Panthers AHL/ECHL prospects 2009-10 review

By Mike Burrell

The Florida Panthers had 15 minor-professional prospects this season: seven forwards, six defensemen, and two goaltenders.

The Rochester Americans had a strong season, placing second in their division with a record of 44-33-2-1. This was a significant improvement after finishing near the bottom of the standings for three years in a row. They were up 3-1 in their first-round series with the Abbotsford Heat but they let the series slip away from them and lost in Game 7.

The story of the year was certainly the team’s goaltending, with Alexander Salak impressing in his first North-American season and Tyler Plante providing strong backup support.

Michal Repik, W

The 2009-10 season was Repik’s second year as a pro. He scored 53 points in 60 games, four more than he did last season although he played in 15 fewer games.

Repik’s season was frequently interrupted with short call-ups to the Florida Panthers. He played in 19 NHL games, compared to five last season. He had trouble producing, putting up only three goals and two assists. Despite that, he finished with a +1 rating.

Repik opened the season in the /ahl”>AHL with 11 points in just eight games. He struggled after returning from a two-game stint with the Panthers, putting up just three points in the month of October. His production for the rest of the season was quite consistent though aside from a few three-game pointless streaks.

Repik had a disappointing postseason though. He scored in only one of seven games, tallying a goal and an assist in Game 4.

Evgeni Dadonov, LW

Dadonov had a slow start to the season after making the transition from the KHL to the AHL. He scored just two points, a goal and an assist, in the month of October. His game picked up though and he went on to score at least six points in each month afterwards, finishing with 17 goals and 23 assists in 40 games. He also finished the season as a +9, despite not being expected to contribute as much defensively.

The Panthers called up Dadonov for four games in April. He failed to put up any points and was a -1.

Mike Duco, LW

Duco went undrafted in 2008 but the Panthers took a chance on him as a free agent, likely at the recommendation of Panthers head coach Pete DeBoer who coached Duco in Kitchener the season before.

Duco is expected to be an energy player for the organization. The Panthers will have to figure out how to tame Duco though, in order for him to be effective. He spent 10 games in the NHL with the Panthers this season, including one disastrous 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals in which he took a run at Capitals forward Alexandre Giroux and picked up a whopping 27 PIM.

Scoring 19 points in 59 games, Duco also failed to show any offensive progression this season.

Andrew Sweetland, LW

It doesn’t look as if Sweetland will ever develop into a reliable player for the Panthers organization. The Panthers signed Sweetland to an entry-level contract in 2008 but he hasn’t made an impact. He did not see much ice time this season unless there were injuries or call-ups. The 23-year-old scored just 13 points in 51 games this season.

Brady Calla, RW

Calla didn’t get much of an opportunity to play this year but he showed the organization what a tremendous attitude he has.

During the Olympic break Calla was called up to the Florida Panthers from the ECHL in order for the Panthers to meet the minimum roster requirement. Of course, this meant that Calla was not playing in any games and could not even practice with the Florida Everblades. Instead, he worked out on his own.

Calla admitted to having some frustration after being sent down to the ECHL in order to get more ice time but he remained positive about the situation.

Calla projects as a fourth-liner or career AHL forward who can play at both ends of the rink. He plays a gritty game with lots of energy. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t begin the season in Rochester next year.

He finished the season with six points in 33 games for the Americans with limited ice time and four points in 16 games for the Everblades.

James DeLory, RW

DeLory was with the Rochester Americans for training camp but never appeared in any games despite a great number of injures in the organization. He played in 36 games for the CHL Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, registering three points in 36 games. At this point it looks unlikely that DeLory will ever see any NHL action.

Keaton Ellerby, D

The Panthers have high hopes for Ellerby after drafting him 10th overall in 2007. At 6’4, he projects to be a shutdown defenseman with very good skating. He has shown flashes of offense as well though, including a hat trick in November and a four-point night in December while playing for the Amerks.

Ellerby was called up in March and played out the rest of the year with the Panthers. Although he failed to register any points with the big club, he finished with a modest -1 rating.

Ellerby continues to grow into his body although he seemed to play with more confidence this season. If this year was any indication, he’ll likely be on the Panthers roster on opening night next season.

Michael Caruso, D

Caruso continued to make a name for himself as a dependable player for the Amerks this season. He put up almost identical numbers to his first season with one goal and 11 assists (one more assist than last year) in 67 games.

Caruso is not a flashy player but he always looks to make the safe and simple play. His toughest stretch came in the month of December and January. After recording two assists on Nov. 29, he failed to score again until Feb. 13.

Jason Garrison, D

After opening the season with the Amerks, Garrison played the next the night for the Panthers. He continued to get frequent call-ups to the Panthers throughout the season until he was finally called up for good in March. When all was said and done he had played almost exactly half the season in the AHL and the other half in the NHL.

The 26-year-old Garrison proved to the Panthers this season that he can put up points on a consistent basis and be a steady depth defenseman for the organization. He had three goals and 16 assists in 38 games for Rochester while scoring two goals and six assists in 39 games for Florida. He finished with a plus rating for both clubs as well.

Garrison will be a restricted free agent this summer and is expected to get an offer from the Panthers but will no longer be considered a prospect.

Jordan Henry, D

Henry had an inconsistent year offensively. The 24-year-old had two points in the month of October before scoring eight in November and the season continued in a similar fashion. On the other hand, the defensive side of his game was much more dependable. He tied Clay Wilson for team leader in the plus/minus category with a +22.

Henry set a career high in both goals and assists with 13 and 18 respectively.

Peter Aston, D

The 24-year-old began his third year as a Rochester American as a frequent healthy scratch. When he did play, which was mostly in the month of November, he wasn’t very good. In 17 games, he had no points and was a -3.

Aston was reassigned to the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL, rather than the Florida Everblades. He scored at a point-per-game pace there, with seven goals and 19 assists in 26 games but still finished as a -6.

Luke Beaverson, D

Beaverson is 25 years old now and after appearing in just 29 games for the Rochester Americans, it doesn’t look as if he’ll be getting a contract extension.

Beaverson’s only points came in March when he had two goals and two assists.

Alexander Salak, G

Salak certainly made a name for himself this season after seemingly coming out of nowhere. The 23-year-old went undrafted and signed a contract with the Panthers in the offseason. He quickly grabbed the starter role and finished his rookie campaign with the Amerks with a 2.89 GAA and .910 save percentage in 46 games.

He lost only one game throughout the month of October and November and continued to play with consistency throughout the rest of the season. He held onto the starter role thoughout the year although Plante played most of the postseason after Salak blew Game 1 against the Abbotsford Heat.

Salak also played in two games for the Panthers but both games were blowouts for the opposition.

The goaltender of the future for the Panthers is clearly Jacob Markstrom but with Salak in the mix the organization has considerable depth going forward.

Tyler Plante, G

Although Salak was the clear starter for Rochester, Plante proved to be a very reliable backup, showing just how much depth the Panthers have in goal.

Plante finished with 12 wins, 12 losses and one shootout loss, a 2.66 GAA and a .914 save percentage. It was his third season with the team and certainly his best as he showed clear signs of improvement.

Plante also played in every playoff game for Rochester, keeping the team in the series by winning three games.

It’s tough to predict how things will play out in the offseason but assuming Markstrom does not make the transition to the AHL, Plante will likely battle for the starter role with the Amerks.

Dan Collins, RW

Collins, a third-round draft pick, had a disappointing 2009-10 season. After playing for the Americans last year, he suited up for them just once this season and it’s unlikely he’ll get a contract extension. He scored 12 goals and 20 assists in 44 games for the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL.