The Panthers hosted this year’s rookie tournament at their practice facility in Sunrise, Florida, and they showed each of their opponents whose house it was by sweeping the 3-game schedule with a little help from prospect Denis Malgin.
In addition to the Panthers, this year’s tournament featured the Nasvhille Predators, Washington Capitals, and Tampa Bay Lightning and each team played 3 games a piece. The Panthers 24-man roster featured most of the organization’s top prospects, including Ian McCoshen, Jayce Hawryluk, Sam Montembeault, Dryden Hunt, and Linus Hultstrom.
Oh yeah, and 19-year old Denis Malgin, who led the tournament in scoring with 6 goals. His 2-goal performance in game 1, hat-trick in game 2, and game-winner in the finale helped lead the Panthers to a 3-0 record against some incredibly skilled opponents.
“It’s been nice, but it’s a team effort,” said Malgin after his 3-goal performance during Sunday night’s 5-2 victory. “I think I had a little bit of lucky, but that’s hockey.”
Malgin has spent the past two seasons playing against grown men in Switzerland’s top professional league, National League A, where he’s tallied 25 points in 61 games. These past 3 games were Malgin’s first on the smaller North American ice, and he doesn’t appear to be phased by the transition at all.
“The rink is smaller but I’m getting better, better, and better I think every day,” said Malgin. “Five goals in 2 games…it’s nice, huh?”
When the Panthers selected Malgin in 2015, they felt right away that he’d be one of the steals of the draft because of his skills and smarts. The coaching staff and his teammates came away impressed with his ability to play strong in all three zones.
“He’s a great player,” said linemate Kyle Rau after a 3-2 victory on Tuesday afternoon. “Every time he has the puck, something exciting seemed to happen.”
“I knew he had a lot of skill, I didn’t know that he had a 200-foot game, and compete was off the charts, ” said Geordie Kinnear, the head coach of the Panthers’ AHL affiliate Springfield Thunderbirds.
Also impressive was Juho Lammikko, who is expected to begin his first pro season in October. The 6’2″, 207-pound center plays an exceptional defensive game while also possessing the skill and smarts to contribute offensively, which he showed by scoring twice in the tournament.
“Smart, hard-working, competitive, 2-way,” said Kinnear. “He’s been one of the guys that really competes, blocks shots, kind of that playoff desperation. He’s got great size.”
Linus Hultstrom also made his debut in a Panthers jersey after signing a contract as a free-agent out of the SHL in May. The smooth-skating defenseman was playing on North American ice for the first time in his career, so it was clear that he needed to adjust to the speed of the game and the overall decrease in space and room to maneuver in each of the 3 zones.
Another player looking to possibly secure a roster spot with the Panthers this season is Ian McCoshen, one of the organization’s higher-ranked defensive prospects who signed his entry-level deal in July after graduating from college.
“I feel like my game is tailored towards that, the more physical side of the game,” said McCoshen when asked if he could potentially replace what the Panthers lost in trading away Erik Gudbranson. “I’m a defenseman first and then contribute offensively when needed.”
McCoshen and others around the team sung praises of Samuel Montembeault who’s regarded as the organization’s top goaltending prospect. The 19-year old goaltender out of the QMJHL stopped all 8 shots he faced in a period and a half of work in game 1 before making 31 shots on 33 saves in Tuesday’s victory over the Lightning.
“He was fabulous,” said McCoshen. “In the first game that he split, he was really good too, and then today he really held his own and kept us in the game there.”
“I thought he was very poised and very good in the net,” said Kinnear after the Panthers’ 6-3 win on Saturday.
In game 2 against the Capitals, forward prospect Jayce Hawryluk suffered a broken right hand after a fight with Jakub Vrana at the end of the 2nd period. Hawryluk will undergo surgery on Wednesday, and although it’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined for, it’s probably safe to assume that he’ll miss most, if not all, of training camp and the preseason.
The Panthers’ main training camp opens on Thursday, September 22nd and the team will open the preseason with a doubleheader next Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.
Ekblad To Return Home
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad will return home to south Florida after suffering an injury as a result of a high hit by Leo Komarov in Sunday’s World Cup of Hockey game against Team Finland. Multiple outlets were reporting that the 20-year old had sustained a mild concussion, but Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger of TSN said today that he had a stiff neck and would be returning to Florida as a precaution and to be evaluated further.