2010 NHL Draft: Franchise-record 13 selections buffs blueline, depth chart for Florida Panthers

By David Hahn
Photo: Nick Bjugstad has become a solid goal scorer, this season netting 24 markers in 72 games. (Courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Nick Bjugstad has become a solid NHL goal scorer, this season netting 24 in 72 games. (Courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon amassed a staggering 13 picks for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the most in franchise history. Although the Panthers had an abysmal 32-37-13 season, the team owned three first round picks, assuring to reinvigorate the franchise with talent and youth. After employing the likes of Bryan McCabe, Steve Reinprecht, and Cory Stillman in the twilight of their careers, Florida desperately needed impact players at key positions.

On the first day of the draft, the Panthers had the 3rd, 19th, and 25th overall selections and used those picks on players who have all since contributed in the NHL. From there, Florida added a wide array of prospects, only one of which has made it to the big club. Considering the sheer amount of picks the Panthers had, one would think that they might have hit on more than one.

All is not lost, however, as a handful of these players are still within the organization and on the cusp of making the team. Depending on what Florida does in free agency this offseason, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for a couple more of these 2010 selections to contribute for the Panthers as soon as next year.

Overall, the Panthers did well with this draft, garnering a top-four defenseman and solid, pro-style center. It will become a real success if they can squeeze out one more NHL regular from this group.

Erik Gudbranson, D, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL), 1st round, 3rd overall
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 245

The 2010 NHL Draft featured a dearth of quality forwards, but on defense, it wasn’t regarded as a deep group. At the top of the heap sat Erik Gudbranson, whom the Panthers made their third overall selection. Heading into the draft, Gudbranson was known as a rough and tumble customer, not afraid to drop the gloves and protect his teammates.

He was so much more than that, however, as the 6’5”, 215 pound rearguard had a projectable skating stride and solid work ethic. It’s those skills that helped him translate to the NHL, as Gudbranson played just one more year in Kingston before making it to Florida. Starting with the 2011-12 season, he was thrust right into the rigors of the NHL, and performed adequately, if not a little more timid.

Gudbranson has taken a step forward offensively, now willing to make an extra pass or get involved trailing a play. He won’t be confused with the elite puck-moving defensemen of the world, but he is a trusted and solid option, and a quality selection—one that can be defended.

Nick Bjugstad, C, Blaine High (USHS), 1st round, 19th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 159

With Gudbranson in the mix, Tallon turned his sights to hulking center Nick Bjugstad, who offered a significant blend of size, skill, and hockey sense. His commitment to the game and his high school teammates was admirable, as he worked to graduate early after helping Blaine High School win three consecutive Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournaments.

From there, Bjugstad enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where he put together three quality collegiate seasons. He amassed 54 goals and 44 assists over those three years, developing into a dominant center that was difficult to contain. He also participated in back-to-back World Junior Championships, posting six goals and four assists over the course of 12 total tournament games.

He was signed to his entry-level contract at the conclusion of the 2013 season, and immediately jumped to the NHL. Bjugstad steadily improved over the last two seasons, looking more confident with the puck by using the size he was blessed with. He is coming off a 24 goal, 19 assist season, solid numbers for the ever-improving center.

Quinton Howden, LW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL), 1st round, 25th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played:  34

The trend of drafting for size and physical strength continued with the selection of Quinton Howden, the team’s final first round pick. Unlike his eventual teammates, Howden’s blinding speed and ability with the puck far exceeded the skill sets of Gudbranson and Bjugstad. Those skills were on display for the Moose Jaw Warriors, where the first overall selection in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft was a driving force despite not having much talent around him.

Over the course of four full seasons in the WHL, Howden scored 111 times and added 128 assists in 244 games. He developed a reputation as an excellent skater who used his speed mostly on the perimeter, but positioned himself well defensively. He spent two WJC’s with Canada, where he was a point-per-game player in both tournaments.

Howden has spent three seasons with San Antonio, and has put up respectable numbers, earning the organization’s trust as more than just a speedster. He was primed to play with the Panthers full-time after splitting the schedule for two years, but ran into injury troubles that derailed his season. Despite the setback, Howden has carved a niche for himself and should be retained by the club.

John McFarland, RW, Sudbury Wolves (OHL), 2nd round, 33rd overall
Status:  Prospect
NHL Games Played:  0

Originally ranked 15th by NHL Central Scouting, McFarland’s slide out of the first round ended early in the second round when then Head Coach Pete DeBoer put a good word in for him. DeBoer coached his older brother, Paul, now the Kingston Frontenacs Head Coach in the OHL, and knew all about the family. McFarland plays the game with a grit and determination, but hasn’t been able to translate his scoring punch to professional hockey.

McFarland split his first two professional seasons between the Panthers AHL and ECHL affiliates, and was not particularly impressive at either level. He spent the whole season in the AHL this year, but only scored 19 points in 46 games and was a healthy scratch on a number of occasions, not the best sign for his development.

Alex Petrovic, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL), 2nd round, 36th overall
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played:  46

The Panthers again prioritized size when they selected the 6’4, 200 pound Alex Petrovic. Like Gudbranson, he plays an intimidating game, often towing the line with borderline hits and physical play. The WHL’s best defenseman award winner in 2011-12, Petrovic did it all in his five years playing for the Rebels, developing an underrated ability to produce offensively, and finishing his junior career with 146 points.

