A good rule of thumb is to wait five years before evaluating an NHL draft class. This gives players a fair amount of time to develop past “prospect” status, allowing fans or pundits to more effectively evaluate how well the team drafted in a certain year. With five years having passed since the 2010 NHL Draft, we are now able to take a closer look at the Panthers’ draftees and compare their projections to what they’ve become thus far in their careers.
The 2010 NHL Entry Draft was held at the Staples Center, the home of the Los Angeles Kings, and lasted from June 25th, 2010 to June 26th. This was Dale Tallon’s first draft as General Manager of the Florida Panthers after being hired to replace Randy Sexton just over a month prior to it on May 17th. The Panthers owned the 3rd overall pick after finishing third to last in the NHL standings at the end of the 2009-2010 season and due to all teams retaining their draft positions at the draft lottery. Several days prior to the draft, the Panthers acquired the 15th overall pick in addition to Dennis Seidenberg and a 2011 third-round pick (which would be used to select Kyle Rau) in exchange for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.
On draft day, the Panthers then sent the 15th pick to Los Angeles in exchange for the 19th pick and a second-rounder, and then sent defenseman Keith Ballard and prospect Victor Oreskovich to the Canucks for the 25th overall pick, giving the Panthers a total of three in the first round. In the second round, the Panthers traded their pick to the Wild in exchange for a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick. Overall, the Panthers made 13 selections with 3 coming in round one, 3 in round two, 1 in round three, 3 in round four, and 1 pick in the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds.
Below, you’ll find the players drafted by the Panthers in 2010 in order of their selection:
Selected: Round 1, 3rd overall
Team: Kingston Frontenacs, OHL
Draft-year stats: 41 GP, 2 goals, 21 assists, 23 points
Erik Gudbranson was ranked as the number 4 North American skater in the 2010 Draft by Central Scouting and was a consensus top 6 or 7 pick, although he was not expected to go before Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. While in juniors, Gudbranson played a physical, shutdown defensive game which resulted in more penalty minutes than offense. At the time of the draft, Gudbranson was being compared to the likes of Dion Phaneuf and Chris Pronger, and although a comparison to the latter might’ve been a bit lofty then (and even now), he definitely has a similar play-style, one that can be described as mean, tough, and old-school.
“Gudbranson to me is a guaranteed long-term NHLer. In my opinion, Gudbranson is another Chris Pronger-type, what he brings that (Pronger) really didn’t do much of, though, is he’ll fight. He is some kind of tough. Chris Pronger is mean and will hit you; Gudbranson will hit you and fight you. Pronger is three inches taller than Gudbranson, so maybe Dion Phaneuf would be an even better comparison.” – Director of NHL Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire
So, when looking back after five years, the prediction of Gudbranson being a “long-term NHLer” has proven to be true thus far and looks to be the case for at least the foreseeable future. Gudbranson, to this point, hasn’t shown much of an offensive side, and likely won’t considering the fact that he’s more of a defensive defenseman, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Out of seven total defenseman drafted in the 1st round, Cam Fowler and Erik Gudbranson are the only two that have played in more than 70 NHL games, and although the Panthers likely thought about selecting Fowler, it’d be difficult to compare the two considering they have two completely different styles of play. Gudbranson has played in 245 NHL games, just 55 games below the 300-mark which Dale Tallon says is the point at which defensemen fully develop their game, and it was clear that he took a step this past season by starting to become more consistent defensively. Gudbranson doesn’t typically play against the top lines of other teams which is something that is characteristic of shutdown players, however this is a responsibility that could be put upon him as he matures and develops.
When he was drafted, his ceiling was close to being a top-pair defenseman, but with where he is right now in his development and career, he’ll certainly be a solid second- or third-pair defenseman. When looking back at the guys who were drafted after Gudbranson, one would find Jeff Skinner, Ryan Johansen, and Vladimir Tarasenko, among others, but of course, hindsight is always 20/20.
Overall, the pick was not a bad one at all (and was a safe one) in 2010 and still is to this day. Gudbranson will continue to develop over the next few seasons and has already become a mainstay on the Panthers’ blueline.
