The 1999 Entry Draft will be an important one for the Florida Panthers. After years of bad draft picks, busts, trades, and the graduation of Parrish, Kvasha, Spacek and Worrell, the Florida Panthers now find themselves with a weak prospect pool and many holes to fill.
The biggest hole to fill is obviously goaltending. With Sean Burke’s contract set to expire in the year 2000, and UFA Kirk McLean likely gone, the Panthers do not have a young goalie ready to step in, not even as an NHL backup. The Panthers best goaltending prospect, Todd MacDonald is hardly good enough to land an AHL starting job. The Panthers are in desperate need of a young, apprenticing goaltender in the system.
The Panthers also lack skilled forwards, especially at center. With the exception of Novoseltsev, a high-end scoring forward, and Nilson, a checking forward, the Panthers don’t have much to write home about. Center is the Panthers 2nd most lacking position with only career-AHL types such as Herbert Vasiljevs and Ryan Johnson in their system. The Panthers would love to have a skilled playmaking center in the system, along with a developing 2-way checking center.
As for the defense corps, Panthers GM Bryan Murray has assembled a solid group of defense prospects, many of them hardly known in hockey circles. Boyle, Allen, and Ratchuk bring offensive games, while Jakopin, Ference, Kuba, Teterenko, and Rossiter play a solid defensively. Although the Panthers lack a true #1 defensemen, they have many solid defense prospects, many of which could be NHL bound.
Panthers 1999 Draft Picks.
12th overall (1st Round)
45th overall (2nd Round)
70th overall (3rd Round)
80th overall (3rd Round)
103rd overall (4th Round)
109th overall (4th Round)
140th overall (5th Round)
169th overall (6th Round)
184th overall (6th Round)
198rd overall (7th Round)
227th overall (8th Round)
255th overall (9th Round)
The Panthers have 12 picks in the 1999 draft. They traded their 5th round pick to Buffalo, but have receieved San Jose’s 5th Round pick, and Ottawa’s 6th Round pick in trades, as well as Washington’s 4th Round pick in a trade, and a 3rd Round pick from Philadelphia as compensation for the signing of UFA John Vanbiesbrouck. The Panthers also decided to keep their 1st Round Pick this draft, giving Vancouver the Panthers 1st Round pick in the 2000 draft.
1999 Draft Needs and Past Draft History.
Please Murray, no more defense! Not that drafting defenseman would be a bad thing, but the Panthers have drafted 14 defensemen with their 28 draft picks in the last 3 years. GM Bryan Murray has a habit of drafting low-grade low-end defensive defensemen. Not the kind of prospects that will help a franchise grow a great deal. 6 out of 9 of the Panthers picks in 1998 were defensemen, with only Rossiter and Spacek looking any good.
Goaltending is a must! The Panthers last drafted a goalie late in the 1996 draft. This goalie was Denis Khlopionov. Picked in the 8th round, he is the only goalie in the past 3 years to be drafted by the Panthers. Denis won’t be making any waves in the Panthers soon, and Murray’s neglect at this position shows. The Panthers should pick at least 2 goalies in the 1999 draft, and get some depth in this position.
The Panthers have also picked very few gifted offensive players in the past few years. Murray tends to shy away from Europeans, although it’s hard to understand why. Novoseltsev, a 4th round pick, and Kvasha, a 3rd round pick, look to be real gems. Murray should use a few mid-late round picks on offensively gifted players. Picking a few more Europeans wouldn’t hurt either. The Panthers need a fresh injection of skill into their system.
Possible 1999 Draft Picks.
If Bryan Murray drafts like he has always done, he will draft the ‘best player available’. Murray tends to stick to CSB rankings very closely and seems to lack the scouting to make picks on his own. Hopefully, Murray will realize that he need not draft so many defensemen. Offensive creativity and Goaltending are weaknessess that won’t be fixed without good drafting.
Some possible picks for the Panthers in the 1999 draft:
Round 1 (12th overall pick)
Brian Finley, Goaltender – If Finley falls to #12, there is no doubt in my mind that Murray would gobble this quick goaltender up instantly! Let’s just hope that this isn’t Episode II of the Kidd/Brodeur(1990) draft where Brodeur was taken later, and has outplayed the once hyped Trevor Kidd who was drafted ahead of him.
Taylor Pyatt, Left Winger – Huge and nasty, Pyatt won’t likely last until #12, but it is possible that he may. The Panthers would love to get a Power Forward into the fold, and Pyatt has many of the attributes that Panthers captain Scott Mellanby exhibits. Murray craves size and will be praying Pyatt isn’t taken ahead of #12.
Oleg Saprykin, Center – With the Panthers lacking at Center, Saprykin brings the elements of a solid high-end checking center. Though he would be a couple of years away, Saprykin brings the nastiness and checking elements that all of the Panthers Centers lack. If Finley and Pyatt are gone by #12, expect Murray to pick up Saprykin to mould into a future 2-way pivot.
Maxime Ouellet, Goaltender – My pick in the mock draft, It’s hard to know if Murray will be anxious to fill the goaltending hole or not. If Pyatt and Finley are gone before #12, Murray may pick Ouellet because of the lack of prime goaltending in the 1999 draft.
Round 2 (41st overall pick)
Nolan Yonkman, Defenseman – BIG defenseman. Murray still craves a monster on the blueline and Yonkman loves to use his 6’5″ frame. A hard-working defensive defenseman falls around where the Panthers would pick in the 2nd round. No offense to his game, unfortunately.
David Tanabe, Defenseman – BOOM or BUST defenseman with high-end offensive potential. Doesn’t use his 6’2″ frame like he should, and makes mistakes in his own end. His exciting offensive game might lure Murray into drafting him.
Mikhail Kuleshov, Left Winger – Big Russian winger who plays a high-tempo offensive game. Possesses the Power Forward offensive attributes Murray would like to see more of in the Panthers orginization. Mikhail could easily go earlier than #45.
Charlie Stephens, Center – A big center who’s considered to be a very high-risk, high-return prospect. Murray still wants a big center to play against the beasts of the East, and Stephens could fall to #45 because of his somewhat shady reputation.
Round 3 (71st overall pick)
Seamus Kotyk, Goaltender – Could be picked whether Murray drafts Finley or not. Rated 5th in N.A. Goalies by CSB, Kotyk should be available at #71 and the only thing tarnishing his stats is the fact that he played with a strong Ottawa 67’s team.
Simon Lajeunesse, Goaltender – Ranked 4th in N.A. Goalies by CSB, his stock skyrocketed late in the season. Would be picked ahead of Kotyk if both were available at #70. A reflex goalie who has developed in a short time.
Brett Angel, Defenseman – He is no angel despite his name. 6’5″ and nasty, Murray may pick him if he doesn’t pick a big defenseman in the first two rounds. Similar to Panthers prospect John Jakopin. May go earlier than #70.
Scott Cameron, Center – Small, gritty center. More of a 2-way 3rd Line center. Ranked #42 by CSB, but also played on a strong Barrie club. Would be a bit of a steal at #70.
4th Round and Later
Konstantin Panov, Left Wing – Speed merchant who played with the Kamloops Blazers. Moved up a lot in the final CSB rankings (65 slots). Could be available in the 4th round for the Panthers.
Ján Lašák, Goaltender – Slovakian goaltender played exceptional in leading the Slovaks to the bronze medal at the 1999 World Junior Championships. Ranked 1st in European Goaltenders at mid-season, he slipped to #3 and would be available in the 4th and 5th rounds most likely. If he isn’t taken by St. Louis, Florida would do well to pick him in the mid-late rounds.
Jesse Cook, Defenseman – Big defenseman who plays for the University of Denver, a possible pick in the 4th round for the Panthers. Murray has shown that he likes to pick college defensemen.
Jean Morin Jr., Center – Another big center who leaped 71 spots in the final CSB rankings. A Murray-type pick that will likely go in the 5th round.
Jason Baird, Winger – A solid role-player type, he could be around at #184 for the Panthers and is very hard-nose and persistant. Could develop to be a role-player like Dwayne Hay is currently doing for the Panthers.
Kenric Exner, Goaltender – The “X-MAN”, very small goaltender who had great stats playing behind a very strong Kamloops Blazers team. Showed great poise being a rookie, and was ranked very low by CSB. A good 7th or 8th round pick.
Hopefully, 1999 is a good year for the Panthers in the draft. A solid prospect will be available at the #12 spot, and just maybe, the Panthers will get lucky and pick a few diamonds out of the rough.