Panthers 2007-08 AHL/ECHL season review

By Ian Bross

The Rochester Americans were a shared AHL affiliate this year, with both the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers sending prospects.  Only the Panthers remain with the club. 

Forwards

Kenndal McArdle
Acquired: 1st Round, 20th Overall, 2005

McArdle began his first professional season with the Rochester Americans, scoring five goals and five assists in 36 games.  Early in the year he suffered a broken jaw in a fight. He completed the tail end of the season in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades, scoring three goals and an assist in six games.

McArdle looked strong in the ECHL, though it was certainly not where he wanted to be. It won’t be long until he finds himself back with the Amerks, a team in a bit of a transitional phase themselves, where the leadership qualities he demonstrated in junior could prove to be useful.


Stefan Meyer

Acquired: 2nd round, 55th overall, 2003

Meyer showed an improved ability to handle the intensity of the AHL this season. His point totals are up significantly this year: 40 points in 70 games compared to 22 points in 63 last year. His progress earned a quick look as an injury call-up to the Panthers, with whom he dressed in four games and skated just over two minutes per game on average. He scored no points.

He must continue to rely on his raw athleticism and drive in order to compensate for mediocre speed. If he can keep his conditioning level up to peak, he could compete for a bottom-six spot with the Panthers in the not-too-distant future.


Tanner Glass

Acquired: 9th round, 265th overall, 2003

Glass graduated from Dartmouth College and made a four-game appearance with the Amerks last season. This year he split what was his first full professional season between the Amerks and the Panthers, returning to Rochester to finish the year.  He had 11 points in 43 games with Rochester.

Glass played on the fourth line during his 41-games stay with Florida. A capable checker with good energy and disciplined defensive play, he’ll have to elevate his game in order to make a repeat appearance next season.

Adam Taylor
Acquired: Free Agent, 2006

Taylor received an opportunity with the Amerks after averaging more than a point per game with the Everblades in 2006-07. However, in 51 games, the 2002 draft pick had a modest two points (a goal and an assist).

To complete the year, Taylor found himself back with the Everblades, who were finished off in a sweep in the first round of the playoffs. Taylor was held scoreless.

Taylor will have to fight for a second chance just to return to the AHL before he can hope to advance further.

David Brine
Acquired: Free Agent, 2006

A somewhat surprising NHL arrival, in his first professional season, the undrafted Brine made his Panthers debut in February. He tallied one assist during his time with the big club, which lasted nine games. He returned to Rochester later that month, and finished his AHL season with a respectable 20 points in 66 games.

Though he isn’t an imposing figure, Brine fits the mold of a prototypical checking forward – a hard worker who takes the body. Under Jacques Martin, he showed signs that, perhaps, he could become a solid defensive forward as well. Brine could stand to improve his scoring ability; whether or not he can process the offensive game at the elevated pace of the pros is questionable. 

Drew Larman
Acquired: Free Agent, 2005

Much like Brine, Larman found himself donning a Panther uniform, on the team’s checking line. Also a February call-up, Larman remained a total of six games. The bulk of his season, though, was spent with the Rochester Americans, where, in 54 games, he had 22 points.

Not a flashy player, Larman managed to put up points more efficiently as a pro. An experienced checking forward going back to his days in the OHL, he will be one of several to compete for the very same role with Florida, or at the very least be in line for a call-up.


Anthony Stewart

Acquired: 1st Round, 25th Overall, 2003

This year, Stewart bounced between the Rochester and Florida. He had serviceable numbers in the AHL again this season: 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points. Stewart’s issue has not been AHL scoring, however, it’s been NHL scoring. In the past two seasons, Stewart has played 36 games for the Panthers (26 this season). During that span, he has only posted two assists.

Criticized before for lacking work ethic, Stewart will be forced to press for a position with the Panthers this upcoming training camp. With positions likely to be left available, it will be a critical point for Stewart.


Dan Collins

Acquired: 3rd Round, 90th overall, 2005

In his first game with the Rochester Americans, Collins scored three points. And those three points would account for more than a quarter of his season total. Collins AHL season ended in December when he was demoted to the ECHL. At that time, he had five goals and six assists for 11 points in 38 games in the AHL.

Though he saw slight progress there, it appears it may take time for Collins to find his professional stride. With the Panthers having their own affiliate next year, Collins should see an entire year in the AHL.  

Defense


Martin Lojek

Acquired: 4th Round, 105th Overall, 2003

Lojek seems to have more or less leveled off developmentally. He had the worst plus/minus among all Amerks defensemen this season with -19, though the vast majority of the roster having a negative plus/minus. On the other side of the puck, Lojek still has a good shot (he equaled his six-goal total from last season), but his decision-making is sometimes suspect.

Like last year, Lojek made a very brief appearance with the Panthers, but didn’t stand out. Though his positional play has been mostly adequate, he has not showed the assertiveness the Panthers believe he should.

Lojek would have certainly contended for a spot with the Panthers next season or have been their primary option as an injury call-up. However, as of May 21, wanting to “try something new,” Lojek signed a multi-year deal with HC Ocelari Trinec of the Czech Extraliga.

Franklin MacDonald
Acquired: Free Agent, 2006

MacDonald was sent down to the Everblades from Rochester three separate times, playing a total of 11 games there. In those 11 games, MacDonald scored two goals, and added six assists for eight points. The primary reason for MacDonald’s movement has been his inconsistent play, with the exception of his third “demotion,” which was to participate in the ECHL playoffs, where he contributed with one assist.

MacDonald is a safe bet to man the blueline for the Amerks next season.     

Jordan Henry

Acquired: Free Agent, 2007

Henry saw time with both Panthers affiliates this season. He opened up with the Everblades, went to Rochester in November, and returned to Estero later that same month. He was solid then – not a whole lot more – but demonstrated progress at the end of the season with the Amerks.

Another largely inconsistent defender, Henry played some of his best games in late March and April. A stay-at-home type, he had four points in 20 games in the ECHL, and eight points in 49 games in the AHL. 


Peter Aston

Acquired: 6th Round, 155th Overall, 2005

Aston spent the better part of his first North American professional season in Rochester. As an Amerk, he scored 3 goals and 10 assists in 56 games, but needs to work on his decision-making and defensive-zone play. He was a -16 on the season, before being demoted to the ECHL in late March and concluding his season with the Everblades. He skated with the team in their final six games of the season before the playoffs. He had one assist in two games. He did not dress in their final game.

Aston should be back with the Amerks next season.

Goaltending

David Shantz
Acquired: 2nd Round, 27th Overall, 2005

Shantz alternated with Tyler Plante between the AHL and ECHL. He began with the Amerks, and overwhelmed, was able to win only one game in 12 starts. With a goals-against average over 4.00 and a .863 save percentage, he was demoted to the Everblades.

There he turned out respectable numbers, including an 11-5-3 record and a .916 save percentage. Having suffered from falling stock, he must rebound next season to get back on the right track. 

Tyler Plante
Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2005

Plante split this year between Rochester and the Everblades. He began in the ECHL, where his win/loss record was one game below .500, but he still earned enough recognition to be promoted to Rochester for the occasional start as the backup to Adam Dennis (BUF).

By no means were things easy for Plante, on a dead-last Americans team that won only 24 games all year. Plante earned six of those wins, starting in 23 games. He finished with a goals-against average of 3.56 and a save percentage of .885.

Pegged by some as the heir apparent to Tomas Vokoun, Plante has a long road ahead of him in order to make those expectations come to fruition.