Selected: Round 1, 19th overall
Team: Blaine High School, USHS
Draft-year stats: 25 GP, 29 goals, 31 assists, 60 points
Nick Bjugstad was ranked as the number 13 North American skater in the 2010 Draft and rightfully so. He was the top high school player in the draft and was awarded Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award as the most outstanding high school hockey player in Minnesota. He was thought to have all of the right attributes to be a top-10 pick in the draft, but scouts were unsure of how he would perform against tougher competition, seeing as he has played almost all of his hockey in high school. Scouts raved over his size, puck skills, shot, and work ethic and were in agreement that all would translate to the NHL in some capacity, but saw him as more of a projection when he was selected than anything else and because of this was very raw compared to other top-ranked players in the draft.
“He’s further along and more polished than (Boston’s Blake) Wheeler. He’s also a better skater than David Backes was at the same age (17). The only difference is Backes was thicker, but the ingredients are there. He wants the puck and wants to make plays. He’s a blue-collar type kid who works his tail off.” – Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting
Through two nearly full seasons in the NHL, Bjugstad has been impressive, putting up 16 goals in his rookie season, and 24 this past year. Though inconsistent at times, his offensive production has been notable considering he made the jump from college (after forgoing his senior year) to the NHL without any seasoning in the AHL. After seeing Bjugstad snipe the puck top-shelf on Anders Lindback for his first NHL goal, it became immediately clear that he would have some sort of offensive impact on the team for a long time to come. While it’s hard to say how Bjugstad has fared in comparison to his pre-draft projections considering scouts weren’t really sure where he’d fit in a lineup, it’s safe to say he’s made more of an impact than most thought he would this early on in his career / development. When looking at where he has fit in from the Panthers’ point of view, he’d certainly be the first-line center were it not for selecting Aleksander Barkov with the 2nd pick in the 2013 Draft, so that says a lot about both Bjugstad and the skill and talent the Panthers have up the middle.
Overall, the Panthers seemingly hit a home run by selecting Bjugstad, especially considering there were some question marks surrounding him. He’s shown thus far that he can produce and have an impact in the NHL ,and he’s undoubtedly a huge part of the Panthers’ present and future, especially after signing a long-term deal at the end of 2014. Considering he’s only played in two NHL seasons, the expectation is that Bjugstad will become more and more dominant as time goes on, further strengthening the core of the Panthers’ lineup.
Selected: Round 1, 25th overall
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL
Draft-year stats: 65 GP, 28 goals, 37 assists, 65 points
Quinton Howden was ranked as the number 19 North American skater in the 2010 draft. Howden already knew how it felt being a potential first-round draft pick after going first overall to the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft. The main attribute of Howden that scouts raved about was his skating ability, and he was said to be one of the fastest skaters in the 2010 Draft. TSN analyst Bob McKenzie said that Howden likely projects to be a 3rd-line checking forward while others argued that he could potentially develop into a top-6 scoring winger. His rookie season in the WHL wasn’t very good, but he worked on his defense and improved both his point total and plus/minus rating in the seasons that followed, breaking a point-per-game pace in his 3rd and 4th seasons with the Warriors.
“Of all the players in this year’s draft, Quinton Howden’s game might best suited to the pro game. He’s a fast skater, a big kid, and drives to the net with a vengeance.” – Director of NHL Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire
“His skating is so good for his size. His threat is his speed, not only to score goals, but to cause turnovers. He’s excellent on the penalty kill, always a threat out there. If he gets a step on anybody he’s gone.” – Peter Sullivan, NHL Central Scouting
Currently, Howden is on the brink of becoming an NHL forward. He’s played two-and-a-half seasons in the AHL totaling 75 points in 149 games. Last season, he played just 33 games after being sidelined with injuries on two separate occasions. Although he hasn’t lit up the AHL, he’s fulfilled a bottom-6 role admirably with the Panthers’ affiliate, and it’s expected that he’ll infuse the main roster with speed and energy as he’s already done in his 36 NHL games. He hasn’t played in the NHL since the final game of the 2013-14 season, but with a good training camp, he’ll likely have a spot on the fourth line. While he has the ability to score goals, his presence will be felt more often on the penalty kill and possibly even during 3-on-3 overtime where speed will be a huge factor.
