Florida Panthers have small group of prospects at junior level

By Brian Fogarty

Chris Clapperton - Florida Panthers

Photo: Forward Christopher Clappterton has been very good this season for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, managing 12 goals and 21 assists through 22 games. Clapperton was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers system has just six prospects playing in junior leagues, though four did recently represent the team at the 2013 Subway Super Series. The group runs the gamut from big stay-at-home defensemen to feisty two-way scrappers, to small goal scorers. The eclectic bunch may not have any budding superstars among them, but they do have the Dale Tallon trademark traits of solid work ethic and hockey smarts.

OHL

Joshua Brown, D, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 6th round (152nd overall) in 2013

Joshua Brown's contributions to the Oshawa Generals are not counted in goals and assists. The Generals named Brown their team captain prior to the start of the season and the giant defender carries the title well, leading the team through his intensity on the ice. He has a terrific work ethic and plays hard on every shift. He is not an offensive player, as his six points in 25 games played this season clearly demonstrate, but he is among the team leaders in plus/minus and penalty minutes, and he is a determined defender who rarely misses an opportunity to make a physical play.

Browns efforts landed him a spot on the OHL roster for the 2013 Subway Super Series. The 19-year-old will be eligible for the AHL next year, and although the Panthers organization is deep on the blue line, he should find a spot in the minor leagues next season.

QMJHL

Francis Beauvillier, LW, Shawinigan Cataractes
Acquired: 6th round (174th overall) in 2012

Beauvillier's game starts with his feet. Gifted with excellent speed and agility, he can make plays with his quickness that often help cover for mental mistakes. He is a dangerous penalty killer who is always a threat to transition a turnover into a breakaway.

The 20-year-old has been plagued with bad luck this season. Typically a player who shoots at about a 14 percent success rate, he has converted only six goals on 71 shots this season. Still, he is second on the team in scoring buoyed by his twelve assists. Beauvillier was traded to Shawinigan over the summer and given a chance to play with his younger brother Anthony, who was drafted by the Cataractes second overall in last summer's QMJHL entry draft. Francis is playing his final year of junior hockey.

Christopher Clapperton, LW, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Acquired: 5th round (122nd overall) in 2013

Clapperton scored a goal and added an assist in his first game this season, then rattled off an eight-game scoring streak in which he netted six goals and 14 assists. He cooled off in November, but is still has 34 points in 22 games. Clapperton was passed over in his first year of draft eligibility primarily because he had the unfortunate combination of lack of typical NHL size and below average foot speed. However, at 5'10 and 187 pounds, he has good enough size to play in the professional leagues, and he definitely has the scoring ability. He suited up for Team QJMHL at the 2013 Subway Super Series and managed a goal in two games.

Mackenzie Weegar, D, Halifax Mooseheads
Acquired: 7th round (206th overall) in 2013

Another Florida prospect who suited up for Team QMJHL in the Super Series is MacKenzie Weegar, an offensively skilled defenseman that the Panthers selected late in 2013 NHL Draft. Weegar was a mostly unknown commodity last season after playing his first season of major junior hockey, but the Panthers scouting staff liked what they saw in the quick and skilled Weegar.

On the season, Weeger has 23 points in 24 games, which ranks eighth in the QMJHL among points from a defenseman. He will turn 20 in January and will have the chance to play professional hockey next season. He is certainly a player to keep an eye on.

WHL

Steven Hodges, C, Victoria Royals
Acquired: 3rd round (84th overall) in 2012

Hodges made his season debut on November 1st after missing the opening month of play with a leg injury. In his 13 games since his return to the lineup, he has produced just five assists for the offense-starved Royals. Hodges will not be able to help the team much in scoring, but he does make them tougher and faster. He has continued to add weight and muscle and is now up to 187 pounds on his 6'0 frame. He plays a two-way style, but if he is ever going to work his way up to his professional-hockey potential, he will need to start putting the puck into the net with more consistency.

Alexander Delnov, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds
Acquired: 4th round (114th overall) in 2012

After a successful rookie season in the WHL, Delnov's sophomore season with the Thunderbirds began with heightened expectations. He did not disappoint either, as he was hot right off of the starting whistle, scoring 10 points in his first six games. Unfortunately, Delnov and the rest of the Thunderbirds hit a cold streak in which he scored just one goal in 14 games and the team lost nine out of 13. On the season, the 19-year-old Russian has 14 goals and 12 assists through 28 games.

Delnov, however, has good work ethic and the all-around game to effect play even when he is not getting his name on the score sheets. He plays a gritty game and is willing to do the difficult work in the corners and in front of the net.

He made it into one game for Team Russia at the 2013 Subway Super Series.

Other Notes

Sam Brittain, goaltender for the University of Denver Pioneers, has been one of the nation's top goaltenders to start the season. In 13 starts, Brittain has stopped all but 22 of the 378 shots fired at him and sports a 1.66 goals against average. Although the team in front of him has struggled to generate offense, Brittain has backstopped the Pioneers with his size, quickness, and technical skills. The last two years have been difficult for Brittain, first missing almost a full year while rehabilitating a knee injury, and then losing his starting role to Juho Olkinuora (WPG). Brittain's hot start has reestablished the senior netminder near the top of the Panthers goaltending prospects depth chart.   

Vince Trocheck began his professional career much like he left off his major junior career. Last season he won the Red Tilson Award as the OHL's outstanding player, and this year he is an early candidate for the Red Garrett Award as the AHL's top rookie. Trocheck leads the Rampage in scoring, and his 18 points in 21 games has him ranked fourth in the league among rookie scoring. The 20-year-old centerman has a bright future due in part to his all-around skill and his impressive work ethic.

On November 14th, the Panthers traded veteran forward Kris Versteeg to Chicago for prospects Dylan Olsen and Jimmy Hayes. Olsen is a 6'2, 205-pound defenseman who plays a defense-first style and is a good addition to a blue line corps that is built around a two-way style. Hayes is a big winger (weighing in at 6'6 and 220 pounds) with two years of professional hockey under his belt. Both are currently playing for the Panthers.

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