The Florida Panthers have selected NCAA players regularly in their relatively short history, though have rarely done so with any early picks. Of the nine NCAA players they currently have in their system, four were selected with eighth or ninth round selections, and only one was taken in the first three rounds of any of the last four NHL Entry Drafts. This method of drafting is low risk, and thus far, appears to have yielded strong results, as many of their prospects in the NCAA have been having strong seasons.
There have, however, been some issues with several other Panthers prospects in the NCAA, as injuries have harmed the development of some, while crowded blue lines have harmed others, and one has been forced to the sidelines as a result of the NCAA school transfer rules.
Drew Bagnall, Defenseman
St. Lawrence (ECAC), Junior
Drafted 195th overall (6th round), 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Bagnall entered his junior year at St. Lawrence already as one of the better defensemen in the country, and hoped to continue his torrid pace at both ends of the ice, but suffered a thumb injury in early October. The injury has been problematic upon his return to the St. Lawrence line-up, especially given Bagnall’s puck-handling ability. Through 14 games, Bagnall has been kept goalless, while adding six assists. A key leader with the St. Lawrence squad, he is likely to become the team’s captain next year. He is a great two-way player with good size and some physicality, and he will look to bounce back in his senior year, hoping to remain injury-free. He will need to get back on track next season before he jumps to the professional ranks after college.
Luke Beaverson, Defenseman
Alaska-Anchorage (WCHA), Sophomore
Drafted 283rd overall (9th round), 2004 NHL Entry Draft
When the Panthers took a flyer on the massive Beaverson with a ninth-round selection in the 2004 draft, they expected to get a mean, rugged defenseman, and the product of the USHL has brought that with him to the WCHA with the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves this season, his second with the squad. Always physical and sometimes he goes over the edge — as shown in an incident against Michigan Tech in January where Beaverson got into a near-physical confrontation with an official — Beaverson brings an overly aggressive style of play not seen as often in college hockey. For the second year running, he leads the Seawolves in penalty minutes, having played in every game for the team thus far. He will not bring much offense, having only put up three points thus far this season, but he is competent in his own end, and if he can learn to control his emotions, he will be a much more effective player. More disciplined play would improve his game significantly.
David Booth, Forward
Michigan State (CCHA), Senior
Drafted 53rd overall (2nd round), 2004 NHL Entry Draft
Booth entered this season, his senior year, coming off two injury-riddled seasons with the Spartans, after making the CCHA All-Rookie team as a freshman, where he put up nearly a point per game. He had hoped to be able to finally put together an injury-free season, but it got off to a familiar start when he injured his shoulder in an exhibition game. It was feared that his season may be in danger, but he was able to return in late-November to the Spartans roster. Unlike in previous seasons, Booth was able to regain the offensive form of his freshman season, and has since put up 26 points in 24 games, good enough for fourth in team scoring. His ten goals place him in a tie for second on the team, which have helped the team to third in the conference standings.
Booth is able to play in all situations, and has taken on an important leadership role for the Spartans. He has great offensive awareness, and brings a strong physical game to the table. It is, however, this up-tempo physical style that has plagued his college career. He will have to maintain a disciplined physical game if he is to continue his development as a power forward, but at the same time keep him from furthering his reputation as an injury-prone player.
Spencer Dillon, Defenseman
Northern Michigan (CCHA), Freshman
Drafted 267th overall (9th round), 2004 NHL Entry Draft
Dillon has had the misfortune of playing on a deep blue line with the Northern Michigan Wildcats this season. The Wildcats, who currently sit mid-table in the CCHA standings, have been playing with three seniors and three junior defensemen, giving this freshman defenseman little opportunity to get into the line-up. He has looked solid in the few opportunities he has had, having seen action in just six games this season, picking up one assist. Dillon boasts good size, but is not very physical, and is positionally sound, but has some issues when playing with the puck. Though he is not seeing much game action this year, the practice he gains with the Wildcats will be invaluable to him when he jumps into the top-six for Northern Michigan in his sophomore season.
Matt Duffy, Defenseman
University of Maine (Hockey East), Freshman
Drafted 104th overall (4th round), 2005 NHL Entry Draft
Duffy, an offensively prolific defender in the EJHL, made the jump to the University of Maine Black Bears this season. Duffy was one of four freshman defensemen to suit up for Maine this season, having seen the most action of the four thus far, playing in 19 of Maine’s 32 games and picking up two assists in limited ice time. Offensively talented, with good size and a solid physical presence, Duffy should be a valuable contributor on what will once again be a young defense corp for Maine next season, particularly given the two defensive roster spots that will open up in 2006-07.
Tanner Glass, Forward
Dartmouth (ECAC), Junior
Drafted 265th overall (9th round), 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Another of Florida’s late draft selections from the college ranks, Glass appears to have been a sound choice thus far. In his third season with Dartmouth, he sits tied for fourth in team scoring, with eight goals and 11 assists, a couple of those goals coming at decisive moments of games. A hard worker in his first two seasons with the Big Green, Glass was rewarded for his team-first philosophy by being assigned the role of assistant captain. Physical, willing to work in the trenches, and employing a lead-by-example style of play, inter-spliced with sound play with the puck and two-way awareness have made Glass an invaluable member of the Dartmouth squad, and keeping him in the running as a potential captain in his senior year in 2006-07. Having steadily improved in his three seasons in the NCAA, Glass is poised for a big season next year, which he will look to carry into the professional ranks two years down the road.
Peter Hafner, Defenseman
Harvard (ECAC), Senior
Drafted 232nd overall (8th round), 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Hafner is an invaluable member of the 15th-ranked Harvard Crimson defensive corp. While he is not a dominant force on the score sheet, having only put together only eight points this season, the imposing Harvard senior makes up for this deficiency by providing defensive stability and strong physical play. An incredibly hard worker, particularly in his own end, Hafner, captain of Harvard’s squad, plays a lead-by-example style that endears him with his coaches and teammates, and has to make Florida’s scouting staff pleased with their find. A great skater with strong physical player, loads of leadership, and a developing offensive game, Hafner should make the jump to the professional ranks a relatively easy one next season.
James Pemberton, Defenseman
Providence (Hockey East), Senior
Drafted 124th overall (4th round), 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Pemberton has begun to emerge as a stronger offensive threat in his senior season with the Providence Friars, picking up six goals thus far in his final year (while having only put up five goals in his first three years). Already a great skater, who had been hoped to be a bigger offensive threat than he has been in his college career, Pemberton has had somewhat disappointing numbers for the Friars until this year. He has finally begun to use his cannonading shot regularly, and more effectively. The Friars have placed him on the point on the power play, a place he rarely found himself in seasons past. His improved play has helped Providence reach 17th in the national rankings. Pemberton is strong in his own end, has great awareness with the puck, is developing in the offensive end, and has the size to be a physical threat. It will be interesting to see whether his motivated game will carry over to the professional ranks next season.
Dan Travis, Forward
Quinnipac (ECAC), Junior
Drafted 141st overall (5th round), 2003 NHL Entry Draft
After seeing sparse action in only 23 games over the course of his first two seasons with a very deep New Hampshire squad, Travis decided that a transfer to another school would be in his career’s best interests. After much searching, he made the transfer to the ECAC’s Quinnipiac, however, as a result of NCAA transfer rules, Travis was ineligible to play in this, his junior season. Travis will make his debut for Quinnipiac next season as a senior. A power forward in the making with good size, but relatively raw skills, Travis will not have very long to work on his game before jumping to the professional ranks.
Note: Two other Florida prospects currently playing in the USHL have announced their collegiate plans for the 2006-07 season. Highly touted Waterloo Black Hawks forward and captain Zach Bearson announced that he will join the powerhouse Wisconsin Badgers next season, while goaltender Brian Foster will make the jump to New Hampshire.
DJ Powers and Matt MacInnis contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.