Overall, while the projections of Howden becoming a top-6 forward may not have been lofty at the time of the draft, it’s probably safe to say they are now. However, this does not mean that picking Howden (at 25th overall or in general) was a terrible thing to do, because as we’ve seen with teams like the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings, non-scoring lines are just as important as the top-6. Dale Tallon has been looking to make the team faster, and Howden has the chance to join fellow speedsters Derek MacKenzie (who will also be on the 4th-line) and Rocco Grimaldi to help that cause. Howden recently signed a one-year, two-way deal to remain with the Panthers through the 2015-16 season.
Selected: Round 2, 33rd overall
Team: Sudbury Wolves, OHL
Draft-year stats: 64 GP, 20 goals, 30 assists, 50 points
John McFarland was ranked as the number 15 North American skater by Central Scouting for the 2010 Draft, and was even ranked as high as 10 by the service in their midterm rankings. As the first overall pick of Sudbury Wolves at the 2008 OHL Draft, and as a player who applied for Exceptional Status entry into the OHL at the age of 15, the expectations were high for the Ontario-native. He was coming off a season in Minor Midget AAA where he tallied 165 points in 76 games with the Toronto Junior Canadiens, a team which included Tyler Seguin, Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Skinner, and recently-signed Chase Balisy. McFarland would tally 52 points in 58 games during his first season in the OHL, but as time went on, he wasn’t able to fully live up to the hype that surrounded him, and many scouts saw him as a boom-or-bust type player that had a high reward. At the same time, some wondered if he would be able to put everything together in order to reach his potential. Scouts also said that McFarland, along with Howden, were two of the fastest skaters in the draft.
“Excellent skater with high-end speed and agility and maybe overall, a high skill player. A great wrist shot, he plays with an edge. He’ll fight, not often, but when he does it shows his meanness. Who can we compare him to? A Brenden Morrow perhaps, who was drafted by Dallas and is still a contributing captain-member.” – Director of NHL Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire
The 2015-16 season will be McFarland’s fourth in the AHL and he’s produced just 57 points through 134 total games. By just looking at his stats, it seems he’s not as effective against tougher competition which might explain his high point total when he was in Minor Midget AAA and his 38 points in 43 career ECHL games (one level below the AHL, 2 below the NHL). A majority of players drafted outside of the first round (and even the first half of the first round) are tough to project, but it is somewhat easy to see why the Panthers chose McFarland in the second round. He was expected by many to be selected in the first round and had the look of an potential impact player. While McFarland is only 23 and still has time to put things together, his point production hasn’t changed much at all; in his three AHL seasons, he’s averaged about 45 games played and has gone over 20 points once. He was recently signed to a one-year, two-way deal, but that’s likely the result of Tallon wanting to build a winner in the AHL so the developing Panthers’ prospects are able to experience a pro winning atmosphere. McFarland will, for at least the foreseeable future, remain a bottom-6, depth AHLer.
Selected: Round 2, 36th overall
Team: Red Deer Rebels, WHL
Draft-year stats: 57 GP, 20 goals, 30 assists, 27 points
Alex Petrovic was ranked as the number 29 North American skater in the draft and both the eighth-highest ranked North American defenseman and eight-highest ranked WHL skater. With Petrovic, scouts talked about the same attributes as they did with Erik Gudbranson, and that’s largely because they’re very similar in their style of play. Despite seeing his offensive production double from 13 points in his his rookie season in the WHL to his 27-point draft-year as a sophomore, observers of Petrovic weren’t convinced that his offense would translate much to the NHL. He was mostly regarded as a defensive defenseman and put up lots of penalty minutes (440) during his four seasons in the WHL making it abundantly clear that he played a tough, physical game and would not hesitate to stand up for his teammates.
