two-way defenseman. In fact, Stillman nearly made the Panthers roster straight out of training camp.
Quite frankly, nobody expected the inexperienced 21-year-old to even have a shot of making the opening night roster. However, Stillman outplayed the likes of Ian McCoshen, Josh Brown, Mark Pysyk, and others throughout the course of the training camp and preseason.
Unfortunately, Stillman was unable to beat out Josh Brown, despite outperforming him during preseason action.
Nevertheless, once the Cats find a trade partner for Mark Pysyk or sustain an injury to a defenseman currently on the roster, Riley Stillman’s name will be the first to be considered for an NHL call-up during the 2019-20 season.
Basically, Stillman will accrue more experience at the AHL level, which should serve to better prepare him mentally and physically for a future role on the team once he is deemed “ready.”
The Panthers are (ideally) in no rush to accelerate the development of Riley Stillman, who is considered a promising defensive prospect in their noticeably weak defense prospect pool.
Ultimately, Riley Stillman possesses a bright future at the NHL level and should find himself on the Florida Panthers roster relatively soon.
The hard-hitting Stillman will likely be recalled sooner rather than later, and will certainly maintain a spot as a bottom-pairing defenseman on Florida’s improved blue line.