Jay Bouwmeester: Does everything exceptionally well and increased his own responsibility and involvement in the play with each game. Not flashy, but doesn’t make mistakes and doesn’t overextend himself. Makes everything look easy and plays the kind of low-maintenance game that could handle big minutes. Would be nice to see him take more chances and be more involved in the rush with his speed, but will probably we something that comes with time and experience. Good, low point shot. Never tries to do too much himself and will use his teammates whenever the proper chance occurs. Does good job reading off defence partner and played excelled with Lukas Krajicek. Passes are always crisp and on the tape. Doesn’t get caught up in physical play and won’t take stupid penalties.
Bottom Line: Bouwmeester will play in the NHL this year, there never was much of a doubt about that. The questions revolve around what player can the Panthers expect. Bouwmeester will be his coaches’, goalies’ and forwards’ best friend on the ice. He is a hockey-smart, dependable, low-maintenance, high-reward kind of player. He will always make the smart play and rarely make a mistake. On the offensive side of the puck, Bouwmeester will not dominate right away but he will pick up points based solely on his ability to clear the zone with crisp first-passes and the amount of ice time he will receive. He does have the ability to dominate rushes and help control a game for his team, but that will come more with comfort and experience.
Lukas Krajicek: Very fluid skater. Makes everything seem easy. Rarely makes mistakes. Good transition from offence to defence and knows when to jump into play. Could have more finish, but the amount of chances he gets is a testament to his abilities and way he reads the game. Takes the body and neutralizes players, though he’s not overly physical or strong along the boards. Good positioning and cuts off lanes very well. Made a great tandem with Bouwmeester . . . the two read each other very well and rarely got caught out of position. Works hard to get back in play, if he is caught on a pinch. Could have a harder shot.
Bottom Line: If the Panthers had the same defensive core from last year carrying into this season, Krajicek would be almost a given to make the squad. As it stands, the only thing that stands in the way of him making it is room on the team and coach Mike Keenan’s affinity for having two rookies on the backline in one year. Krajicek is ready to make the jump and would handle himself well at the next level. He could use more lean muscle mass to help himself against larger opponents, but does well enough at neutralizing forwards that it shouldn’t be a major concern. Krajicek has the ability to develop into a strong two-way defenceman who puts up decent offensive numbers, but he could be headed back to the AHL this season.
Filip Novak: Solid, but unspectacular. Doesn’t do anything that really sticks out on a consistent basis. Can make the jump into the rush and pulled off a couple nice give-and-gos. Solid shot that he can place fairly well and a quick release. Could add some beef to his frame to help against larger NHL forwards and in clearing the front of the net.
Bottom Line: Novak will eventually be given a strong shot to make the NHL, but the chances of that happening this year, with the Panthers’ stronger defence core and the very real possibility of taking two other rookies in Krajicek and Bouwmeester, aren’t great. He didn’t stand out in any game, for either mistakes or excellent play, and could use a year or two of seasoning in the AHL.
Stephen Weiss: Good vision and a usually crisp passer. Thinks the game well and plays it at both ends of the ice. Sometimes looked lackadaisical and like he was more interested in keeping injury-free headed into main camp. Makes some strange choices with the puck and seemed a little rusty catching back up to the speed of the game after the summer. Has some moves and can be shifty, but you’re left wanting more of that style of play from a smaller guy. Didn’t back away from the physical style of play but didn’t excel within it. Missed a couple of glorious opportunities to finish and looked more comfortable setting up teammates than finishing plays. Has quick release but shot was erratic in games.
Bottom Line: Weiss has been given a golden opportunity to crack the Panthers’ squad this season with some good ice time, but his play at the tournament didn’t earn much confidence in his ability to do that this season. He looked rusty and indifferent at times and his game could’ve benefited from a physical edge. However, he is still a top prospect in the organization and the main camp remains, giving him another chance to improve his standing. Weiss has the ability to one-day assume the label of a solid two-way player in the NHL, but the absence of any great offensive showing at the camp did nothing to boost his standing of surefire NHLer. Weiss’ play brought up more questions than answers, but he still has his full career ahead of him to prove himself a good player at the NHL level.
Petr Taticek: Strong on faceoffs and good speed, agility. Hard to knock down or off the puck. Fares well in the faceoff circle. Has some moves and can use them at top flight. Didn’t shy away from the physical play and has the size to handle it. Good shot and body positioning with puck for most part. Had a hip pointer after first game and didn’t play for rest of tournament.
Bottom Line: Taticek only played the one game during the tournament, but he was able to impress in that short time. He has good size and greater strength will come as he fills that frame out. He has good offensive instincts, has improved in great strides from last year in the OHL and should dominate many of his shifts when he goes back. From what was seen in his short appearance, Taticek is not that far from making a challenge for a spot at the NHL level. He has a lot of good qualities that will make the Panthers very happy with what they acquired in the draft, and what they could have in him for the future.
Greg Watson: Though he has speed of his own, struggles making decisions at game speed. Makes poor passes and misjudges how hard/soft of a pass each situation requires. Tries to take body too often, sometimes leaving him out of position on offensive rushes and backchecking assignments. Played better as tournament wore on.
Bottom Line: Watson will have a lot of ground to make up if he’s going to get a shot at the NHL. He struggled through the majority of the tournament, especially early, and looks like he may be better suited for career AHL duty. He’s a big guy out there, but his hands leave a lot to be desired. To make the NHL will have to at least be directed through several years of experience at the AHL level.
Billy Thompson: Good reflex goalie, could use some fine-tuning in his positioning. Sometimes caught playing too deep in crease. Could scramble to feet quicker at times to reposition himself on long rebounds or shots off of blocked shots that beat him. Quick glove and blocker. Good focus and follows play well through crowds. Occasionally leaves room up top but very hard to beat down low. Can cover up mistakes with quickness. Generally controls and places rebounds well. Could stay more upright when he goes down.
Bottom Line: Thompson had an amazing tournament and backstopped his team, albeit behind an extremely strong defence, to the tournament championship. He played every game and seemed to get stronger as it went on. He showed some weaknesses he’ll have to work on in Prince George and get better at, but he has the ability to cover them up with his athleticism and quickness. Thompson will have to take some time developing his game to cover up those weaknesses that the NHL level might currently pick apart, but he is a solid prospect for the Panthers and has a chance to make the NHL in the future.