The Panthers recalled defensemen Ian McCoshen and Mackenzie Weegar from the team’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, on Sunday.
The recalls come several days after head coach Tom Rowe told 560 WQAM that the team planned to give a couple of youngsters a shot to play in the NHL before the season ends.
“Talking to Dale [Tallon on Wednesday], we’re probably gonna bring a couple of young kids up from Springfield at some point in the next week when we get back off the road trip,” said Rowe.
“Dale and I will sit down and over a few possibilities and then start getting some guys in the lineup, see what they can do, and get ready for next year.”
The Panthers were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday following a 6-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Each team is allowed 4 regular recalls from after the trade deadline to the end of the season, and the Panthers were left with 3 after using one on Weegar a few weeks ago. That, however, was before the Panthers were eliminated from the playoffs, so never had a chance to suit up.
This time around, Weegar is expected to make his NHL debut, along with McCoshen – who earned his first NHL call-up – as the Panthers’ season mercifully winds down. The two blueliners played together for most of the season in the AHL and logged big minutes in all situations on the Thunderbirds’ top defensive pairing.
McCoshen, chosen with the first pick of the 2nd round at the 2013 Draft, is set to wrap up his first pro season after spending 3 seasons Boston College. His recall has been highly anticipated by fans and others keeping tabs on the Panthers’ prospect pipeline.
He’s managed an impressive +18 rating despite Springfield being a young, offensively inconsistent team in a top-heavy division. The mark is tied for 11th in the entire AHL and is the best among all rookie defensemen while his 4 goals and 12 assists in 65 games places him third on the team in scoring by defensemen.
“We really like him. We had him ranked a little higher in the draft and we just liked the size, his intensity, the passion and his ability to move,” said Tallon at the 2013 Draft. “He’s got good skills as well.”
“We just felt it was a good pick at 31. We had him ranked [in the] early 20s, so we felt that we had the big defenseman that we passed on with the second pick [Aleksander Barkov].”
McCoshen is two-way defender that quietly goes about his business. He can make a good first pass, let a shot rip from the point, and is capable of making plays offensively, but takes care of the defensive end first.
He puts his 6’3″, 218-pound frame to good use, whether it’s while trying to separate a player from the puck along the boards or patrolling the front of the net, two abilities which make him an enticing option on the Panthers’ new-look backend.
The 21-year old won’t blow by opposing players like his former – and now current – teammate and Boston College defensive partner Mike Matheson, but his skating ability is more than adequate when it comes to keeping up at the pro level and is not a detriment to his game.
McCoshen was recently named the Thunderbirds’ “Man of the Year” for his charitable contributions to the Springfield community over the course of the season and plans to graduate from Boston College in the summer with a degree in psychology.
The other recall, Mackenzie Weegar, was selected by the Panthers five rounds later in 2013 with the 206th overall pick. Known for his offensive abilities, Weegar leads the Thunderbirds’ defensemen in scoring with 13 goals, 19 assists, and 32 points in 57 games, all of which are career-highs.
Dale Tallon, the Panthers’ President of Hockey Operations, has raved about Weegar every chance he has gotten since the selection was made in 2013.
“He’s very creative, he’s really good with the puck, he sees the ice well, and has a lot of skill,” said Tallon back in 2014. “Overall, I’m really impressed with his ability to carry the puck, to dish it up and shoot it. This is a guy we saw a lot of potential in.”
Although he spent most of last season in a 3rd-pairing role, he has blossomed into a top-pairing defender that has logged big minutes in all situations this season while also serving as an assistant captain.
A native of Nepean, a city just outside of Ottawa, Weegar was the lone representative of the Thunderbirds at this year’s AHL All-Star Game where he went on to record a goal and 2 assists while also participating in the Skills Competition.
Weegar was named the first star after recording 3 points – a goal and 2 assists – in a 3-goal first period for the Thunderbirds on Saturday en route to a 3-2 victory over the Providence Bruins. It was the first 3-point performance of his pro career.
The 23-year old will become a restricted free-agent at the end of the season, although Assistant GM Eric Joyce has already said that the team fully intends to tender him a contract.
McCoshen is expected to wear number 12 and Weegar will wear number 52. They could make their NHL debuts as soon as Monday when the Panthers kick off the final home stand of the season – a 3-game set – against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.