“I like him; he’s going to be good. I like his on-ice attitude; he’s got a bit of an edge to him. He uses his size. He also looks to be a take-charge guy. Every time I saw Red Deer, I’m looking at the 1991s (birth year), but he jumped out every game.” – B.J. MacDonald, NHL Central Scouting
After being drafted, Petrovic took a very steady developmental path and one that you’d hope all of your players who aren’t immediately NHL-ready would take. Petrovic headed back to the Rebels for the 2010-11 season and more than doubled his point production from 27 to 57 while playing in just 12 more games than the season before. He returned the year after to play his fourth and final season of juniors and maintained roughly the same production and high amount of penalty minutes. He played with the Rampage in the AHL during the 2012-13 season as well as the 2013-14 season and was called up to the Panthers for a handful of games during both seasons, but didn’t really prove his worth until he was called up as the midway point this past season to replace the faltering Dylan Olsen. He played 33 games for the Panthers this season and you’d be hard-pressed to find a game in which he looked out of place. There’s no doubt he has some developing to do, and unlike Gudbranson, he still has quite a ways to go before he reaches the 300-game mark, but he’s definitely a serviceable defenseman right now.
Based off of how Petrovic has developed over the past several years and how he looked in in his most recent stint with the Panthers, it’s safe to say Tallon and the scouting staff made a good pick. Like Gudbranson, Petrovic probably won’t be a top-pairing defenseman, but those aren’t easy to find outside of the first round. A middle-pairing defenseman is a good bet for Petrovic, but he could even be a very good defender on the bottom-pair depending on how guys like Matheson, McCoshen, and Schemitsch turn out in the years to come.
Selected: Round 2, 50th overall
Team: Des Moines Buccaneers, USHL
Draft-year stats: 52 GP, 22 goals, 21 assists, 43 points
Connor Brickley was ranked as the number 58 North American skater in the draft, and he became the Panthers’ third pick in the second round. Brickley was and still is known for his hard-nosed, power forward style of play, and on draft day, Tallon pointed out how Brickley had checked Erik Gudbranson hard during the U18 Worlds Championships, stating how that impressed the management team. In his draft year, he led the Des Moines Buccaneers in goals with 22 and was fifth on the team in assists before joining the University of Vermont for four seasons. It was thought that Brickley had a ceiling of a second-line forward, although a bottom-6 two-way forward was likely.
“Connor’s highly motivated, never takes a shift off and is combative. I’d be surprised if he’s not taken by the third round. Everybody on our staff has seen this kid and they all like him.” – Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting
Connor Brickley wasn’t a prolific point producer in college having put up just 48 points in 117 games. However, in his first full season with the Rampage after signing an entry-level contract with the Panthers, he exceeded expectations, tallying 47 points in 73 games. He ended up tied for second in goals among rookies with 22 and 6th in total points among rookies. On the Rampage, he was second in points behind Bobble Butler, and overall, he has proved (thus far) that he can produce against professional competition which is certainly up a notch from college hockey. Brickley will likely need another season or two before he’ll truly compete for roster spot with the Panthers, especially since guys like Howden and Grimaldi are expected to compete this year with only a couple spots available. So far, this pick would be in between “bust” and “success” considering we’re still waiting for Brickley to pan out, and it’s certainly likely that he could eventually vie for a spot on the third or fourth line.
Selected: Round 3, 69th overall
Team: Shattuck-St. Mary’s, USHS
Draft-year stats: 52 GP, 24 goals, 22 assists, 46 points
Joe Basaraba was ranked as the number 54 North American skater by Central Scouting and was drafted out of Shattuck-St. Mary’s Midget Prep, the same school that produced the likes of Sidney Crosby, Derek Stepan, Jonathan Toews, Kyle Okposo, and Zach Parise. Despite having back-to-back seasons where he produced at nearly a point-per-game pace, he was unable to rekindle that same scoring touch at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, producing just 56 points in 148 games. Following his senior year, he went to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL to finish off their season and help out in the playoffs. Scouting reports on Basaraba are few and far between and probably because nothing really ever stood out about him except for his frame.
