Following several temporary stints in the NHL over the past two years, the Florida Panthers are now relying on D Riley Stillman to provide stability on their blue line.
The 21-year-old was taken by the Florida Panthers with the 114th overall pick in the 4th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Level Draft. After numerous years of development in the OHL, Riley Stillman would further his development in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds during the 2018-19 pro-hockey campaign.
The native of Canada experienced a relatively decent first season in the AHL. While lacing up in 59 AHL regular-season games, Stillman would go on to record 4 goals and 13 assists for 17 points, along with 52 penalty minutes and a +8 rating.
Stillman’s adequate minor league season was rewarded with an NHL call-up during the 2019 season. However, Stillman would only appear in one NHL game before being sent down to the minors to continue his development into a polished two-way defenseman.
Essentially, Stillman would impress the coaching staff and management of the Florida Panthers during training camp and preseason action before this season started. Nonetheless, the Cats would demote the inexperienced Stillman to Springfield in order for him to log minutes in a significant role.
In 25 AHL games, Stillman has produced a slash line of 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points, along with 20 penalty minutes. The former Oshawa Generals alternate captain was actually called up earlier during the 2020 NHL campaign but only appeared in a handful of games before being demoted again.
However, with an injury to MacKenzie Weegar, Stillman has received an opportunity to play in the top four alongside veteran Anton Stralman on a daily basis. Thus far, Stillman has truly performed an admirable job, recording 3 assists, 7 penalty minutes, and a 0 rating in 11 NHL contests.
As the youngest defenseman on the Panthers’ blue line, Stillman has done a tremendous job of holding down the fort. The former fourth-round pick is averaging over 18 minutes of ice time per game, recording 17 blocked shots, 5 takeaways, and 11 hits in the process.
While Stillman must absolutely work on limiting his turnovers (11), he has undoubtedly shown flashes of being a quality NHL caliber defenseman. In fact, he’s arguably been one of Florida’s most dependable defensemen lately.
Stillman has gained the trust of Joel Quenneville, considering Coach Q even calls upon Riley to kill penalties and play heavy minutes versus high-quality opponents. In essence, Stillman isn’t being hidden on the third pairing but is instead being given the chance to compete alongside veteran Anton Stralman on a nightly basis.
With the inconsistencies of Josh Brown and Mark Pysyk on defense, the Panthers will likely continue to require Stillman to remain in his role as a top-four defenseman until the return of MacKenzie Weegar. Nevertheless, the Cats should absolutely be pleased with how Stillman has developed over the past several seasons.
Ultimately, Riley Stillman possesses an incredibly bright future with the Florida Panthers organization. In regards to this season, the 21-year-old blueliner has done a sensational job in terms of providing depth and stepping in whenever necessary.