Photo: The Panthers took a minor risk when they selected defenseman Michael Matheson 23rd overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. Matheson is committed to Boston College for the 2012-13 season. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
After two consecutive years with a combined 23 selections, the Florida Panthers took a deep breath, sat back in their chairs, and relaxed a bit at the 2012 NHL Draft. With the top-rated group of prospects in the league, the Panthers looked to add the best value pieces with their five picks, and opted to exercise their option to relinquish their 2012 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers instead of next year's second-rounder (a legacy from the Kris Versteeg trade in 2011). The Panthers managed to select some intriguing players, including first-rounder Michael Matheson, and added a lot of blistering speed to their already overflowing pool of talented prospects.
Photo: Taken third overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, Jonathan Huberdeau might be the last high draft pick the Florida Panthers have in a while. (Cliff Welch/Icon SMI)
After completely rebuilding the NHL club through a series of trades and a variety of free agent signings that complemented their existing core (Stephen Weiss, Jason Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov, etc.), the Florida Panthers
made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The future is bright too, as many of their top prospects are starting to come of age.
Photo: Forward John Huberdeau is the top prospect for the Florida Panthers and one of the top forwards not currently playing hockey at the professional level. (Cliff Welch/Icon SMI)
Below is the final part of Hockey's Future's 2012 Spring Organizational Rankings. The rankings were determined by taking each NHL team's entire prospect pool into consideration as well as the likelihood those prospects are to meet their maximum potential. For reference, each team's top five prospects are included, as well as the players they have graduated, traded, or added to their pool over the 2011-12 season. To be eligible, a player must meet HF's prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice each season, in the fall and spring.
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.
Putting together the inaugural prospect awards for the Florida Panthers organization was no easy task given their extraordinary depth of talent. The final results were chosen by the team writer with input from the rest of the Hockey’s Future staff. Most categories could have had more than one winner.
Prospect of the Year: Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)