Per sources, the Panthers have signed defenseman Thomas Schemitsch to an entry-level contract, allowing him to turn pro after being drafted by the team back in the 3rd round of the 2015 Draft.
The 19-year old was the lone junior player left on the Panthers’ training camp roster, and with the others having been sent back last week, it became clear that the team was considering signing him to a contract. Because Schemitsch turns 20 in a matter of weeks – before December 31st – he is eligible to play in the AHL – or the ECHL – and forgo his 4th season in the OHL. Schemitsch has played the last 3 seasons with the Owen Sound Attack and was serving as the team’s assistant captain since the start of last year.
In 182 career games in the OHL, Schemitsch recorded 29 goals and 68 assists while impressing scouts with his smooth skating ability, on-ice awareness and offensive instincts. It’s unclear where exactly the Ontario-native will play next year, especially considering the Thunderbirds of the AHL are fairly defense-heavy as it stands right now. If he doesn’t make it there, he’ll head to the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL, like Josh Brown did last season.
Schemitsch is expected to be sent to the Thunderbirds camp soon, and that means there will only be 2 more cuts to be made by the Panthers before their Opening Night roster is finalized. Still remaining on the roster are Denis Malgin, Greg McKegg, Shane Harper, Paul Thompson, and Ian McCoshen, although Malgin is very likely to make the team with Nick Bjugstad out for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. Although McCoshen has apparently looked very good during the preseason, the Panthers may be content with allowing him to develop in the AHL and moving forward with Steven Kampfer as the 7th defenseman.
After that, one of the 3 forwards will be the final roster cut, and that won’t be the easiest decision to make as they’ve all played exceptionally well during the preseason. Paul Thompson has 2 goals while Greg McKegg has 1 goal and earned praise for being trusted by head coach Gerard Gallant. Harper has been all over the ice over the past couple of weeks and was paired with Jussi Jokinen as the starting line in overtime on Tuesday against the Stars before standing up Jamie Benn 1-on-1 during the extra session.
The Panthers will travel to West Point on Friday ahead of their final preseason game there on Saturday against the Devils at 7:30pm. The final roster cuts are expected to made official not too long after tomorrow’s game, so stay tuned for those.