Panthers top 20 prospects

By William Slawter

Top 20 at a glance

1. Rostislav Olesz

2. Michael Frolik

3. Kenndal McArdle

4. Anthony Stewart

5. Stefan Meyer

6. Tyler Plante

7. David Shantz

8. David Booth

9. Brady Calla

10. Dan Collins

11. Janis Sprukts

12. Kamil Kreps

13. Michael Caruso

14. Derrick LaPoint

15. Bret Nasby

16. Rob Globke

17. Martin Lojek

18. Drew Bagnall

19. Martin Tuma

20. Tanner Glass

There are six new players on the Hockey’s Future Florida Panthers top 20 prospects list. Michael Frolik, Brady Calla, Michael Caruso and Derrick LaPoint were all acquired from the 2006 draft, while Martin Tuma and Tanner Glass make the cut based on performances last season. Greg Campbell is now graduated, and Greg Jacina is no longer a prospect by HF criteria due to age.

Key: Rank (Rank Change), Name, Position, Acquired, Grade

1. (1) Rostislav Olesz, C/W, 7th Overall 2004, 8.0 B

Olesz will be a key part of Florida’s future. The 6’2, 205 lb. center boasts a great overall game, combining playmaking creativity with solid defensive ability.

Last season was spent at the NHL level, but with some bumps in the road, namely both a shoulder and knee injury. Nevertheless he managed to play 59 games at as a rookie, and he scored eight goals and added 13 assists in 59 games and was a -4. As a highly-touted first rounder from the 2004 draft, he is brimming with potential.

The 2006-07 season will be the second for Olesz with the Panthers. A breakout campaign could be in the works for Olesz this season. A doubling of offensive production is not unreasonable to expect.

2. (NR) Michael Frolik, C/RW, 10th overall 2006, 8.0 C

Once considered by many to be a lock as a top five pick in this year’s draft, his stock fell a bit leading in.

With Kladno of the Czech Elite League last season, he had nine points in 48 games. Dubbed “Baby Jagr” by Czechs, Frolik has at times shown a great likeness to the fellow former Kladno star. He has displayed exceptional playmaking ability along with a gifted sense for the game. His combination of agile speed and a solid shot can produce plenty of razzle-dazzle in the open ice.

It is important to consider that while playing in the Elite League the last two seasons Frolik was a boy amongst men. The Panthers have viewed his time there as more of a learning experience. He will play with Rimouski of the QMJHL in 2006-07, where he has the opportunity to develop into something special.

3. (2) Kenndal McArdle, LW, 20th overall 2005, 7.0 C

Leadership, character, and a passion for the game are attributes that can be easily overlooked when assessing a prospect’s potential, especially when that same prospect leads his team in scoring with 74 points in 70 games. This is especially true for Vancouver native Kendall McArdle, who led his Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL out of last place and into the playoffs.

McArdle’s fourth year with Moose Jaw in 2005-06 saw a slight decrease in offensive stats. Overall he scored 71 points in 72 games for the Warriors last season, compared to 74 points in 70 games of 2004-05. He finished fourth in scoring for the team last year, and ranked 15th in the league.

The fact that his point total dropped from the previous season does not necessarily translate into a lack of growth or skill, as it is certain he garnered no shortage of attention from the opposition’s defense.

McArdle attended Florida’s training camp last season, as well as Team Canada’s camp for the World Junior Championships. He is likely not quite ready for the NHL yet, but keep an eye on this talented prospect.

4. (3) Anthony Stewart, RW, 25th overall 2003, 7.0 C

Anthony Stewart is no doubt be looking forward to the 2006-07 season. The former OHLer made his professional debut at the end of the 2004-05 season, starting 10 games in San Antonio of the AHL. He played four more AHL games in Rochester to begin 2005-06, then joined the Panthers lineup on Oct. 18, notching an assist in his first NHL game. Ten games and two goals later, he would suffer a season-ending wrist injury that would keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season. This year he will have a healthy fresh start.

At 6’1 225lbs. Stewart provides physical force with offensive ability. While with Kingston he averaged over a point per game for his final three seasons.

After surgery, Stewart’s wrist was essentially healed in April, when he resumed practice with the Panthers. He is expected to have fully recovered and hopes to be back in Florida’s lineup for the start of the 2006-07 season.

