Panther Prospects Mid-Season Review: Part 1

By Mark Fischel

Mid-Season Review of the Panthers AHL Prospects

In the first part of several articles documenting the Panthers prospects development in Europe, the AHL, the CHL, and the NHL, Todays installment breaks down how the prospects in the American Hockey League season is going and how they are developing.

With the Panthers currently leading the league in man games lost to injury, several players like Nick Smith, Brad Norton, David Morisset and others have gotten the chance to make the NHL Debut this year, and if the trend continues, it is only a matter of time until Kyle Rossiter gets called up for a look-see as well….

Denis Shvidki: Right Wing, Utah Grizzlies

NHL: 8 Games, 1 Goal, 2 Assists, – 4, 2 PIM
AHL: 8 Games, 2 Goals, 4 Assists, +3, 2 PIM

After ending the 2000-2001 season by figuring on the Panthers scoresheet several times, Shvidki was being counted on to pick up where he left off and continue his strong play. Unfortunately due to a severe concussion he suffered in pre-season, this season may be a lost one for Denis’s development. He was able to see action in 8 NHL games this year and clearly didn’t look like he was ready after recovering from the concussion.

While in Florida, Shvidki appeared to be a step slower than his linemates, wasn’t able to make decisions quickly enough, and looked tentative as well. With Keenan taking over, he commented that some players were best served by still being allowed to learn their game in the minors. While there are still several Panther veterans still on the Injured Reserve list, it became quickly evident that Shvidki was one of those players Keenan was referring too, and Shvidki is now playing with the Utah Grizzlies in the AHL.

With Utah, Denis struggled in his first game back, but was able to regain his strong play. Panthers scout Slava Lener, “Shvidki was real good in the offensive zone, creating a lot of scoring chances for his teammates. Around the net he makes outstanding plays, behind the net he really finds the seam” In 8 games in Utah, Denis was able to score 6 points.

But sometimes adversity follows a promising player wherever he goes, and Shvidki has suffered an ankle sprain injury and will miss 1 to 2 weeks playing time. Starting out the season with a major concussion, getting sent down to the AHL and than suffering a ankle sprain might cause some people to worry, but Shvidki’s potential is still considered strong.

“I still think he is going to become the player he is going to become, obviously it may slow it down it a bit. Instead of playing in the NHL right now and producing. He is going to have get back and get his game going in the AHL and climb the ladder back to the NHL. It might delay it, but we don’t think it will affect his long-term potential” said Panthers General Manager Chuck Fletcher, when asked about how much constant injuries can hurt a prospect.

David Morisset: Left Wing, Bridgeport Sound Tigers

NHL: 4 Games, 0 Points, -7, 5 PIM
AHL: 38 Games, 6 Goals, 6 Assists, 12 Points, 26 PIM

Morisset is currently playing his first professional season in Bridgeport of the AHL. His main role is as a penalty killer, where his speed and anticipation make him a solid defensive player given the assignments to shut down the other team’s offense. Morisset’s speed and strong skating allows him to skate hard and be the first into the zone, and have the range to get back into the defensive zone if needed. Morisset’s strong skating is his main forte, and is considered the best skating prospect in the Panther’s system.

Morisset was averaging over a point per game in his last two years with the Seattle Thunderbirds, but he has yet to be able to translate that ability to the professional level.

Panthers Director of Professional Player Evaluation Michael Abbamont “When Steve Stirling (Bridgeport coach) gets more confidence in Morisset, he may put him in situations where he can generate some offense” But until this progression happens, Morisset will be relied upon as a defensive forward who is projected to become a 3rd line player.

Nick Smith: Center, Saint John Flames

NHL: 3 Games, No Points.
AHL: 37 Games, 5 Goals, 8 Assists, 13 Points

Smith is a hard working centerman has been served a few years in the Panthers system, and is coming off last season where he went through a long rehab on an injured knee. He will keep working on improving his leg strength though. Smith is good on faceoffs and is more of a defensive forward who concentrates on shutting down the other teams opposing forwards.

If he can make it to the NHL, his role will be that of a checking center, but with some scoring touch. This season, has split time between Bridgeport and Saint John’s and recently had a call-up to the NHL and made his debut this year, but was held scoreless and saw limited ice-time.

