The Panthers announced on Friday that they’ve signed 2014 3rd-round pick Juho Lammikko to an entry-level contract. Lammikko has spent the past two seasons playing for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL alongside fellow Panthers prospect Lawson Crouse.
The 20-year old native of Finland tallied a career-high 55 points in 59 games this season for the Frontenacs after recording 44 points in 64 games in his rookie campaign. He played primarily on the 2nd line and as one of the team’s top penalty killers.
The Panthers sent Lammikko and Crouse to the team’s AHL affiliate Portland Pirates on Friday where they’ll play for the remainder of the season. Since Crouse doesn’t turn 20 until June and has just 2 seasons in the OHL, he’ll have to either return to the Frontenacs next season or join the Panthers’ NHL roster, whereas Lammikko can play for the Pirates next season since he’s already 20 years old. Because Crouse’s junior season is over, he’s eligible to sign an ATO an play for the Pirates for the remainder of the season. Crouse recorded a career-high 62 points in 49 games this season for Kingston.
The two played in their first professional games on Saturday night alongside recently-signed University of Michigan standout Michael Downing. The Portland Pirates played their second-to-last game of the regular season so most of the team’s regulars sat out to rest up for the AHL Playoffs which begin this coming week. We were able to watch the game and have some thoughts on the trio in their first AHL games…
Lawson Crouse was pretty good on Portland’s 3rd line where he played with Lammikko. He didn’t create a ton of offense, but he was certainly engaged in all 3 zones on every shift. He had a couple chances, one of which missed the net on the power play at the side of the crease, he was somewhat physical which is typical of him, and threw the body several times. Crouse wasn’t out of place at all but it’s likely he needs to adjust to the speed of the game before he starts producing on his own a bit.
Compared to Crouse, Lammikko was decent, probably a tick behind him overall. He was good on the forecheck and didn’t really create much offensively, but he made a nice play early on to force a turnover and steal the puck inside the offensive zone blue line. In general, he didn’t stand out much, but not in a bad way.
Michael Downing was OK. He was a penalty for an elbow to the head, which you can watch below, and he sometimes got caught deep in the offensive zone. His positioning was fine overall, but he has some things to clean up. His foot speed is pretty decent as evidenced by a play where he was caught deep and ended up getting back to negate a 2-on-1. Remember, however, that he’s only 20 and this was his first pro game. We can only assume he’ll get better with time.
Rocco Reassigned, Shaw Recalled
On Saturday, the Panthers announced that they reassigned Rocco Grimaldi to the Portland Pirates and recalled Logan Shaw. During his most recent stint with the Panthers, Grimaldi recorded 2 goals and 1 assist in 8 games, including 2 in the playoffs. He took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to mourn the passing of his grandfather, so it’s unclear if he was reassigned to allow for him to take some personal time off or not. Grimaldi played just 33 seconds in the 3rd period on Friday night for the Panthers.
With Vincent Trocheck reportedly set to skate briefly on Sunday for the first time since suffering a fractured fibula on March 29th against the Maple Leafs, the Shaw recall could be related to a return being close for the injured center. Since being sent down by the Panthers at the beginning of April, Shaw has 4 goals in 6 games and was on an 8-game point streak before being held without one on Friday night. He’s played primarily on the 3rd and 4th line for the Panthers, so it’ll be interesting to see how the lines are put together, especially with McKegg and Howden being scratched for the first 2 games of the playoffs.