In Part 1 of the Class of ’99 series, I profiled the graduates of the 1998-99 season: Mark Parrish, Peter Worrell, Jaroslav Spacek, and Oleg Kvasha. With a new season underway, and many of the overpaid veterans (such as Kirk Muller) bought out or traded, there are more rookies making an impact on the Panthers this season, and other hopefuls looking to make an impact on the Panthers in the coming months. This article will look at the prospects who have made the Panthers early in the season.
Ivan Novoseltsev – RW [1998/99: 63 Games, 54g-36a-90pts 41pim - Sarnia (OHL)]
After a mediocre start to his OHL career (45 points in 51 games) in 1997/98, Ivan turned it up to score 54 goals in 63 games with the Sarnia Sting (owned by ex-Panther Dino Ciccarelli) in 1998/99. He had a great training camp in Florida and would have made the big club if not for the depth of skilled forwards on the team. Panthers GM Bryan Murray wanted Novoseltsev to get the prime-time ice time he needed, to develop his offensive and defensive games. Playing on the 3rd or 4th line in Florida wouldn’t be too beneficial to an offensive-minded player like Novoseltsev.
His 1999/2000 season has been a success so far. After a good showing in the pre-season, “Supernova” has lit up the AHL with 2 goals and 4 assists in just 5 games for the expansion Louisville Panthers. In addition to his AHL exploits, the injury to sniper Pavel Bure meant a call-up for Novo…it was time for the big show!
While other teams, mainly the Canucks, Islanders, and Rangers, were stealing the show with blockbuster deals, the Florida Panthers had an active day of their own, completing 2 trades and drafting a solid group of prospects.
Unlike past drafts, the Florida Panthers managed to draft a bit of everything, including 3 goaltenders. The only position that wasn’t cared for was the center position. The Panthers did take more skilled players than in previous drafts, and also picked up a few project players.
A recap of the Panthers draft picks and trades:
1: Denis Shvidki, RW/LW – (1st Round, 12th overall)
Vitals: 6’0″ 195lbs 18 years old.
Stats: Barrie (OHL) 61 Games, 35G-59A-94PTS 8PIM.
This kid out of the Ukraine was projected to be Top 8, but luckily dropped to #12 for the Panthers to grab. After playing 2 years in the Russian Junior League, Denis lit up the OHL, Racking up 94 points and a +57 rating in his rookie OHL season. Amazingly, some saw Shvidki’s season in the OHL as a dissapointment. They thought a young man like him, with his experiences, would do even more damage.
He could likely make the NHL right away, but with the Panthers getting their own AHL team next season, Shvidki could and should be developing one year in the AHL with super-sniper Ivan Novoseltsev.
The 1999 Entry Draft will be an important one for the Florida Panthers. After years of bad draft picks, busts, trades, and the graduation of Parrish, Kvasha, Spacek and Worrell, the Florida Panthers now find themselves with a weak prospect pool and many holes to fill.
The biggest hole to fill is obviously goaltending. With Sean Burke’s contract set to expire in the year 2000, and UFA Kirk McLean likely gone, the Panthers do not have a young goalie ready to step in, not even as an NHL backup. The Panthers best goaltending prospect, Todd MacDonald is hardly good enough to land an AHL starting job. The Panthers are in desperate need of a young, apprenticing goaltender in the system.
The Panthers also lack skilled forwards, especially at center. With the exception of Novoseltsev, a high-end scoring forward, and Nilson, a checking forward, the Panthers don’t have much to write home about. Center is the Panthers 2nd most lacking position with only career-AHL types such as Herbert Vasiljevs and Ryan Johnson in their system. The Panthers would love to have a skilled playmaking center in the system, along with a developing 2-way checking center.
As for the defense corps, Panthers GM Bryan Murray has assembled a solid group of defense prospects, many of them hardly known in hockey circles. Boyle, Allen, and Ratchuk bring offensive games, while Jakopin, Ference, Kuba, Teterenko, and Rossiter play a solid defensively. Although the Panthers lack a true #1 defensemen, they have many solid defense prospects, many of which could be NHL bound. Read more»
The 2nd year of transition has come and passed in Florida with success. After going for quick success, the Panthers started the rebuilding process in 1997 and 1998-99 looks like a success. After years of bust draft picks, traded away prospects, and terrible rookies (Washburn, for example), the Class of 1999 offers hope for the Panthers for many years to come.
The graduate class of 1999 includes the goal-scoring Mark Parrish, BIG Peter Worrell, the flashy Oleg Kvasha, and the most anonymous Czech Olympian: Jaroslav Spacek.
Here is a review of the 1999 graduates. They all performed well in certain areas, but also need a lot of work in other areas. 3 of the 4 had short AHL stints as their apprenticeship came to a completion. This is Part 1 of a 3-Part Panthers Prospects Review Series, the other 2 will come out early next month.
Mark Parrish – LW (73 games, 24g-13a-37pts 25pim).
A gifted natural goal-scorer, Mark Parrish wowed the Panthers brass with a scorching pre-season, and continued his hot streak into the regular season with a 2-goal effort against the Tampa Bay Lightning. His early season exploits also included a 4-goal game against the Blackhawks, and another 2-goal effort (Both goals in a 2-1 win) in Philadelphia.
It came down to the wire, but the Florida Panthers were able to keep a second Russian Rocket in the fold. However, the Panthers also decided not to sign 3 of their 1997 draftees.
Ivan Novoseltsev, labelled by some as the second coming of Pavel Bure, signed a lucrative $2.3 million contract over 3 years, with many goal scoring bonuses and major awards bonuses. Novoseltsev originally asked for the 1997 rookie-cap of $925,000 while the Panthers claimed a 4th round pick didn’t deserve that much.
Although drafted in the 4th round, Ivan’s post-draft development was stunning, as he broke out to score 54 goals in 63 games this season for the Sarnia Sting, a new team record. (Coincidentally, the team is owned by Panthers winger Dino Ciccarelli). He also chipped in with 10 game winning goals and was 2nd overall in goal scoring in the OHL.
As good as Novoseltsev is, don’t expect him in a Panthers uniform next season unless he blows everybody away at training camp. With a plethora of scoring wingers (Parrish, Kvasha, Bure, Dvorak, Whitney), and the fact Novoseltsev has a lot of defensive zone coverage to learn, he will likely christen the expansion Louisville Panthers and lead their new affiliate to success.
“He has a chance to play right away, but to be fair, it’s going to be tough for him because of competition with a number of young players on the team,” stated General Manager Bryan Murray, “unless he really has a great camp, we do want to be careful (with his development.)”