Prior to the 2014-15 season, the Panthers invited Basaraba to training camp on a try-out basis after not being offered a new contract, but was then released and subsequently invited to the Rampage’s training camp. After being released yet again, he was reassigned to the Cyclones in October of 2014 and was recalled to the Rampage a month later, putting up just 1 point in 22 games. Two months later in January, Basaraba returned to the Cyclones and finished the season with an admirable 26 points in 39 games. Basaraba almost certainly doesn’t have a future in the NHL, although a career in the AHL could be possible in some capacity. From the perspective of the Panthers, Basaraba is both no longer under contract with the team and can be considered a bust.
Selected: Round 4, 92nd overall
Team: Canmore Eagles, AJHL
Draft-year stats: 52 GP, 3.27 GAA, .897 SV%
Sam Brittain entered the draft as the number 8 ranked North American goaltender and was praised for his size, athleticism, and net coverage when he was drafted by the Panthers and was seen as being a possible starting goaltender in the future. In his draft year, he played the most games (52) of any other goaltender in the AJHL and had the 14th best goals against average in the league.
“He’s a lot like J-S Giguere. He moves just like him, he plays just like him. He has a blocking style. He’s not a flashy guy. His athleticism is average but his net coverage is exceptional. He’s a big kid who likes to slide, using that butterfly technique. He’s always square to the puck, great angles, calm, relaxed and in control. Doesn’t that sound like Giguere? He’s got a good future because that’s what it’s all about: If you’ve got the size and can cover the holes, that’s a big advantage right there — and he’s got great rebound control.” – Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting
After being drafted, Brittain played for the University of Denver and played in 33 games while compiling an impressive 2.28 GAA and .921 save percentage as a freshman. In the off-season, he had knee surgery and didn’t return to the Pioneers until January of his sophomore season at which point he finished off the season with an 8-4 record in 12 starts. In his junior year, Brittain had issues remaining consistent and ultimately lost the starting job to goaltender Jussi Olkinuora, only to gain it back in his senior year during which he posted a 19-14-6 record with 5 shutouts, a 2.22 GAA, and a .929 save percentage, earning him the NCAA Goaltender of the Year Award.
Last July, Brittain signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Panthers and reassigned to the Rampage and then the Cyclones of the ECHL before the start of the season. After the Panthers recalled Dan Ellis in late November, Brittain was subsequently recalled to the Rampage and made no starts before being returned to the Cyclones less than a week later. In a strange sequence of events, Both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured in a March game against the Maple Leafs, leading to the call-ups of both Brittain and Dan Ellis. While Brittain didn’t play an NHL game, his play was impressive after being sent back to the Rampage where he played in 7 games, earning a 1.76 GAA and .943 save percentage to finish off the season.
Brittain still has developing to do and although his sample size of pro games is small, his stat line and performance, particularly near the end of last season, give fans and the organization hope for a home-grown goaltender with starter potential. The future for him is still shady, however, and it wouldn’t be right to pencil him in as an NHL starter just yet as the upcoming season will be pivotal in determining where he is headed.
Selected: Round 4, 93rd overall
Team: Camrose Kodiaks, AJHL
Draft-year stats: 34 GP, 3 goals, 19 assists, 22 points
Ben Gallacher was not ranked on Central Scoutings final draft rankings list, but was noted as a “C” player on their “Players to Watch” list released during October of 2009, meaning he was “a potential late round selection” in the draft. Despite being slightly undersized compared to most defensemen at 5’11”, Gallacher was described as being a gritty, two-way defenseman according to Hockey’s Future. He was as close to an unknown you can get without being truly unknown, so the scouting reports on him are not very abundant.
After being drafted, he strangely returned to the AJHL, a lower level junior league, for one more season before going to Ohio State University for one season where he put up 12 points in 24 games. He then went to the USHL for one season before returning to the NCAA to play for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst where he put up subpar numbers. The Panthers have since lost negotiating rights with him and is currently free to sign with any team, although there’s not much about him that’s very intriguing unless a team is looking for a depth defenseman. So, this makes Gallacher a bust in the eyes of the Panthers.
