10. (14) Thomas Schemitsch, D, 7.0 C
Drafted: 3rd round (88th overall), 2015
It hasn’t been a banner year for Schemitsch. The Thornhill, Ont. native missed time early in the season with a broken wrist and is a team-worst minus-16 through 41 games, but has continued to produce offensively. He’s a dynamic force on the power play, and despite recovering from the wrist injury has still scored eight goals (six with the man advantage) and added 17 assists, which is good enough for seventh in team scoring.
Less concerning has been his defensive play as of late; Schemitsch had a minus-19 rating on Jan. 9, but has been a plus-three since. February has also been Schemitsch’s best month offensively with eight points in nine games as of Feb. 25. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds he has the size and skating ability to warrant patience from his parent organization.
9. (10) Logan Shaw, RW, 7.0 C
Drafted: 3rd round (76th overall), 2011
One of the biggest surprises for the Florida Panthers this season has been Nova Scotia native Logan Shaw. The 6-foot-3, 202-pound forward wasn’t really on the team’s radar at the start of the season, but started well in the AHL with Portland, scoring seven goals in 13 games. Shaw was called up as an injury replacement but has since earned a spot on the team’s bottom six.
Shaw has just six points in 38 games with the Panthers, but has been a player that head coach Gerard Gallant can trust in defensive situations. In fact, Shaw’s ice time has gradually increased as the season progresses; he played around 10 minutes per game in late November and early December, but has played at least 12 minutes in his last 14 games and often playing close to 16 minutes a night.
8. (9) Samuel Montembeault, G, 7.0 C
Drafted: 3rd round (77th overall), 2015
Despite playing in front of a much worse team than he did in 2014-15, Samuel Montembeault is playing at about the same level he did last season; his record is much worse (13-17-6), but save percentage has risen from .891 to .896. That said, his percentages have dropped significantly since the end of January. In February, Montembeault has a 1-6 record and a 3.44 goals against average.
Montembeault is a tall, lanky goaltender at 6-foot-3 and 166 pounds. He will have to fill out more, but he is the type of goaltender teams look for in the draft. He also gained experience as the third goaltender for the Canadian World Junior team.
7. (8) Connor Brickley, LW, 7.5 D
Drafted: 2nd round (50th overall), 2010
Brickley had a monster season last year, his first as a pro. He recorded 47 points in 73 games for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage and put himself on the Panthers radar heading into training camp this season. An impressive training camp landed Brickley a spot on Florida’s roster in October and he stayed with the team until the end of December, though playing less than 10 minutes a night. He recorded just five points in 23 games before getting demoted.
Since the demotion, Brickley hasn’t been able to replicate the production he showed in his first AHL season. He has just six points in 22 games and three of those points came in his first four games. He is currently on a seven-game pointless streak. Brickley was never a big scorer in his four season at the University of Vermont, so his production last year may just be an aberration.
6. (7) Kyle Rau, C, 7.0 C
Drafted: 3rd round (91st overall), 2011
A big-time scorer in his four years of collegiate hockey, Kyle Rau has been a consistent force on the Portland Pirates’ top line this season and is tied for second on the team in scoring with 27 points; his 17 goals is tied for the team lead with Rob Schremp.
The Panthers have given their prospects chances to stick in Florida this season thanks to a slew of injuries and Rau recently received the call; he played in his first career NHL game on Feb. 20 against the Winnipeg Jets. He’s likely to be sent back down to Portland once everyone is healthy, but the experience will help him moving forward. He should compete for a spot on next year’s team out of training camp.
5. (4) Rocco Grimaldi, C, 7.5 C
Drafted: 2nd round (33rd overall), 2011
Grimaldi has split this season between the AHL and NHL. The diminutive center is fourth on the Portland Pirates in scoring with 24 points in 37 games and has scored once in 14 games for the Panthers.
The California native got off to a good start in his stint with the Panthers; he scored in his second game against his hometown Ducks but was ineffective in his next dozen games. He played a combined 13 minutes in his final two games with the Panthers in December. Grimaldi is a skilled player with high offensive instincts, but his size might hinder his ability to play anywhere in an NHL lineup.
4. (5) Jayce Hawryluk, C, 7.5 C
Drafted: 2nd round (32nd overall), 2014
Every season Jayce Hawryluk has improved upon his point total from the year prior and 2015-16 has been no different. The Manitoba native recorded 65 points in 54 games last season and is currently second in team scoring for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, with 78 points in 47 games, behind only Nolan Patrick (2017).
Hawryluk jumps ahead of Grimaldi due to his ability to play a more complete game, and while he isn’t exactly large he has some muscle on his 5-foot-10 frame. The Wheat Kings were not quite the powerhouse many expected them to be throughout the first half of the season but have come around significantly as of late, as has Hawryluk. In January he had 11 points in eight games, which is good, but February has been a monumental month for Hawryluk—he has 32 points in 11 games as of Feb. 24. He has two five-point nights in the month and has scored a hat trick against Prince George on Feb. 5.
3. (3) Ian McCoshen, D, 7.0 B
Drafted: 2nd round (31st overall), 2013
McCoshen once again is a big part of a stacked Boston College team. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound rearguard is third among the team’s defensemen in scoring with 18 points in 32 games, besting last year’s totals already by two points.
The Wisconsin native is great at moving the puck up the ice, displaying poise and patience beyond his years. He has offensive skill, as evidenced by his point totals over the past three seasons, but it’s his ability to overpower opposition forwards that is his biggest strength. McCoshen has a knack for producing big, open ice hits and limiting forwards from dangerous areas in the offensive zone with his strength and reach. He has one more season of NCAA eligibility but is certainly ready to turn pro.
2. (2) Lawson Crouse, LW, 8.0 C
Drafted: 1st round (11th overall), 2015
Lawson Crouse’s numbers suggest scouts might have been right about him. Despite his making the 2015 Canadian World Junior team and performing well, Crouse’s offensive ability and ceiling was brought into question by scouts. He recorded just under a point per game last year with Kingston, and while he is just over a point per game this season, his goals-per-game ratio has dropped—Crouse has just 15 goals in 39 games as opposed to 29 in 56 last year.
Still, it’s easy to see why the Panthers took the 18-year-old with the 11th overall pick in last year’s draft. He might not score 25-plus in the NHL, but he has the size, tenacity and work ethic to fill out a bottom-six role right now. Crouse is also regarded for his leadership skills; he was named captain of the OHL team for the Canada Russia Super Series in November and wore an ‘A’ for the Canadian World Junior team. He is eligible to play in next year’s tournament, provided he doesn’t make the Panthers out of training camp.
1. (1) Mike Matheson, D, 7.5 B
Drafted: 1st round (23rd overall), 2012
Matheson has come as advertised in his first pro season; the 6-foot-2, 189-pound former Boston College rearguard plays a strong two-way game and has improved with each passing game. The 21-year-old is third among Portland Pirates defensemen in scoring with 14 points in 43 games and is also a team-leading plus-14.
He played his first NHL game on Feb. 20 against the Winnipeg Jets out of necessity because of an injury call-up, though that isn’t to say Matheson didn’t earn the promotion. He will likely be returned to Portland for a run at the AHL’s Calder Cup and enter next year’s training camp in Florida with a very strong chance of grabbing a spot on the team’s blue line.