Talented few Florida Panthers prospects at the junior level

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Juho Lammikko is back wearing a Kingston Frontenacs jersey again this season, and has 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 26 games. (Courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Photo: Juho Lammikko is wearing a Kingston Frontenacs jersey again this season, and has 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 26 games to show for it. (Courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 

 

 

Despite the pro team’s relative youth, the Florida Panthers don’t own the rights of many CHL or junior prospects. Rather, a lot of the team’s prospects are playing NCAA or pro, leaving just eight of the team’s prospects playing junior hockey this season.

Christopher Clapperton, a fifth-round pick in 2013, graduated from junior but went unsigned by the Panthers and was later signed by the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. He is currently playing for the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears. Joshua Brown, who captained the Memorial Cup-winning Oshawa Generals, has turned pro and is playing for the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs.

QMJHL

Samuel Montembeault, G, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Acquired: 3rd round (77th overall), 2015

Just as it has been for the Armada, 2015-16 has been an up-and-down campaign for its starting goaltender, Samuel Montembeault. The 6-foot-3, 188-pound netminder has two three-game losing streaks this season but has also allowed two goals or less—including one shutout—in seven of his 16 appearances.

Montembeault sports a 7-10-4 record through those 21 games with a save percentage of .886. In his first four games he allowed 14 goals, including a pair of five- and six-goal games, but since then has allowed no more than four goals in a single game in the high-scoring QMJHL. The Armada’s backup, Mark Grametbauer, has provided Montembeault with some stiff competition throughout the year, posting similar numbers in nine appearances. Still, the Panthers draft pick owns the fifth best goals-against average in the league with a mark of 2.79.

Montembaeault was named to the QMJHL team for the CHL Canada Russia Series.

OHL

Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 1st round (11th overall), 2015

Lawson Crouse is more or less producing at about the same clip as he did last season. He missed the first few weeks of the season due to being at Panthers training camp but has been the driving force of the Frontenacs’ offense since returning. Crouse is fourth on the team in scoring with 22 points in 21 games, but is second in points per game.

One of the biggest knocks on Crouse last year was that he doesn’t—and won’t—produce enough offense. That might be a bit of a stretch considering he did score 29 goals last season, but the point being that he isn’t particularly skilled and will be more suited to a third-line role in the NHL. He’s proving again this season, however, that he can be very productive on the power-play, as five of his nine goals have come with the man advantage. Crouse also has one shorthanded goal this season.

Juho Lammikko, LW, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 3rd round (65th overall), 2014

Lammikko was slated to spent the 2015-16 season in Finland but was returned to Kingston for a second season by Ässät, who own his rights. It was a move that is best for his development as he is currently playing first-line minutes and playing on the Frontenacs’ top power-play unit. He’s also forming chemistry with 2015 Panthers first round pick Lawson Crouse.

The Finn is second on Kingston in scoring with 29 points in 28 games, while his ten goals are also second on the team. One of the more interesting developments in regard to Lammikko this season is his shift to center. Though he’s primarily listed as a winger, Lammikko has taken a team-leading 797 faceoffs for Kingston this season, 300-plus more than Ted Nichol, who has taken the second most on the team. He has excelled in the faceoff dot as well, winning 52 percent of draws.

Thomas Schemitsch, D, Owen Sound Attack
Acquired: 3rd round (88th overall), 2015

Despite missing the first month of the season due to a broken wrist, Thomas Schemitsch has returned to the Owen Sound Attack lineup without missing a beat. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound rearguard recorded 49 points in a breakout season last year and currently has seven in nine games since returning to the lineup on Oct. 28. He picked up two assists in that game and scored his first goal of the season the following game against Saginaw.

The Attack don’t boast a bevy of top prospects like some of the teams in the OHL’s upper tier, but they’re competitive—though low-scoring. The team’s top scorer through 28 games, for instance, is 19-year-old undrafted defenseman Santino Centorame. Schemitsch, despite playing in just 13 games, is second amongst the team’s defensemen in scoring. He does, however, have a minus-11 rating, while both of his goals have come on the power-play.

WHL

Jayce Hawryluk, C, Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 2nd round (32nd overall), 2014

The Brandon Wheat Kings haven’t been as dominant as most expected this season, but 19-year-old Jayce Hawryluk has been every bit as advertised. He leads Brandon in scoring with 33 points in 26 games and his 17 goals are good for the team lead.

As the team struggled through November, however, Hawryluk’s production dipped; he had just six points in nine games until scoring two goals and an assist in the month’s tenth and final game. October was a different story; in back-to-back games against Regina and Vancouver, the Manitoba native recorded a combined 10 points (five goals and five assists). Surprisingly, he was not named CHL Player of the Week, as that distinction went to Dennis Yan (TBL) of the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes.

Against the Russians in the CHL Super Series, Hawryluk struggled in the WHL’s 7-3 win, going pointless while recording a minus-2 rating. The next night, however, he was one of the team’s best players and scored the game-winning goal late in the third period.

USHL

Ryan Bednard, G, Youngstown Phantoms
Acquired: 7th round (206th overall), 2015

Ryan Bednard’s statline with Youngstown in 2014-15 isn’t pretty. Of course, he played just one game with the team and surrendered four goals. He was impressive with the NAHL’s Johnstown Tomahawks, however, for whom he started more than 30 games. And the Michigan native has carried that play over into this season, where he is now one of the USHL’s top goaltenders.

Through 13 games with Youngstown, Bednard has posted a 8-2-3 record to go along with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, which is tied for third in the league among qualified goaltenders. He played particularly well in November, securing the starting duties after splitting them in October with Collin DeAugustine. Bednard will move to Bowling Green State University next season.

Karch Bachman, C, Chicago Steel
Acquired: 5th round (132nd overall), 2015

After playing last season for Culver Military Academy in the United States High School circuit, Bachman transitioned to the USHL this season, anticipating one season with the Green Bay Gamblers before moving onto Miami University (Ohio) in 2016-17. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, however. Bachman was traded to the Chicago Steel after just five games with Green Bay.

Ironically, Bachman’s first game with Chicago came against Green Bay; he went pointless, but scored in his next game. Through 18 games this season between both teams Bachman has scored seven goals and added four assists, but like Bednard his best stretch of play came in November, where he had four goals and two assists on 17 shots in six games. He scored his first multi-goal game of the season against the Madison Capitals on Nov. 21.

Massachusetts Selects Hockey League

Patrick Shea, C, Boston Jr. Bruins U18
Acquired: 7th round, (192nd overall), 2015

Rather than playing in the USHL, Patrick Shea opted to spend the 2015-16 season with the Boston Jr. Bruins of the Massachusetts Selects Hockey League. It’s not quite the same level of hockey, so his 15 points in 11 games should be taken with a grain of salt, particularly since he is only fifth on the team in scoring. The Jr. Bruins are a team that has scored 80 goals in just 14 games, while surrendering just 22. It’s a top-heavy league with a few strong teams and a lot of teams struggling to score.

There are a lot of positives to take from Shea’s start to the season, however. He was named captain of the team and the 6-foot-0, 190-pound winger leads the team with 50 penalty minutes, primarily resulting from his aggressive style of play. Shea is committed to the University of Maine for the 2016-17 season.

Top-Performing Non-Junior Prospects

In Portland, Florida’s new AHL affiliate, Logan Shaw and Kyle Rau are handling the bulk of the scoring, with the players combining for 16 goals (seven and nine, respectively). The recent acquisition Greg McKegg has provided solid depth to Portland as well; he has recorded nine points through 17 games. First-year pro Mike Matheson is second on the team in scoring by a defenseman with five points and has been settling in well after a three-year career at Boston College.

Ian McCoshen, a former teammate of Matheson, is still at Boston College and while he isn’t producing points at the same clip as last season, his defensive play has been great. He leads the team in penalties and has been a big part of the reason why Thatcher Demko (VAN) has a goals-against average of 1.46 through 15 games. Michael Downing, another defense prospect the Panthers are high on, is one half of one of the top defense pairings in the NCAA with Zach Werenski (CBJ) at the University of Michigan. Downing has nine points through thirteen games and is a plus-3.

Prospect of the Month: Connor Brickley

Florida Panthers HeadshotsA lot of experts predicted Lawson Crouse would receive at least a nine-game tryout with the Panthers at the start of this season. The first round pick had a decent training camp, but the decision to send him back to junior was made easier with the play of Connor Brickley, who is the Panthers’ top prospect through the first two months of the season. By no means did Brickley light the league on fire after making the Panthers (he has four points in 15 games), but his training camp performance was a pleasant surprise. The 23-year-old was demoted to the AHL for six games, but was soon recalled to the big club.