5. (4) Stefan Meyer, LW, 55th Overall 2003, 6.5 B

Stefan Meyer increased his point totals in each of his four full seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. Last year, the Fox Valley, Saskatchewan native made his pro debut with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Meyer went on to play 69 games for the Amerks, scoring 12 goals and 16 assists. The 6’2, 200 lb. 21-year-old showed no aversion to aggression, racking up a sizable 139 penalty minutes.

Meyer will probably need at least another season in Rochester before he has a chance at cracking the Panthers’ lineup.

6. (5) Tyler Plante, G, 32nd Overall 2005, 6.5 C

Born in Brandon, Manitoba, Plante has spent the last couple seasons playing for his hometown Wheat Kings of the WHL. After a stellar 2004-05 season in which he recorded 34 wins, a 2.58 GAA, .907 save percentage, and six shutouts, he was named the WHL’s Rookie of the Year and Eastern Conference Goalie of the Year. His numbers slipped a bit last year, where he tallied 25 wins with a 3.32 GAA, .898 save percentage and two shutouts.

Plante is known as a hard-working and technically sound goalkeeper. His 6’2, 185 lb. frame provides good coverage in net, but at times he plays too deep in the crease. He also has been noted for having trouble controlling rebounds.

He was one of six goaltenders invited to attend Team Canada’s National Junior Team Development Camp in August, where he allowed only one goal in two games. Despite the strong performance, Plante’s future with Team Canada will likely depend on his success in the first half of the 2006-07 season.

7. (10) David Shantz, G, 37th Overall 2004, 6.5 C

After leading the Mississauga Ice Dogs to the OHL’s Eastern Division Championship in 2004, David Shantz was doing pretty well for himself. The OHL all-star was selected on the CHL all-rookie team as well.

After being drafted 37th overall in 2004, Shantz returned to Mississauga with high hopes for a promising season. What came, however, was a rather lackluster 2004-05 campaign where the Burlington, Ontario native lost 15 of 22 games and didn’t even play in January. He was traded to Peterborough in the offseason, and managed to turn things around in a big way.

The persevering netminder went 31-14-3 for the Petes in 2005-06, posting a 2.87 GAA with two shutouts and a .915 save percentage. Shantz is now likely headed for the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, where the setbacks of 2004-05 could quickly become a faded memory.

8. (9) David Booth, LW, 53rd Overall 2004, 6.5 C

After four years at Michigan State University, David Booth is ready for professional hockey. The Washington, Michigan native had a strong senior season for the Spartans after injury trouble earlier in his career, posting 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 36 games.

Booth has the capability of becoming a power forward. He has used his 6’1 217 lb. frame to become a strong and physical winger. He can command control along the boards, is effective at driving the net, and is difficult to knock of his skates. He plays with a lot of energy while maintaining defensive responsibility.

On July 20, he signed an entry-level contract with the Panthers and will likely begin at the AHL level.

9. (NR) Brady Calla, RW, 73rd Overall 2006, 6.5 C

With speed an asset in the “new NHL,” Brady Calla already has in his possession a tool that could garner him plenty of attention in the coming years. A winner of the fastest skater competition at the 2006 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Calla is known for his top flight speed and lightning fast acceleration. He played the last three seasons with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, scoring a modest 33 points (8 goals, 25 assists) in 66 games during 2005-06, however dramatically improved his overall game and is considered a strong two-way player.

Recipient of the Silvertips’ Ironman Award after 2004-05, the North Vancouver native plays with a lot of intensity and keeps himself in top physical shape. He weighs in at 6’0, 190lbs, can hold his own on both ends of the ice, and is an effective shot blocker with power-play skills.

With Calla, it is easy to focus too much on his mediocre production which might overshadow his intangible skills. An alternate captain on Canada’s gold medal U18 team, he shows maturity and heart that cannot always be taught in practice. Offensive numbers certainly have their importance, and Calla will have to increase his production. He will likely spend another two seasons with Everett before turning professional in 2008.

10. (14) Dan Collins, RW, 90th Overall 2005, 6.5 C

Dan Collins has spent the last three seasons with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. In 2005-06 he scored 49 points (26 goals, 23 assists) in 44 games, ranking him second on the team in PPG. A season earlier he helped Team USA win the gold medal at the World U-18 Championship in the Czech Republic.

This third rounder from Carthage, New York has decent size (6’1, 185 lbs) and possesses a powerful shot. He has the ability to play both special team units, though without exceptional performance. Scouts have suggested he possesses first round ability but without the consistency.

Named the Whalers’ Most Improved Player during the 2004-05 season, Collins remains on the right track. He attended the 2006 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, but is somewhat of a longshot to make the World Junior Championship team for 2007. He will play a fourth season in Plymouth in 2006-07.