Matt Herr: Center, Hershey Bears

NHL: 3 Games, No points, -2
AHL: 42 Games, 14 Goals, 12 Assists, 26 Points, 36 PIM

Former Michigan Wolverine and Capitals prospect, Matt Herr signed as a free agent with the Panthers, and has turned into one of their top minor league players. Herr started the season leading Hershey in scoring until a recent injury dropped him to second, but his value to the struggling Bears is evident, especially since he can’t score against them anymore.

“Overall, he has been one of our top forwards” said Doug Yingst, GM of the Hershey Bears “When he was in Portland, he was the Portland player who has done the most damage against the Hershey Bears”

Herr brings a good character to the arena, and is a leader on the team, assisting in the locker room and on the ice. While his goal scoring has come in bunches, he plays a smart game on the powerplay, and he has improved his defensive responsibilities and play in all 3 zones. Herr will need to work on his foot speed though to continue his progress. Saw a 3 game call-up due to injuries, but did not figure into scoring or substantial ice-time.

Brad Norton: Defense, Hershey Bears

NHL: 2 Games, No points
AHL: 35 Games, 1 Goal, 8 Assists, 9 Points, 56 PIM

Another free agent prospect signing by the Panthers, Brad Norton is having an solid year in Hershey, and brings a simple yet effective game to the ice. One of Brad’s strong points is his physical fitness and strength level, and Doug Yingst feels that his strength is what helps him in the physical game “Brad Norton Could be one of the best physical prospects in the AHL”

This rough and tumble style of play keeps other teams honest when Norton is defending his own end, “When he plays physical and aggressive, people don’t want to put the puck in his end” replied Michael Abbamont.

Currently, Norton is on a call-up to the Florida Panthers where he has seen some ice-time. The main thing for Norton is to be more consistent in his play, and improve his overall skating level in order to make the NHL on a regular basis. In addition, he has to know his limitations and keep his game simple

Kyle Rossiter:Defenseman, Utah Grizzlies

AHL: 46 Games, 2 Goals, 4 Assists, 6 Points, 44 PIM

Defenseman Kyle Rossiter is entering his second AHL season, and first with the Utah Grizzlies. He started off struggling with his game, and was benched a few times by Utah Coach Don Hay, but has used this as a wake-up call and responded.

“I feel things have been going better lately, getting more hits, and feeling more comfortable on the ice”, Kyle replied when asked about his struggles, and this assessment is shared by the Panthers. He has been playing a much steadier game, and needs to keep his game simple and limit his turnovers.

Rossiter plays his best hockey when he makes his presence known on the ice, and if he takes over the games with his strong physical presence, than he is at his most effective. One thing that is benefiting him is playing on a veteran Utah team, where is able to pick up things to continue his development. He is still projected as a top 5 defenseman who can soon earn a spot on the NHL roster.

Serge Payer: Center, Utah Grizzlies

AHL: 16 Games, 4 Goals, 2 Assists, 6 Points, 4 PIM

Serge Payer, the gritty hustling centerman that captured a lot of the Florida fans attention last year, has unfortunately been injured for most of the this season. Fighting a lingering back injury, Serge was only able to play in 16 games, and is still out of commission. But on a positive note, Payer’s character and attitude have not gone unnoticed, “Don Hay just loves his character, they had a bunch of older players who were leaders, and he was included in this group” replied Michael Abbamont when asked how Payer was doing off the ice.

Ryan Jardine: Left Wing, Utah Grizzlies

39 Games, 5 Goals, 8 Assists, 13 Points, 40 PIM

In his 2nd year as a professional and first with the Utah Grizzlies, Jardine has improved every year since his jr. Days with the Soo Greyhounds. Jardine is starting to head into traffic on a more consistent basis by going to the front of the net. He is able to create scoring chances by pouncing on rebounds, and increase team scoring chances by screening the goalie.

Eric Beaudoin: Left Wing, Utah Grizzlies

30 Games, 3 Goals, 13 Assists, 16 Points, 68 PIM

Eric Beaudoin is having a consistent year with the Grizz, after starting off slow in Louisville’s first half last season. Beaudoin is generating offense by playing hard, going to the net, and improving his play in all three zones. His improved play and skating has drawn some praise from Michael Abbamont, Panthers director of Player Development “Beaudoin is probably our biggest surprise for younger players in the American League Level”

Coming Monday: Panther mid-season review of the CHL and European prospects