Photo: North Dakota forward Corban Knight (10) has gradually developed into a solid power forward at the NCAA level. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
When looking at the rosters for the 2012 NCAA hockey tournament, it does not take long to see that the Panthers have been paying close attention to young hockey players choosing the NCAA route instead of junior hockey. No fewer than nine Panthers prospects played in the opening weekend of the tournament. Six of those players rank among Florida’s top twenty prospects, highlighted by three first-line centers for Minnesota, Denver and North Dakota.
In addition to some top talent playing college hockey, the Panthers also have some intriguing prospects playing in Europe, including Finnish national player Joonas Donskoi and Russian national player Yaroslav Kosov.
The Panthers restocked their junior ranks with eight picks from the 2010 draft that included the player chosen third overall, defenseman Erik Gudbranson. With the addition of three players taken in the 2009 draft and March’s free agent signing of Val-d’Or Foreurs’ Jonathan Hazen, the Panthers have twelve players in the junior ranks.
Erik Gubranson, D, Kingston Frontenacs
The Florida Panthers have nine prospects playing at the junior level, all of which are playing in Canada. Four of them are playing in the OHL, three are in the WHL, Benjamin Gallacher is playing in the AJHL and Zachary Hyman is in the OJHL. Seven of the Panthers’ junior prospects come from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and three of them were taken in the first round.
To say that the Florida Panthers began to rebuild this off-season would be wrong because the club has been perpetually rebuilding and hasn’t made the playoffs in ten years. It certainly feels like a fresh start though, with many promising new prospects coming into the organization thanks to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
With the firing of Randy Sexton and the hiring of Dale Tallon, the Panthers are going in a new direction. Tallon has already made a significant impact on the club’s prospect pool. He stockpiled draft picks this summer, similar to the way he did with the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks team, which he was partly credited for building. The organization’s farm team, the Rochester Americans, also saw changes made with Chuck Weber replacing Benoit Groulx behind the bench.