The Panthers announced this week that they’ve signed Derek MacKenzie to a 2-year contract extension that carries an average annual value of $1.3 million. The team also revealed the 41 players that will be attending development camp which begins on Monday at the Ice Den in Coral Springs.
MacKenzie becomes the fourth Panther to receive a contract extension in just the past couple of weeks, and for the most part, it’s fairly cheap so it doesn’t affect the team’s cap too much. Many have argued that the Panthers shouldn’t have extended MacKenzie, who still has the upcoming season left on his previous contract before the new one kicks in, due to his age, abilities and the fact that he’s blocking younger players from stepping into the lineup.
In an interview at the end of May with Today’s Slapshot, Assistant GM Eric Joyce stated that when deciding whether or not to sign or acquire a player, the 3 main characteristics the Panthers look for are skating, hockey IQ, and compete. Game in and game out, MacKenzie is easily the hardest-working player on the ice for the Panthers and is one of the team’s fastest skaters. Now he doesn’t have the highest hockey IQ on the team – that would probably go to someone like Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, or Jussi Jokinen – but he’s capable of being an effective 4th-liner.
While he’s not a driver of possession, he is very good at suppressing shots, and among all players with at least 500 minutes of ice time, he ranked 33rd in the entire league last season with a Corsi Against per 60 rate of 47.05. That’s not to say that there aren’t better options out there, because there probably are, but the point is he serves as a solid veteran presence while also doing a pretty solid job on the Panthers’ penalty kill. Considering the organization doesn’t exactly have anyone who projects to be a bottom-6 shutdown center other than Juho Lammikko – who still has some time left before he competes for an NHL job – keeping MacKenzie in the fold isn’t a huge issue.
With the Panthers bolstering their top-9 forward positions and entire blue-line with some more offensive options, MacKenzie and whoever he plays with likely won’t see more than 10-13 minutes a night. I think there’d be some more concern regarding MacKenzie signing an extension if the top-9 wasn’t capable of scoring on a consistent basis, but we know that’s not really the case.
In other news, the Panthers released their roster for the 2016 development camp which kicks off this Monday and runs through Friday over at the Panthers’ Ice Den practice facility in Coral Springs. Just by looking at the roster, it’s pretty obvious this is the most skilled group the team has been able to assemble for the camp in all of their years running it.
This year’s roster, more-so than previous years, has a good amount of non-roster invites (15 in total), meaning players who went undrafted and are looking to earn a contract. One of them is Maxim Lazarev, a winger who played with 2015 1st-round draft pick Evgeny Svechnikov and 2016 1st-rounder Pierre-Luc Dubois over the past few seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. Lazarev is a highly-skilled forward who put up 30 goals and 45 assists in 52 games for Cape Breton last season and attended the Hurricanes’ development camp this past week.
Another invite is defenseman Otso Rantakari who played in both the SHL and Liiga this year, the top men’s leagues in Sweden and Finland respectively. In his first Liiga season, the 23-year old was a plus possession player (53% Corsi For) while playing an average of 20 minutes a night for the Blues, the worst team in the entire league of 15. Jack Ahcan, who finished 2nd in scoring by defensemen in the USHL last season with 44 points and 1st in goals by defensemen with 14 in 56 games, will also attend the week-long development camp.
Of course, in addition to all of the invites, we’ll also be able to see the organization’s highly-touted prospects which includes Jayce Hawryluk, Dryden Hunt, Lawson Crouse, Henrik Borgstrom, Ian McCoshen, Adam Mascherin, Jared McCann, and Linus Hultstrom, among others. In net, we’ll see Samuel Montembeault, whose participation was limited last year due to equipment issues, as well as Colin Stevens, Ryan Bednard – who was drafted in the 7th-round of the 2015 Draft – and Evan Cowley.
Here’s a link to the development camp schedule which includes another link to the full roster.
We’ve done in depth articles on several of the Panthers’ top prospects, and you can check them all out by clicking any of the links below: