The Florida Panthers have 16 minor-professional prospects. Eight of those are forwards, six are defensemen, and two are goaltenders. Of those players, all but one are members of the team’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans.
An influx of veterans to the Rochester lineup has rejuvenated the Amerks, following two seasons spent at or near the bottom of the standings. In the early going of the 2009-10 season, the team has enjoyed great success. Rochester leads their division, and boasts the league’s best winning percentage. Their record is 19-7-1.
Early inconsistency from Plante led to Salak seizing the starting job. But Plante was better in the appearances that followed, though he still has a ways to go with Jacob Markstrom possibly crossing over to North America next season. In six games, Plante has three wins and three losses, a 3.25 goals-against average, and a .903 save percentage.
Following up on a strong rookie debut, Repik began his sophomore year with the Rochester Americans on a tear. Six goals and five assists in nine games in the month of October caught the attention of the Panthers, who called him up on Oct 26. He played four games with Florida, and had one goal. He cooled off significantly, his production slowed in November after rejoining the Amerks.
Repik scored one goal and had three assists in those eight games. Presently, the 20-year-old has nine goals and nine assists in 22 games. His worst stretch was one of four games without a point. Repik has registered multiple points in six contests. He will be a key offensive player for the Amerks the remainder of the season.
In his second professional campaign, the 21-year-old Matthias has continued to be a relatively quiet player for Rochester. He scored a goal and an assist in seven October appearances. In the next month, he followed up with another goal and three assists in five games.
Matthias has one multi point game this season, when he had three – a goal and two assists on Nov. 20 at home against the Syracuse Crunch. His big game got him a call-up to the Panthers, but he was not able to get his name on the scoresheet and has since been sent down.
After registering a team-worst minus 34 rating a year ago, Matthias has only twice been charged with a minus rating this season in AHL competition. He is currently a +5, and has three goals and four assists in 15 games.
Evgeni Dadonov, LW
It has not been an easy transition for the 20-year-old Russian forward, coming over for his first year playing professionally outside of his home country.
Dadonov scored a mere two points through his first 11 games. He seemed to have better hit his stride in November though, when he had six points in his next 10. His most productive stretch of the season was had at the end of the month, when he scored points in back-to-back games, and in three of four.
Though not greatly versed in the defensive game, he has managed to maintain a decent plus/minus rating throughout the year to date. He is currently credited with a +6 rating. So far, Dadonov has three goals and seven assists through 28 games.
Mike Duco, LW
Duco was along with the Panthers for their overseas season opener in Helsinki, Finland. He didn’t see any action before the team returned him to Rochester. He seemed to be less of physical presence on the ice, and was scoreless through October when he finally joined the team.
Duco’s production is down across the board. The 22-year-old, playing in 18 games, has scored four goals and two assists. After amassing 147 penalty minutes in 2008-09, a team high, Duco has 21 penalty minutes in 2009-10.
At, 5’10 and 194 pounds, Duco’s value to his team will ultimately be the energy that he characteristically provided earlier in his career. Until recently, Duco was suiting up for the Panthers, averaging roughly seven minutes of ice time per game. He had a goal in his return to Rochester on Dec 15.
Andrew Sweetland, LW
Sweetland’s level of play has not indicated that he can be relied on to be an offensive contributor any time soon at the AHL level. Since signing with the Panthers as a free agent in the spring of 2008, has struggled to discover his scoring touch. The 23-year-old has four goals and four assists in 23 games this season. He scored twice on Dec. 12 against the Hershey Bears. Sweetland is a fringe player on the Amerks roster, he doesn’t receive a great deal of ice time unless there are call-ups or injuries.
Brady Calla, RW
Calla opened the 2008-09 season with the Amerks before returning to junior after only eight games. Now, a year later, the 21-year-old is skating on Rochester’s fourth line. He has been a healthy scratch often this season. Calla is best when doing dirty work like blocking shots and forechecking. He contributed his first and only goal of the season on Dec. 15. After 13 games without registering a point, he has points in consecutive games. Calla will continue to be used as a reserve forward this season.
James DeLory, RW
DeLory skated in Rochester’s training camp and is back practicing with the team after five games in the Central Hockey League. In spite of widespread injuries and NHL call-ups that have dug into the roster all season, the rookie has not appeared in any games.
