Photo: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly holds up the card showing the Florida Panthers as the winner of the 2014 NHL Draft Lottery (courtesy of Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Maybe second is the new first, at least when it comes to the NHL Draft Lottery, the latest of which took place on Tuesday evening. In the prior two lotteries, the 29th-ranked club ended up with the first selection, and that trend held in the 2014 edition as this season's 29th club, the Florida Panthers, ended up walking away with the first selection overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Photo: Freshman goaltender Evan Cowley was strong in his limited starts with the University of Denver. Cowley was a backup to starting goaltender Sam Brittain, who is also a Florida Panthers prospect. (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)
Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon has a penchant for college hockey prospects, especially with the flexibility that the current NCAA eligibility rules allow. In fact, the Panthers currently have nearly double the amount of college players in their system than they have in major junior hockey, an anomaly in a league that relies heavily on the CHL for player development.
Photo: University of North Dakota forward and Florida Panthers prospect Rocco Grimaldi was third in scoring on the ND roster in 2012-13 but is leading the offense this season with 39 points in 41 games (courtesy of Tim G. Zechar/Icon SMI)
At 5’6” and 172 pounds, Rocco Grimaldi is one of the smallest players in all of college hockey, but he is also one of the most dynamic. The Rossmoor, CA native’s developmental progress has allowed him to reach new heights and become more of a rounded player. Grimaldi currently leads the University of North Dakota with 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games to date.
Photo: Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon is the top NHL rookie in most offensive categories and has totaled 62 points in 79 games (courtesy of Dustin Bradford/Icon SMI)
The Calder Trophy race heads down the stretch and, while Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat led all rookie scorers in the month of March, Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon has tightened his hold on the lead in the Hockey's Future monthly poll.
Photo: Selected second overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, forward Aleksander Barkov made an immediate impact for the Florida Panthers. Barkov suffered a knee injury during the 2014 Olympics and has been on injured reserve ever since. (courtesy of Rich Graessle/Icon SMI)
There have been several notable changes since the fall when the Florida Panthers last Top 20 list was compiled. Nick Bjugstad and Drew Shore have graduated, and Florida added high-potential center prospect Brandon Pirri at the trade deadline. Several players have begun getting extended opportunities in the NHL as the regular season winds down and the Panthers playoff hopes slip quietly to the side.