The Florida Panthers had seven picks in the 2004 Entry Draft including the seventh overall pick and two picks in both the second and ninth rounds. They selected four defenseman, two forwards, and one goalie.
It’s no surprise the Panthers picked a European player with their first pick, Czech center Rostislav Olesz; it’s a trend that they have followed for many years now stockpiling many European players on their minor league teams. They have had good luck with players from across the pond in the past and hope that Olesz can repeat that pattern. Below is a look at each player.
Rostislav Olesz, C
Weight: 202 lbs
1st round, 7th overall
Olesz made his debut in the Czech senior Extraleague as a 15-year old in 2000-2001. A key member of the junior national team of the 1985 borns, he played at the 2003 and 2004 Under-18 WJCs. He broke into the Czech senior national team at the Baltika Cup in 2003.
A player without any glaring weakness, Olesz is a character guy who gives everything to the team’s success. He is well-balanced and always showing a nasty edge in his play. Olesz plays a combative style and is a good hitter. He is a valuable asset to both power play and penalty killing units. A solid skater with a decent agility, Olesz impresses with his excellent lower-body strength. He has a sharp hockey sense and vision. Also very good in the faceoff circle, Olesz emerges as both a smart passer and a strong finisher. He possesses a good variety of shots, but could fire the puck more often. Olesz impresses with his strong defensive awareness, he limits the opposing players’ options effectively. A mature player, he doesn’t tend to take shifts off.
Olesz has signed a contract with the Czech Sparta Praha team and will stay in the Czech senior Extraleague for at least one more season.
David Shantz, G
Weight: 192 lbs
2nd round, 37th overall
Shantz’ stock rose dramatically going into the 2004 draft as he shined in the playoffs for the OHL Mississauga IceDogsm, leading them to the OHL Eastern Division championship. He was selected for the CHL All-Rookie team. One of the most technically sound goaltenders in this draft class, he was the fifth netminder taken.
Goaltending and the lack of it in depth in the Panthers system has been a problem for Florida for many years and they may have accomplished their goal by grabbing Shantz in the draft. He will need several more years of development time, and will remain with Mississauga for the foreseeable future.
David Booth, LW
Weight: 212 lbs
2nd round, 53rd overall
David Booth had a tough sophomore year at Michigan State, spraining his MCL early in the season, but felt he got back to full speed after the injury.
“I worked really hard after I got hurt,” he said at the draft. “I think I was pretty close to full speed on Dec. 26. I felt like I was strong and it was a lot of hard work.”
To improve his skating even more, which has been one of the major criticisms of his game, Booth says he is trying to shed some of his bulk. “I want to be faster on my feet,” he said.
Booth plays an aggressive, physical game. Though not quick, he is strong on his skates and extremely tough to knock off the puck. He has the size and ability to drive hard to the net. At times, he can be dominating along the boards and is especially effective on the forecheck. As with most emerging power forwards, Booth needs to work on establishing his presence in the offensive zone and creating space for his linemates on a more consistent basis. He is an honest player who is conscientious of his defensive responsibilities and plays with loads of energy.
Booth has the raw tools to become a power forward, but he needs to continue to add strength and learn to dominate in the offensive zone. The hard working winger has the size and skating to be effective at the next level. He will continue for at least one more season at Michigan State. “Next year I can only go up,” Booth said optimistically.
Evan Schafer, D
Weight: 221 lbs
4th round, 105th overall
Schafer, 18, played in 71 games with Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League last season, registering three goals, six assists and 190 penalty minutes. Schafer is known for his hard hitting style of defensive play. He was projected as high as a late second round pick.
Bret Nasby, D
Weight: 188 lbs
5th round, 152nd overall
Florida traded its 201st (seventh round) and 234th (eighth round) overall selections to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for San Jose’s 152nd choice (fifth round). With the 152nd choice, Florida chose the lean Oshawa Generals defenseman. With Oshawa last year the rookie defenseman picked up 7 points and 41 penalty minutes in 56 games. He joined the Generals after an Ontario Jr. C championship with the Grimsby Peach Kings.
Spencer Dillon, D
Weight: 190 lbs
9th round, 267th overall
Dillon is the first NHL Draft pick from Santa Cruz, California, a coastal Northern California town right on the Pacific known more for its tourism, fishing, and surfing than its hockey. Dillon plays for the BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks where he had 7points in 42 games with 160 penalty minutes during the 2003-04 regular season.
Though not very aggressive, Dillon is very strong on the puck and uses his size in more quiet, effective ways than most. Sound positionally, he uses his stick well to poke pucks away. He’s similar to Marek Malik of the Vancouver Canucks in that he’s big and uses his reach well, but not aggressive enough. In terms of puck skills, he doesn’t have much offensive upside though he can play the puck well, but you’ll never see him on the power play. He has decent size, but he has to fill out more and could also improve his speed.
Luke Beaverson, D
Weight: 208 lbs
9th round, 283rd overall
Beaverson, 19, appeared in 57 games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League last season, scoring one goals with six assists and 141 penalty minutes while -8. Beaverson led the team in penalty minutes as a rugged defenseman. He has the size and is not afraid to hit anyone. He will succeed if he can utilize his size and play with consistency.
Beaverson will skate for the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota starting in 2005-06, but will be returning next year as captain of the Green Bay Gamblers.
Robert Neuhauser, Michael Simmons, Jay Thompson, Brad Deuster, Al Wright and Holly Gunning contributed to this review.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.