Young Panther Hopefuls

By Bryan Taylor
The Florida Panthers are a team on the upswing.
They are young, and have added some much needed leadership (with the loss
od Skrudland) by acquiring Esa Tikanen. The Panthers mind set for their
prospects is what I would literally call BIG!!! If you look at the top
5 or so Panthers prospects you will probably notice that not one
is under 6’4″. The Panthers are gonna get bigger and stronger,
which should allow them to bang with the big boys in the Eastern Conference.
With the 1st pick in this years entry draft, the Panthers added
more size to the system by acquiring 6’4″ bruiser Mike Brown.
Brown is noted for his fighting skills, but he can definitely put
the puck in the net. He is still a year or 2 away from sticking with
the Panthers though. The Panthers roster is pretty much almost full,
with a few exceptions. Dont get me wrong the Panthers definitely
have talent in the sytem, but they may be able to keep them in the minors
for 1 more year to get some more experience. There are only three or four legitimate candidates
of making the squad this year out of camp. There are a few other prospects who have great talent,
but will probably need another year of seasoning.
Surely these 3 prospects that are contending for a roster spot are no
slouches, but with the offseason
acquisitions of veterans such as Esa Tikanen, and Gagner, even if these youngsters
do make the squad, dont expect to see them get much ice time.
Let me preview the “Three” (possibly four) legitimate prospects who have a shot to make the roster:

Peter Worrell 6-6 235 lbs

Peter Worrell is a big strong kid, who loves to fight. Every team needs
one of these types of players. The Panthers already have Paul Laus but Worrell will be able to
take some of that load off of him. Peter Worrel has made great strides over the
past 3 years, to get to where he is today. Coach MacLean has dubbed him
“the most improved young player in the organization.” Now that is quite a
compliment. If you just want to see how far Worrel has come, take a look back to the fall of 1994 Worrell
couldn’t skate backwards and had trouble turning. 3 years later he is dubbed as
one of the Panthers top prospects. Worrell is definitely a physical person
and has proved it the past 2 years by compiling 464 PIM, and 437 PIM respectively.
It is estimated that he got into about 50 fights last year (compared to that of current
Panthers Paul Laus’ 35) and when asked how many he lost, he grins and replies
“I cant think of one actually.” Now that is confidence. “I’m
not a violent person but I do have a mean streak on ice. I like to cause
trouble. But I only fight when there’s a reason to. If someone goes after your
smaller players tryng to intimidate your team, I’ll fight. If a guy gives
me a cheap shot trying to injure me, I’ll fight. If the team isnt doing anything
and needs its spirits lifted, I’ll fight.” Now that sounds like the type of player
I would want on my team. Dont get me wrong
Worrell is not a one dimensinal goon, like most goons in the NHL today. Over
the past 2 seasons Worrel has compiled 40 goals, and 122 points in 125 games.
He definitely isnt Lemieux, but he can score if needed be.

Oleg Kvasha 6-5 205 lbs RW

Kvasha is only 19 years old, and scored 22 goals last year while playing in Moscow. Kvasha
was the 59th overall pick in the 1996 entry draft.
MacLeans comments on Kvasha making the team “You never know. Radek Dvorak made
our team as an 18-year-old so you always leave it open because it happens.” Kvashs
has already made his mark early in training camp. In the first scrimmage in training
camp Kvasha teamed up with proven vets Scott Melanby and Esa Tikanen and look GREAT!!
He got praise from all for his splendid play. Kvasha has soft hands and handle
the puck really well. The wings are stacked with talent in the Panthers organization
so he may or may not make the team. He s an exciting player, and I think
he has a good shot at sticking with the club.

John Jakopin 6-5 220 lbs D

Jakopin is a big solid strong D-man. He is from Merrimac college where he
played his college hockey. With his height and size he should be a perfect fit
in the Panthers lineup. He along with Filip Kuba have a decent shot at making the
team as possibly 6th and 7th D-men. If they both have a good camp look for them
to be on the squad come the start of the season.

That is a brief look at the Panthers prospects who have a solid shot at making the team.
Another notable Panther prospect who may need another year of seasoning is
6’2 178 lb. D-man Daniel Tjärnqvist. He is a solid prospect and should be a 2nd liner
for the Panthers one day. Tjärnqvist is rated ahead of both Jakopin and Kuba, but Jakopin has a big
size advantage. The Panthers farm system is loaded with size, and talent. The
Panthers already have a significant amount of youngsters on the team, but look
for a few more to be added soon. Some more side notes on the Panthers camp:
Peter Worrel lost a unanimous decision to Trevor Doyle in the first fight of the first
scrimmage in training camp. Mike Brown has also been in fisticuffs twice with Trevor Doyle so far
in this camp. Only time will tell us how each one of these prospects develop, but is it to far
off to say, with the progress Worrel has made, that he is the next superstar?