Moving on to professional hockey, Petrovic has been tested over the last three seasons, with each consecutive year providing him with more chances at the NHL level. He has quietly become a reliable choice for the Panthers, and should assume regular playing time next year.

Watch this 2010 NHL Draft Look Back video featuring Panthers’ draft picks Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden, and Alex Petrovic.

Connor Brickley, C, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL), 2nd round, 50th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Slow and steady has been the theme for Connor Brickley, who has been a consistent force within the bottom six of every team he has played for. A high-energy, fearless power forward, Brickley has been a useful penalty killer and role player. Despite scoring just 48 points over the course of four full seasons with the University of Vermont, Brickley is the type of players coaches love to deploy thanks to his tenacious style.

Knowing that, no one could have possibly predicted what Brickley would do in his first full professional season in the AHL. He finished the season with 22 goals and 25 assists in 73 games, just one point shy of his entire collegiate career. His unbelievable progression has put him squarely in the sights of the Panthers, who hope his development continues as he rounds into form.

Joe Basaraba, C, Shattuck St. Mary’s (USHS), 3rd round, 69th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Panthers selected Basaraba from one of the best prep high schools in the United States. In 2010-11, he transitioned to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he won a national championship in his freshman season. He went on to post 56 points over 148 collegiate games, but he been unable to carry that production over to the AHL. He has been a consistent scorer in the ECHL, but with a loaded prospect pool up front, it’s hard to see where Basaraba fits in moving forward.

Sam Brittain, G, Canmore Eagles (AJHL), 4th round, 92nd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Panthers went off the board in the fourth round, selecting two players from the AJHL. The first of them was Sam Brittain, the only goaltender the Panthers took in this draft. Brittain then replaced former Panthers prospect Marc Cheverie as the starter at the University of Denver. He put together four quality seasons for the Pioneers, culminating with his selection as the NCHC Goaltender of the Year in 2013-14. His numbers in the ECHL have been pedestrian, but he will undoubtedly be given another year in the system to see if he can make the transition.

Ben Gallacher, D, Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL), 4th round, 93rd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

One of the youngest players in the AJHL when he was drafted, Gallacher played like a fiery veteran, often choosing to engage opponents physically and be a pest on the blueline. He spent his first season in the NCAA with Ohio State, but left the school after one year to return to the USHL. He later committed to UMass, where he has spent the last two seasons. He is expected to return for his senior season before the Panthers will have to make a decision on him.

Joonas Donskoi, RW, Karpat (Liiga), 4th round, 99th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

One of the best skaters and youngest players playing in Liiga at the time, Florida’s lone European selection was Joonas Donskoi. He is a quality mover of the puck, preferring to setup a teammate rather than score himself. He has been a regular for Karpat, winning back-to-back championships before being awarded the 2014-15 Jari Kurri award as Liiga’s best playoff performer. His rights expired after the Panthers failed to tender an offer, and he recently signed an entry-level deal with the San Jose Sharks.

Zach Hyman, C, Hamilton Red Wings (CCHL), 5th round, 123rd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

If the 2010 draft is going to be labeled as a success, the Panthers must get Hyman signed and in their organization. Among all prospects in the Florida system, none improved more than Hyman, who recently finished his senior season with the University of Michigan. Hyman produced 22 goals and 32 assists this year, nearly doubling his point totals from his first three seasons combined. Persistent rumors regarding Hyman’s interest in signing with the Panthers still linger, but the team would do well to get this Hobey Baker Award Finalist signed, sealed, and delivered. 

Corey Durocher, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL), 6th round, 153rd overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Perhaps drafted due to multiple viewings of Erik Gudbranson, his high-profile teammate in Kingston, Durocher was a reliable and consistent depth forward for the Frontenacs. He returned for two more seasons in the OHL, but was never offered a contract. He is currently taking advantage of his OHL education package with Carleton University.

R.J. Boyd, D, Cushing Academy (USHS), 7th round, 183rd overall
Status: Michigan State University (Big Ten)
NHL Games Played: 0

The Panthers concluded the 2010 draft by taking home-grown and Sarasota, Florida native R.J. Boyd. Boyd was a late-bloomer who didn’t start playing the game until he was 11 years-old, but still managed to play for one of the top prep schools in the country at Cushing Academy. Known as a defensive defenseman, Boyd spent the last three years working on his game at Michigan State. With the Panthers depth on defense, it’s unlikely that Boyd will be offered a contract.

Notable Playoff Performances

The Florida Panthers had three of their CHL prospects go the distance this year. Jayce Hawryluk scored 10 goals and 19 points in 16 games, helping the Wheat Kings to the WHL finals this year, though they were then swept by the mighty Kelowna Rockets.

Joshua Brown did manage to win his league championship, captaining the Oshawa Generals to the OHL Championship. The Generals then competed in the Memorial Cup, sweeping the tournament in four straight victories—and defeating the Rockets in the final game.

Player of the Month: Christopher Clapperton

Christopher Clapperton - Blainville-Boisbriand ArmadaAs an assistant captain with the Rimouski Oceanic this season, Clapperton helped lead his team over the Quebec Remparts to win the QMJHL Championship. In doing so, he brought his game up to new heights, scoring 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 18 games.

The Oceanic went on to compete in the Memorial Cup, where he scored another 2 goals and an assist. Although the Oceanic competed hard, both the Oceanic and the host Remparts were outmatched by the Oshawa Generals and the Kelowna Rockets.

Despite his solid play, Clapperton was not offered a contract by the Panthers, and has become a free agent.