11. (11) Janis Sprukts, C, 234th Overall 2000, 6.5 C

Another talented forward in the Panthers organization is Latvia’s Janis Sprukts. His size and scoring ability combine to create a formidable playmaker at the pivot position. Listed at 6’3, 235 lbs., he averaged roughly 1.25 points per game in two seasons with the Acadie-Bathurst Titans of the QMJHL from 2001 to 2003. He has spent the last three seasons playing in Europe. In 2005-06 he played for HPK Hameenlinna of the FNL, scoring 28 points in 35 games.

Florida’s eighth round selection in 2000 has developed into a strong prospect, and was awarded a one-year contract with the organization in May. He will be in training camp with the Panthers for the 2006-07 season.

12. (8) Kamil Kreps, C/LW, 38th Overall 2003, 7.0 D

Kreps struggled in his move to the professional ranks, demoted from San Antonio of the AHL to Texas of the ECHL early in 2005. In the AHL full-time for the 2005-06 season, he scored just 32 points in 61 games for the Rochester Americans, disappointing for someone of his talent level.

Listed at 6’2 202 lbs. by the Americans, Kreps has all the tools needed to become a formidable center. He combines speed with puckhandling capability, is an excellent passer and can take faceoffs, yet plays responsibly in his own end. His keen hockey sense and vision on the ice help make him a qualified quarterback on the power play.

Kreps is not known for shying away from loose pucks or physical play, but an increased aggressive style wouldn’t hurt his game. He doesn’t appear to have an offensive firepower that will set him vastly apart from other young talented centers in the organization, thus increasing his strength and fortitude may be necessary to play for the Panthers in the immediate future.

Expect the Czech native to spend at least another season in Rochester where an increase in production will be needed to see time with Florida next year.

13. (NR) Michael Caruso, D, 103rd Overall 2006, 6.5 C

The Panthers waited until the fourth round of the 2006 draft to address their need for help on defense. When they acquired Michael Caruso with the 103rd overall selection they received a player with potential, however, unlikely to be in a Panthers uniform anytime soon.

The Mississauga native has spent the last two seasons with the Guelph Storm of the OHL. In 2005-06 he showed his responsibility in the defensive end, recording only one goal and 15 assists in 66 games. At 18 years of age, Caruso is 6’2, 191 lbs. He displays excellent skating skills, provides plenty of energy, and plays a mentally sound game.

Caruso becomes the top-ranked defenseman in a system top-heavy at the forward positions. He will likely head back to the Storm for 2006-07. There he will need to work on his strength and playmaking skills before leaving the amateur ranks in a couple of years.

14. (NR) Derrick LaPoint, D, 116th Overall 2006, 6.5 C

After an explosive 2005-06 at Eau Claire North High School, Derrick LaPoint shot up the draft rankings. The offensive defenseman scored 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists) in just 24 games during his senior year, and carried a +44 rating. The stellar season did not go unnoticed among Panthers scouts, as they traded up to the fourth round to grab Wisconsin’s Player of the Year.

Well-known for his passing and puckhandling proficiency, LaPoint also carries a 6’3 175 lb. frame that helps him play his two-way game. He plans to spend this season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL before playing college hockey at North Dakota in 2007. It will be interesting to see how well his high-caliber high school offense translates into the more difficult USHL and eventually NCAA games, however it appears this savvy blueliner has the needed tools to eventually do well.

15. (16) Bret Nasby, D, 152nd Overall 2004, 6.0 C

Grimsby, Ontario’s Bret Nasby scored 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 20 games with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL before being traded to the Erie Otters in November 2005. Once in Erie, he added 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) in 32 contests.

A fifth round selection for Florida in 2004, Nasby brings size and scoring ability to the ice. He is listed at 6’3 188lbs, but at 20 years of age can still fill out a bit. In June he signed an entry-level contract with the Panthers, and is expected to be in training camp in the fall. He may begin his pro career with the Everblades.

16. (7) Rob Globke, RW, 40th Overall 2002, 6.0 B

At times Rob Globke has shown exceptional offensive talent. During his four seasons with Notre Dame he scored 124 points in 145 games. In 2004-05 he scored 12 points in just ten games with Texas of the ECHL, however only had 12 points in 63 games with San Antonio of the AHL. Last season he played 68 games with Rochester, but only posted a meager 15 points in 52 contests. Globke did crack the Panthers lineup last season, scoring one goal in 18 games. While he has steadily moved up levels, expectations for production have gone down.