The high point of Ellerby’s season was likely his three-goal performance on Nov. 20 against the Syracuse Crunch. His hat trick accounted for his first three scores of the season. Afterward, he went on a six-game scoreless streak. His second such streak of the year. He has four goals, three of which having come with the man advantage, and six assists.
Ellerby is looking more confident, more adjusted than he did as a rookie last year, likely both a cause and effect of the team’s improved success. The 21-year-old is getting stronger, but he is still not fully grown, nor is he overly physical. Ellerby is an integral part of the Amerks defensive corps. His skating continues to be his greatest asset. Tapping into that ability is when Ellerby is most effective.
Caruso has begun to establish himself as one of the more solid, steady, reliable members of the Rochester blueline. Caruso plays it safe, and simple. He is mobile and positionally sound. Consistent, he plays his coverage assignment tightly, and aspires to play a mistake-free game.
Caruso is not one to light up the scoresheet, but he is seeing slight increases in his numbers this year. He has seven assists in 27 games. The Amerks’ most recent stretch has been a tough one for the 21-year-old. Recently, for the first time all season, Caruso has been charged with a minus rating in back-to-back games.
A year ago, Garrison was Rochester’s de facto offensive defenseman when he joined the team. Now in his second professional season, Garrison is under decidely less pressure, with the growth of Keaton Ellerby and the addition of Clay Wilson.
Nevertheless, the 25-year-old continues to put up points consistently, carrying a five game point streak from the end of October into November. Garrison has two multi-point games. He hasn’t gone more than three consecutive games without a point, and sits two behind Wilson for the lead among defenders. In all, Garrison has recorded three goals and 11 assists in 25 games.
Jordan Henry, D
The 23-year-old Henry is in his third season with Rochester. He had one point through 11 games in October. He then proceeded to have a big month in November, scoring three times and adding five assists in nine games, as well as registering a +8 rating. He hasn’t registered any points as of yet in December.
Henry’s November output amounts to virtually all of his scoring total thus far this season – three goals and seven assists through 27 games. On the strength of that performance, he is on pace to set new career highs in those offensive categories. Prior to the Amerks’ recent two-game losing streak, Henry was the team leader in the plus/minus category.
Peter Aston, D
The 23-year-old Aston, along with Luke Beaverson, has predominantly been a healthy scratch this season, his third with the Amerks. He has played in just 10 games, though has has stayed with the team exclusively all of 2009-10. The biggest shortcoming in Aston’s play has been his consistent trouble with turnovers. He hasn’t recorded any points, and is a -3. In his AHL career, the 2006 sixth-round pick is a -29.
Beaverson has played in seven games for Rochester in the AHL, one less than Peter Aston. He made sporadic appearances in October, and one other in early November. During that stint, he registered a +2 rating, 16 penalty minutes, including two fighting majors, and no points.
Beaverson was assigned to the Florida Everblades on Nov. 28. He has not dressed for any games since. The 25-year-old hasn’t been able to situate himself ever since he completed his NCAA career. As things progress, there quickly does not seem to be room for him at the AHL level.
Perhaps the biggest story for the Amerks this season without question has been the performance Alexander Salak. The 22-year-old went undrafted. He was signed by Florida in the offseason, and has cemented himself as the No. 1 on the revamped Rochester squad.
Salak has been more than solid, he’s been exceptional. He has demonstrated brilliance, showing off his ability to make extraordinary acrobatic saves, and flat out steal games for his team. He has played an undeniable role in the Amerks’ resurgence after two seasons of futility.
Salak has so far duplicated his professional success in North America, after standing out in Finland‘s SM-Liiga. He is credited with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage, and most impressive of all, he has 16 wins and only three losses.
Tyler Plante, G
Plante has also made significant progress. He has ousted Chris Beckford-Tseu as Rochester’s second-string netminder. With the dominant play of Salak, Plante’s playing time has been limited, but he has rediscovered some his stronger points that made him a second-round pick in 2005.
Dan Collins, RW
After skating in a combined 91 games for the Amerks in the last two years, Collins has made just one apperance with the team this season. Collins is the only Panthers prospect currently in the ECHL, playing with the Johnstown Chiefs. The 22-year-old, a third-round draft choice in 2005, has scored four goals and six assists through 23 games. He was recently fined for an elbowing incident that resulted in a major penalty and game misconducton Dec. 12.