Florida Panthers prospects shine in playoffs

By Brian Fogarty
Jonathan Huberdeau - Saint John Sea Dogs

Photo: Saint John Sea Dogs forward Jonathan Huberdeau celebrates a goal vs. the Edmonton Oil Kings at the 2012 Memorial Cup tournament. Huberdeau and his teammates fell short of their goal of a second consecutive CHL championship (courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

With one of the deepest and most talented prospect pools in the league, it should come as no surprise that the Florida Panthers have prospects in the post-season at almost every level imaginable, from the WHL to the AHL to the European leagues.

The only place Florida's prospects have missed out on the post-season fun has been with the big club itself, although they did get a respectable performance from rookie defenseman and recent graduate, Eric Gudbranson.

AHL

Florida's AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, enjoyed a nice run into the second round of the playoffs before falling to the Oklahoma City Barons in five games (three of which went into overtime).

Although scoring was led primarily by Rampage veterans, Alex Petrovic, just up from the WHL, hit the scoreboard with two goals and four assists in nine playoff games. All of his points came on the power-play and his efforts proved invaluable in vaulting a unit ranked 28th in the regular season to the top power-play unit in the Calder Cup playoffs. The Rampage played a lot of close games in the playoffs, and goaltender Jacob Markstrom made some incredible saves along the way. He helped close out the Chicago Wolves in the first round with a 37-save, double-overtime effort.

CHL

Starting in the QMJHL, one of the surprise performances of the playoff season belonged to Quebec's Logan Shaw, who went on a playoff tear for the Remparts. In 11 games, he scored six goals (five on the power-play) and added five assists for 11 points. Shaw would sign an amateur tryout contract after the Remparts were eliminated from the playoffs. He joined San Antonio for the playoffs, but saw no ice time with the Rampage.

Jonathan Huberdeau's offensive ourput in the playoffs may not be quite up to his usual standards, but his 21 points in 15 playoff games has helped drive his team to a QMJHL championship and into the Memorial Cup semi-finals. Huberdeau has also dished out a few questionable hits in the playoffs, received a two-game suspension, and caused a stir with an elbow that could arguably have drawn a second suspension.

In the OHL, David Pacan, playing his overage year with Niagara, had a solid run through the playoffs with the Ice Dogs before he and his teammates succumbed to the London Knights in the OHL championship.  Pacan scored eight goals and added 12 assists while playing on an all-overage line with Alex Friesen and Andrew Agozzino, but was able to manage only a couple assists against the Knights' smothering defense.

Out west, Quinton Howden started out strong with nine points in a five-game opening series against Regina, then added another six points in sweeping Medicine Hat, but went scoreless and racked up a difficult minus-four in the WHL Eastern Conference finals against the eventual league champion Edmonton Oil Kings.

Europe

Karpat's Joonas Donskoi played well for that team in the Finnish SM-Liiga playoffs. The 20-year-old winger averaged more than 19 minutes per game (up substantially over his typical 15 minutes of regular season ice time) and scored three goals and three assists in a seven-game series against the eventual league finalists from Lahti. Despite being one of the youngest players on the squad, he finished tied for second on the team in playoff scoring behind only the veteran and former NHL player, Jozef Stumpel.

NCAA

Kyle Rau continued his remarkable freshman season for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers by pacing his team with a goal and four assists in the Frozen Four. Nick Bjugstad, on the other hand, had a relatively disappointing tournament, though he played for much of the latter part of the season while battling injuries.

Wade Megan scored a Frozen Four goal for Boston University in their opening-round loss to the Gophers.  Corban Knight, another player who fought injuries for most of the season, also had a goal in the Fighting Sioux's win against Western Michigan.

Prospect Signings

The Panthers signed Drew Shore after his season ended at Denver University. Shore enjoyed a three-year run for the Pioneers that included 30 goals and 68 assists in 123 games, a captaincy in his junior season, and two selections to the WCHA All-Star team. He was chosen 44th overall by the Panthers in the 2009 NHL Draft.

The Panthers also signed 2011 third-round pick Vincent Trocheck to an entry-level contract in April.  Trocheck will turn 19 in July, and will almost certainly return to Saginaw for another year of OHL hockey.

Also, Nick Bjugstad has not yet announced a decision regarding his possible return to Minnesota for another year with the Golden Gophers. He has said that he will make an announcement at the end of his school term, which is now completed.

 

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