The 99-00 season didn’t offer a lot of roster spots to Panthers prospects and rookies because during the 1998-99 season the Panthers had 4 rookies play
complete seasons (Parrish, Worrell, Spacek, and Kvasha), and they all earned full-time roster spots that year. In addition, this
year saw the surprising resurrection of Cam Stewart, and the signing of veteran Ray Sheppard for a bargain basement price.
Add all of these factors together, combined with the AHL Louisville Panthers needing a full roster of prospects, and it didn’t give much chance for a
young player to earn a spot on the big club and make a noticeable contribution, ala Scott Gomez, Maxim Afigenenov, Brad
Stuart, or Michael York.
What we did get to see was a few prized rookies get call-ups due to injuries to veterans, or promising play in the minors, which led to them getting an audition. Most came with high expectations. Some came with a curious wonderment from the
fans who got to finally see the players attached to the names they read about in the paper, or seen in the extensive TV coverage
of minor league and junior hockey we get down here in South Florida.
Right Winger, 14 Games, 2 Goals, 1 Assist, -3
Panther fans were eagerly awaiting the debut of wunderkind Ivan, and he did not disappoint. In his first NHL game, Ivan scored
two power-play goals against Toronto and tantalized all with his speed, positioning, and defensive effort on the backcheck.
Unfortunately, for the remaining 13 games, Ivan did not produce or contribute much, mainly due to his lack of power-play time,
or lack of play on the top line. His ice time was cut back by coach Terry Murray, and Ivan got back into his bad habits of trying to do
to much when he had the puck and not utilizing his teammates fully.
Fortunately, Ivan did show the effort on the defensive side of the puck,
and didn’t hesitate to throw his body around in a forechecking role. When he did have the puck, he showed exceptional speed,
shifty one-on-one moves, the willingness to play in traffic, and the hazardous tendency to crash the net with the puck and
dislodge the net.
This habit of Ivan’s to crash the net on a consistent and haphazard basis led to nagging back injuries which plagued him and
limited his numbers and development in the AHL or the NHL. His numbers may have been disappointing, but his stock is still
high as a future NHL’er and he will play an important role on the Panthers as early as the 00-01 or 01-02 season.
This could almost be considered a lost season, by some people, for Ivan, due to the high expectations for him to produce and repeat his junior
numbers in a developmental league, but his constant injuries and the wear on his body really prevented Panther management
from fully gauging his abilities in the AHL (Ivan produced 14 goals and 21 assists in 47 games).
Defense, 13 Games, 0 Goals, 2 Assists, +2
When he was included in the Pavel Bure trade, he was just a name to most Panther fans, and was overshadowed by the exciting
news that Pavel Bure was a Panther. But due to his late season call-up, because of the injury to Lance Pitlick, he showed
management and fans alike why this trade might even become more lopsided than before. Brad was paired up with Bret Hedican (whom he was
traded with to Florida, along with Bure) and the veteran played a steady influence on the understandably nervous defenseman.
The young Brad quickly shook off any apprehensions and adapted to the stress of being a rookie defenseman on a team that
played a wide-open style of hockey.
Brad’s quick grasp of the defensive side of the ice enabled Hedican to play more of an offensive role without
having to worry about his rookie partner. In most instances, Brad was very aware of opposing forwards trying to get behind
him on rushes, and he played a physical game in front of his net, clearing out opposing forwards effectively. To be more effective,
Brad will need to put on at least 10-20 pounds of muscle to his skinny 6’3″ frame in order to truly be a defensive force. Look
for him to bulk up as he gets older and develops a solid training regimen.
On the offensive side of the game, Brad was effective in moving the puck out of the defensive zone with crisp passes to his
fellow d-man, or to an open forward. Brad did not force his passes, and he showed maturity and poise while under a heavy forecheck to
make the smart play and wheel the puck back behind the net, or wait for a better opportunity to bring the puck back out himself. Brad
showed the maturity to play the system and not force the play, which some rookie D-men tend to do, and some of the Panthers veterans blindly did this year.
