Panthers rookie review 2003-04

By Aaron Vickers

With a youthful squad already solidified in Florida, the 2003-04
edition of the Panthers left little in the way of rookies to try to
establish a position on the club. Eight rookies played at least two
games this season for the Panthers, with 2003 1st round selection
Nathan Horton leading the way with 55 games played. Rookies suited up
for a total of 108 man games this season, combining for 17 goals,
and 15 assists, totalling 32 points.

Pos. GP G A Pts Pts/GP +/- PIM ATOI Shots
Nathan Horton C 55 14 8 22 .40 -5 57 13:20 81
Lukas Krajicek D 18 1 6 7 .38 -2 12 13:31 16
Kamil Piros RW 17 1 1 2 .12 -4 4 9:25 11
Ty Jones RW 6 0 0 0 .00 0 7 3:05 1
Josh Olson LW 5 1 0 1 .20 1 0 8:16 6
Grant McNeill D 3 0 0 0 .00 0 5 2:43 0
Kristian Kudroc D 2 0 0 0 .00 0 2 7:15 0
Gregory Campbell C 2 0 0 0 .00 -1 5 9:09 0

Nathan Horton,
C – Selected in the first round, 3rd overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Big things were expected from Nathan Horton when he signed his
entry level contract on October 3, 2003. Three weeks later, he
recorded his first point. Another week after that, Horton continued to
keep the ball rolling with his first career National Hockey League
goal. An NHL record would be his when Horton became the youngest player
in NHL history to record a penalty shot goal on January 8. A storybook season was on the horizon for the youngster from Welland,
Ontario. Horton’s inagural season wasn’t to be as planned, however, when on
January 13 he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Three days
later Horton underwent surgery to repair the injury, and was expected
to miss the balance of the season for the Panthers.

Many were surprised when Horton returned to the ice for the Florida
Panthers after missing only 21 games after the surgery. The resiliency
of Horton was shown by recovering months in advance from a surgery that
was to keep him out of the line-up for the remainder of the season.
Unfortunately for Horton, though, another shoulder injury would occur a
little less then a month later, requiring another surgery, and knocking
the rugged first round selection out of the 2003-04 NHL season.

Lukas Krajicek,
D – Selected in the first round, 24th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry
Krajicek, widely regarded as the top defensive prospect in the
Florida Panthers organization, saw action in 18 games over the course
of the 2003-04 National Hockey League season. Splitting duty between
the NHL’s Panthers and the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, Krajicek actually
saw his offensive output increase while skating for Florida. Krajicek
recorded 17 points in 54 games with the Panthers affiliate,
but stepped up his production with the big club, registering seven
points in the 18 games he saw action in, an increase in
production, with a drop in time on the ice.

Krajicek, another first round selection who the Florida Panthers traded
up to get in 2001, is expected to see an increased role with the
Panthers given his ability to generate offense from the back end,
something that should come with the likes of Krajicek, Van Ryn and Jay

Kamil Piros,
RW – Acquired via trade with the Atlanta Thrashers on March 8, 2004
Kamil Piros, most recognized as the heir apparent to become Ilya
Kovalchuk’s center in Atlanta, was acquired on March 8, 2004 in
exchange for defenseman Kyle Rossiter. Piros was immediately inserted
into the Panthers lineup, and suited up for 17 games with the Florida
Panthers. Although he averaged under 10 minutes a game in Florida,
Piros was given a fair shake to showcase his abilities in front of
Panthers brass. With the subsequent hiring of Jacques Martin, Piros
might find himself in a struggle to get quality minutes in Florida.

Piros, who has the offensive abilities to develop into a second line
center has yet to find his stride at the NHL level, and hopes to do so
with the Panthers. His contract is up this summer.

The Rest

Another acquisition for the Florida Panthers in March was right
winger Ty Jones. Jones skated in six games for the Panthers, but
would have been lucky to see the ice for more then five shifts per game. Josh Olson,
who was selected 190th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, suited up
for five games with the club. Olson, who skated with the Panthers
fourth line, recorded one goal during his stint up with Florida. Grant
saw the least amount of ice time of any Panthers
rookie on the season, averaging just under six total minutes in two games
with the Panthers. McNeill was a third round selection of the Panthers
in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

Kristian Kudcoc
suffered an injury-plagued first season with the Florida
Panthers, after signing with the club as an unrestricted free agent
during last year’s offseason. Kudroc, who missed 38 games with an
ankle injury, spent the strong majority of the season with the San
Antonio Rampage. The son of NHL executive Colin Campbell, Gregory
made his NHL debut in October, during a two game
call-up. Selected in the third round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft,
Campbell was a -1 and had 5 minutes in penalties during his stint with
the Panthers.