Panthers offseason prospects wrap-up

By Matt MacInnis





New Page 1

It was a very busy
offseason for the Florida Panthers developmental system. Since the NHL playoffs
ended, the Panthers have added a new crop of prospects to its system through the
Entry Draft, signed several prospects to professional contracts, held a
conditioning camp for its prospects, reached an agreement with an ECHL
franchise, participated in a four-team prospect tournament, and were represented
by four players at Canada’s World Junior summer tryout camp.

Development Camp

The Panthers held a two week long development and conditioning camp from July 12
– July 23 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In addition to most of the Panthers top
prospects attending, every one of the 2004 draftees but ninth rounder Spencer
Dillon
made the trip to participate in the camp. The camp was a
combination of on-ice practices and dryland training, with the on-ice events
being open to the media and general public. Eight Europeans participated in the
camp, headlined by 2004 first-round draft pick, Rotislav Olesz.

ECHL Affiliate

In early September the Panthers announced an agreement with the Texas
Wildcatters of the ECHL to serve as their affiliate in the developmental league.
Former NHL player Robert Dirk serves as Head Coach/Director of Hockey Operations
for the Wildcatters. This is the second season of existence for the Wildcatters,
located in Beaumont, Texas, and their first with an NHL/AHL affiliate. The
arrangement is convenient for the Wildcatters and AHL affiliate San Antonio
Rampage because the proximity of the two teams is fairly close, separated by
approximately 300 miles. The organizations are hopeful that this will make
player movement between the two levels easier. For the 2003-04 season, the
Panthers had an affiliation with the Augusta Lynx. Four Florida players, Simon
Lajeunesse
, Greg Jacina, Sean O’Connor,
and Paul Elliot, spent time with the Lynx last season.

Rookie Tournament

The Panthers took a team to the 2004 Rookie Tournament hosted at Pierrefonds,
Quebec. Also participating in the event were prospects from the Toronto Maple
Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens organizations. The
tournament lasted just four days, Sept. 11 – Sept. 14, with a round robin
followed by a final and consolation final game on the last day of the event.


Only three European prospects (Kamil Kreps, Martin
Lojek
, and Martin Tuma) played for the Panthers in the
tournament. The team was not without some high-profile Panther hopefuls however,
as 2003 first round pick Anthony Stewart participated, as did
2004 second-rounder David Shantz. The Panthers had a number of
tryout players participating for them at the camp, including seven players from
around the Canadian Inter-University Sport (CIS) hockey league. The presence of
so many players from the league which has recently produced no NHL players has
lead to speculation that one or more of them may be winners of the CBC reality
show “Making the Cut” which Panthers General Manager Mike Keenan
participated in.

The Panthers ultimately came in fourth in the event. After dropping their first
game to Toronto, 2-1, the team bounced back for a 5-4 win over the Montreal
prospects. However, they suffered a major setback with a stiff 7-1 beating at
the hands of the Senators prospects in the final game of the round-robin play. Robert
Gherson
played the first two periods of that game, stopping 36 of 41
shots he faced. Trevor Cunning, who played two games for
Concordia University (CIS) in 2003-04, gave in two more goals in the final
frame. The team then faced the very same Senators prospects in the consolation
final of the event, losing 4-3. Shantz played between the pipes in this contest.
Robert Globke
led the team in points for the event with two goals and
two assists. Meyer and tied Globke in goals, also with two.

Four Prospects
Signed

Throughout the offseason the GM Mike Keenan took care of some administrative
business, signing four Panthers prospects to entry-level deals. Jeremy
Swanson
, Globke, Stewart, and Kreps all received contracts this summer.
Stewart and Kreps were inked shortly before the owners locked out the players.
Swanson, Kreps, and Globke have already been assigned to the AHL. Swanson and
Kreps both spent the last season playing in the OHL, while Rob Globke completed
his NCAA eligibility finishing his senior year with Notre Dame. Stewart will be
playing the 2004-05 season in the OHL for the Kingston Frontenacs.

Odds and Ends

Four Panthers prospects
participated in the Canadian World Junior Summer Development Camp. Dany
Roussin
, Stewart, Meyer, and Shantz all received invites to the event.
Shantz suffered a groin injury midway through the event at a practice and could
not finish it. The injury was a minor one, as he was able to play in the Rookie
Tournament a few weeks later.

Nathan Horton,
who recently returned to prospect status at Hockey’s Future with the new
eligibility rules, will be permitted to play in the AHL for the San Antonio
Rampage once he has rehabilitated from his shoulder injury suffered during the
past NHL season.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.