Panther Hopefuls Trying to Get Noticed

By Mark Fischel

Following the recent prospect strength and conditioning camp, the Panthers recently wrapped up a 10 day long voluntary strength and skating camp that was open to the professional players on the roster.

Since it was entirely a voluntary camp, several of the European veterans spending their off-seasons overseas didn’t attend, and the current Panthers coaching staff was there only in an observatory role. All of this meant that the working out and daily drills weren’t as strenuous had it been regular training camp.

“I liked it better than the last camp since we got everything done in a quick period.” Said defenseman Kyle Rossiter, who attended the prospect and rookie camp one month earlier, “They didn’t wear us down or anything. I think it was just what we needed before the main camp”

With an estimated 2 spots open on defense for newcomers, Rossiter is competing with Branislav Mezei to get noticed by the Panther brass, and by scoring 3 goals in 4 scrimmages, he felt he might have done just that, even though he isn’t noted for his offensive prowess.

“I don’t know if you saw them, but most of them were pretty lucky. I was just in the right place at the right time, I even surprised myself,” laughed Rossiter, “But 4 on 4 you will get your chances and I was fortunate enough to bury them, so I wasn’t hardly jumping in like other guys.”

With several new defenseman being added to the depth charts, there is a renewed sense of urgency among the defensive hopefuls. Even though this camp was informal, it didn’t mean that positive impressions weren’t going to be ignored.

“To be honest with you, I have been really happy with the defenseman.” GM Rick Dudley, who just got back from Slovakia, stated, “I thought Ulanov looked wonderful out there, and all the other guys have looked good.”

“I would have no problem in saying that we have a confident 6 or 7 right now.” Dudley continued on if more trades are needed on defense, “There is no reason to change a 5 for a 5 at this point in time. We would be looking for is a guy that could log of ice time.”

At the forward position, there are several young prospects hoping to make an impact with Rick Dudley, who has yet to see the complete system of players first-hand while he has been Panther’s GM.

One of those players who played well was Josh Olson, a large LW who made his professional debut with the AHL Utah Grizzlies last year when the Portland Winter Hawks were eliminated in the playoffs.

“It’s still August, but you want to come here and do well, and I think I did pretty well and made a strong impression.” Olson told Hockey’s Future, “My skating has gotten a little better, and I worked on my stick-handling and shooting and I felt I have improved that too.”

It wasn’t too difficult to miss Olson’s camp leading 5 goals in 4 scrimmages, and his strong play, skating, and off-season development drew notice.

“From the last camp to this camp, he is the most improved player. I think his skating has improved in that short of time. When you are 240 pounds. Right now, he looks like a kid who is pretty fast, and relatively quick.” Dudley commented, “When you can be fast at 240 pounds and the size that he is, you definitely have a future. He looks like he has some offensive flair to him, he has made some nice plays and he has done some wonderful things, so we are really happy with him.”

And sometimes it is a veteran who will get noticed as well. Signing as a free agent is Jim Campbell, a former Keenan player in St. Louis, as well as RW Hannes Hyvonen, who came over in the off-season for a conditional 7th round pick from San Jose. Playing in 6 games with San Jose last year, Hyvonen seemed to be a victim of numbers and he would have been hard-pressed to unseat the players in front of him had he stayed with the Sharks.

“He is a big kid who has a tremendous shot, he has probably got what we call “top 5” percent at a NHL level, and he can skate and has skills.” Dudley told gathered reporters at the training facility, “I have seen him play in Cleveland, and I had reports on him from Europe. He has got a little bit of a mean side to him. He actually is a European that doesn’t mind the pugilistic side of things.”

Dudley compared Hyvonen’s situation with some of his former players in Tampa, Fredrik Modin and Martin St. Louis, players who Dudley feels his philosophy on scouting helped his former team and will help the Panthers in the future.

“You hope that we have a couple of those here, and it can happen if you really study and watch a lot of games, and the organization watches a lot of game, you can find those people. We are hoping that Hannes is one of those people.”

So as the voluntary camp wrapped up and the players started to depart for their off-season homes, and the Panther brass started to prepare for the rookie and prospect tournament to start on Sept 2st in Hull, Quebec, Rick Dudley was pleased with the outcome, but let it be known that the real competition will start when training camp opens on Sept 12th.

“The level of play was very high, and the one thing that was very noticeable was that we had some very talented NHL players out there, and they mixed in with the rest of the guys, which means one of two things. Either they weren’t at the level that we would like them to be, or the other guys were at a level higher than we expected. I like to think it is the latter.”

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Unofficial Panther Scrimmage Scoring

43Josh OlsonLW4516
19Byron RitchieC4246
45Brad FerenceD4156
36Joey TetarenkoRW4325
8Peter WorrellLW4404
15Jim CampbellRW4134
6Kyle RossiterD4303
17Ryan JohnsonC4213
12Olli JokinenC4123
63Scott KelmanC4123
5Branislav MezeiD4123
64Matt SmithD4123
55Igor UlanovD4123
10Sean O’ConnorRW4033
26Pierre DagenaisRW3112
27Hannes HyvonenRW4112
46Serge PayerC4112
44Sandis OzolinshD4101
47Rocky ThompsonRW4101
2Sven ButenschonD4011
49Lance WardD3011