No report about Ference would be complete without a mention of his famous temper! The anticipation of the fans to see Brad
freak out on a nightly basis was probably a little bit of a let down. He engaged in a few customary fights with other enforcers, and
he held his own on almost all occasions. He picked his spots well, and his fighting never caused the Panthers to consistently kill
But Brad didn’t fully disappoint all his Panther fans in the “psycho” area. In a hotly contested game in Tampa Bay, Brad and
sophomore Vincent Lecavalier were jousting all night until Vince made the mistake of slashing Ference right in the face. It
didn’t take long for Brad to unload a barrage on the turtling Vince’s head, and after being pulled off that scrum, he didn’t hesitate
to challenge the whole TB team to a fight. Aahhhhh, old-time hockey!
It is my opinion that Brad is a much more mobile and talented Paul Laus (in his prime) and his “protect my team at all costs”
warrior mentality reminds me of a young Chris Chelios. Brad will blindly protect anybody wearing his colors, and to hit a
teammate is to hit Brad.
Bottom line on the young Ference was that he made few mistakes in the brief call-up and gave no reason for the demanding
Terry Murray to reduce his ice-time or limit his responsibilities in key situations until Pitlick returned from his injury. The
rumblings from the front office is that the position is Brad’s to lose next year in training camp.
Defense, 13 Games, 0 Goals, 3 Assists, -3
No Panthers prospect in 98-99 brought more free-wheeling excitement and daring bravado to the Panthers than Dan Boyle. He
brought the puck up the ice with open abandon and would pursue the puck in the offensive zone without care. He simply was
exciting to watch and got many Panthers fans excited about seeing him full-time the next year.
Fast forward to training camp and it was a different story for the talented D-man. He simply played horribly and lost out on one of the 7 spots,
and was quickly demoted to the AHL. It wasn’t an issue of Dan losing his talent or hockey-smarts, it was simply the Panthers
instilled a system that he either failed to grasp, or he simply refused to play in the system. To note, he did play good hockey in
the AHL, where he earned an all-star berth and was a leading scorer in Louisville. This earned him the right to be called up for
another shot in the NHL.
To say Dan was a disaster in the NHL would be kind. Numerous times he would aggressively pinch in from the point to keep a
play alive, usually to disastrous results. His failure to communicate with his team-mates on his offensive zone forays would
usually result in a breakdown of the system. He simply made too many bad decisions and it almost always led to a breakaway
or a 2 on 1.
Dan’s NHL career can be revived if he simply improves his bad attitude and stubbornness. Regardless of his play, he believes he
belongs in the NHL. When he changes his attitude to one that believes hard work and playing smart hockey will get him back
his roster spot on a “NHL” team, he will make an impression on management.
He has the physical talent, now he needs the maturity.
Left Winger, 2 Games, 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 0+/-
Due to his quick development and his ability to score consistently in the AHL, Panthers management gave him the opportunity to
get a few NHL games under his belt. In his first game, he seemed a little overwhelmed in the brief ice time he received against
the Mighty Ducks and did nothing to distinguish himself. Against the Kings two nights later, he was able to play a smart positional game
and anticipate the play, which ended up with him generating two scoring chances. One of these chances he almost capitalized on, which would have counted if not for the great
effort from the Kings goalie. If he continues his development in the AHL, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Dave given the
opportunity to compete for a roster spot in the 01-02 season.
One of the pre-season prospects promised to bring a much needed physical game to the blue-line, John delivered on the
promise that he was physical, and showed the ability to clear the crease area. Jakopin was probably rushed too quickly into a 3rd
line spot and he was only a non-liablility in clearing out the crease. Speedy forwards were able to beat John to the outside and
he didn’t show the needed speed down low to be much of a factor, especially in the cycling game.
Jakopin could have developed with more ice time and NHL games, but John battled a nagging hernia and back problems and spent
practically the whole year on the IR. John seems to need more time in the minors to develop his game and get back his
“hockey-legs” He would have earned an incomplete, but he played in enough games for the “D” grade.
On a personal note, this was my first contribution to the Hockey’s Future web-site, and if you liked what you read or want to
discuss something, drop me line and I will try to respond in a prompt manner. Please feel free to give suggestions if you want to
see something covered, or have a question that I will try to get answered for you regarding players or things on your mind. If
you have something really nasty to say, or want to call me names, trust me…..I have heard them all!!!
Look forward to hearing from you!