Globke is known for having a hard shot, good speed and acceleration, and good vision on the ice. He has NHL size (6’2, 201 lbs.), strength and his long reach.

Globke will likely play with the Panthers, but in a fourth line role.

17. (12) Martin Lojek, D, 105th Overall 2003, 6.0 C

After three seasons with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL, Martin Lojek made the jump to professional hockey in 2005. Playing for the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, he scored 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in 45 games. He was a solid +13, and was twice called up to Rochester of the AHL where he recorded a goal and an assist in 15 games.

Lojek has exceptional NHL size, measuring in at 6’5, 220 lbs. Despite being labeled as a stay at home defenseman, his arsenal includes a strong, accurate slap shot. He is also an effective passer, and can move the puck down ice to breaking forwards. Many would consider Lojek’s greatest weakness is his lack of aggression and assertiveness towards the competition. Using his size to develop a little bit of a mean streak could go a long way towards getting him in the NHL.

He will probably need another year to develop with the Everblades before becoming a regular contributor at the next level.

18. (15) Drew Bagnall, D, via trade with Dallas 2004, 6.0 C

Bagnall was a sixth round selection (195th overall) of the Dallas Stars in 2004. He would later be traded to Florida, along with a draft pick, for Valeri Bure in 2004.

Bagnall hails from Oakbank, Manitoba and measures in at a solid 6’3, 215 lbs. He is very effective at playing the body, yet enjoys joining the rush and shooting the puck. His stamina is noteworthy, as he logs many minutes on the ice and is an effective special teams player.

He has played the last three seasons with St. Lawrence University of the NCAA. Last year he had 10 points in 24 games. Bagnall is expected to return for his senior season in 2006-07.

19. (NR) Martin Tuma, D, 162nd Overall 2003, 5.0 B

Martin Tuma played his first full professional season in 2005-06. The 6’4 209 lb. defenseman spent most of the season with the Florida Everblades, assisting on six goals and putting up 75 PIMs in 48 games. He also spent 12 games in the AHL with Rochester, posting two assists and 38 PIMS.

This Czech Republic native is the prototypical stay at home defenseman, as he has little trouble clearing the crease and has a taste for the rough stuff. His skating skills are good for his size, and his slap shot is strong enough to warrant some time on the power play. He needs to work on his puckhandling skills, as his ability to pass the puck has been questioned. His offense could use a good jolt as well, as he has yet to score a goal in 65 professional games. Having a role as more of a strong enforcer type, Tuma’s offensive production will never be great. He could benefit from increasing his plus/minus however, which was -5 in Florida last season.

20. (NR) Tanner Glass, LW, 265th Overall 2003, 5.5 C

The Panthers made 13 selections in the 2003 Draft, on the last of which this hard-working forward from Regina, Saskatchewan was chosen. Ninth round picks rarely turn many heads in the upper echelons of the NHL, however Glass has a chance. His stats saw a steady increase last year, when he scored a healthy 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 33 games as a junior at Dartmouth.

Glass in known as a very athletic and physical forward. His 6’0 196 lb. body is not afraid of punishment, nor handing it out. He will most certainly never be an all-star at the NHL level, however his strong work ethic, along with a strong final collegiate season, could land him a promising start to a professional career in 2007. He will be 23 in November.

Missing the Cut

Zach Bearson, RW, 224th Overall 2005, 6.0 D

Zach Bearson has spent the last three seasons with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL. He had a rather strong playoff performance in the 2003-04 campaign, his first in Waterloo, where he helped his team grab the Clark Cup Championship. He followed this performance with a doubling of offensive production in 2004-05, scoring 36 points in 51 games, however, remained steady last season with 34 points in 56 contests.

Bearson hails from Naperville, Indiana and checks in at 6’1 and 180 lbs. He can be a very physical player who can fight for loose pucks and has no problem driving the net. His skating skills are above average, and he is known for having a strong shot with a quick release. He also retains good leadership skills, as he was named captain for the Black Hawks last season.

The right wing was selected to the 2006 USA Hockey Junior Select Under-18 team last fall. He will start his collegiate career with the Wisconsin Badgers in 2006.

Andrew Abramson, Glen Erickson, Holly Gunning, Glen Jackson, Chris
Leary, Matt MacInnis, Jason Menard, Robert Neuhauser, DJ Powers, Michael
Simmons, Eric Vegoe and Marvin Miller contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.