Selected: Round 4, 99rd overall
Team: Kärpät U20, Liiga
Draft-year stats: 18 GP, 14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points
Joonas Donskoi was ranked as the number 14 European skater by Central Scouting and was said to be a solid two-way forward with good speed and puck skills. In his draft year, he played primarily for the junior team of Kärpät in the Finnish Elite League, a highly-regarded men’s league in Europe. Although scouts were fine with the fact that he could dominate at the junior level, they expected more out of him at the pro level, a place where he did not fare well and saw low ice-time. He played 52 games in each of the two seasons following his draft year and posted 27 points and 25 points respectively but failed to sign a contract with the Panthers.
He became an unrestricted free agent after not being selected in the 2012 Draft. After producing 49 points in 58 games during the 2014-15 season with Kärpät and 37 points in 60 games the year before, Donskoi signed an entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks. Prior to that, Donskoi played on a line with current Panthers Aleksander Barkov and Jussi Jokinen for Team Finland at the World Championships in early May. For the Panthers, Joonas Donskoi can be declared a bust, however it still remains to be seen how he’ll perform in the NHL now that he’s signed to a contract.
Selected: Round 5, 123rd overall
Team: Hamilton Red Wings, OJHL
Draft-year stats: 49 GP, 35 goals, 40 assists, 75 points
Zach Hyman had a midterm ranking of 175 by Central Scouting, but was without a rank in the service’s final list released just prior to the draft. Hyman was a high-flying forward who produced offensively with ease as evidenced by his 75 points in 49 games during his draft year in the OJHL and then a whopping 102 points in 43 games the year after. But make no mistake, the OJHL is is a step below – and certainly not of – a CHL league which is meant for the development of players in and around their draft year, but rather a league to prepare players for taking the next step which would be the CHL or NCAA. So, in other words, Hyman was playing and excelling against somewhat inferior competition.
The first three years Hyman spent at the University of Michigan were very poor and underwhelming in terms of his offensive output (considering his Junior A performances) as he produced just 35 points in 114 games. Hyman broke out for 54 points in 37 games in his senior year after being put on a line with 2014 first-round pick Dylan Larkin who is widely known to possess high-end playmaking abilities. At the end of the season, word got out that Hyman would not be signing with the Panthers and instead test free agency when the August 16th deadline arrived as a result of not being assured an NHL roster spot. The Panthers, however, wished to get something for Hyman rather than let him walk for nothing and traded him to the Leafs on June 19th for forward Greg McKegg.
While the Panthers may not have seen Hyman as a bust, they were not about to hand him a roster spot which he hadn’t really proven himself for (despite one good college season) nor did they want him leapfrogging other prospects who were ready to come up like Rocco Grimaldi and others. The jury is still out on whether or not Hyman has a future in professional hockey, and the first step towards answering that question will be taken when he makes his pro debut this coming season in some capacity for the Leafs.
Selected: Round 6, 153rd overall
Team: Kingston Frontenacs, OHL
Draft-year stats: 66 GP, 15 goals, 11 assists, 26 points
Ranked 163rd by Central Scouting Corey Durocher played for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL in his draft year as well the year after before being traded to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. After playing a season with the Greyhounds, Durocher moved on to a Junior A league in Canada to play for the Gloucester Rangers, a team he played for prior to joining the Frontenacs. After not offering him a contract, the Panthers lost negotiating rights with him in 2012, and he’s currently playing playing college hockey in Canada for Carleton University. Durocher never really had much business being around a professional team having never even tested the professional waters, thereby making him a bust.
Selected: Round 7, 183rd overall
Team: Cushing Academy, USHS
Draft-year stats: Unknown GP, 4 goals, 18 assists, 22 points
R.J. Boyd is a Lake Worth, Florida-native and were it not for one-time Panther Andrew Yogan being drafted in the fourth-round by the Rangers, Boyd would’ve been the first player drafted into the NHL that was both born and raised in Florida. Like Durocher, Boyd didn’t have much business being around a professional team, although he did so just once after a college career with Michigan State when he signed a contract with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL where he recorded no points in 3 games this past season. The defenseman has lost negotiating rights with the Panthers and is undoubtedly considered a bust.