The Panthers announced on Thursday that they’ve signed forwards Henrik Haapala and Maxim Mamin to entry-level contracts.
“We are excited to sign two talented young forward prospects in Henrik and Maxim,” said Dale Tallon, the Panthers’ General Manager. “Both players have spent the last few seasons playing in the elite leagues in their home countries and have excelled.”
Maxim Mamin, a 6th-round draft pick by the Panthers in 2016, recently completed his third season in the KHL where he played for CSKA Moskva. The 22-year old winger set career-highs in each offensive category, tallying 12 goals and 13 assists in 42 games while often skating in a bottom-6 role.
Among CSKA’s five highest point-getters, Mamin was the youngest, played the fewest games, and owned the 2nd-lowest average ice time.
At 6’2″, 200 pounds, he’s not afraid to get physical and is reliable in all three zones. Mamin didn’t spend much time on the power play – which makes his offensive numbers all the more impressive, but did help out on CSKA’s penalty kill while moving up and down the lineup, proving his versatility.
The Panthers are very high on Mamin and have been working to get him over to North America for at least the past couple of months. They’ve been eager to get him signed since last year because of how well his game could translate considering the fact that the KHL and NHL are similar in terms of the style of play and competition level.
They feel he has the potential to be a solid bottom-6 player in the NHL in the not-too-distant future and he’ll certainly compete for a spot this season.
Henrik Haapala, a 23-year old undrafted winger, wrapped up his fifth season in Finland where he led Liiga, the country’s top professional league, in scoring with 60 points in 51 games for Tappara.
Tappara has turned out some good players in recent years, including Aleksander Barkov and Patrik Laine – both of whom Haapala played with – as well as Jori Lehtera.
His point total, which was the 5th-highest in the last 25 years for an under-24 player in Liiga, helped his team earn their second straight league championship.
Haapala plays a smart, skilled game and possesses a strong ability to make plays in the offensive zone. At 5’9″, 175 pounds, there are concerns about his size, and he has suffered from injury troubles – most recently a high check into the boards that ended his season in late-April – but the reward outweighs the risk.
While Liiga isn’t the NHL, specifically when it comes to the size of the playing surface and level of competition, it’s still widely considered the 2nd-best pro league in Europe behind the KHL, so Haapala’s success at his age is still impressive.
It’s safe to say that this signing is a result of work done by the Panthers’ European scout Jari Kekalainen, whose voice has become significantly louder over the past several years.
Kekalainen spearheaded the drafting of Aleksander Barkov in 2013, Henrik Borgstrom last year, Joonas Donskoi in 2010, and Juho Lammikko in 2014. Vadim Podrezov, the Panthers’ Russian scout, did most of the work on Mamin.
Both Mamin and Haapala are on two-year, two-way deals worth $757,000 and $925,000 at the NHL level respectively.
“Henrik is a dynamic playmaker who led the Finnish league in scoring and Maxim is a strong two-way presence who plays the type of physical game that can help us win games,” Tallon said.
“With their talent level and experience, we’ll be giving both players a chance to compete for a roster spot with the Panthers next season.”
Thornton Joins the Front Office
The Panthers also announced on Thursday that they’ve named Shawn Thornton the team’s Vice President of Business Operations.
Thornton played in 705 career NHL game,s won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and the Boston Bruins in 2011, and spent the last three seasons with the Panthers before retiring at the end of the the 2016-17 campaign.
It was widely known that Thornton was going to join the business side of the Panthers’ organization, but the team had yet to make it official until Friday.
Thornton, 39, will work closely with the Panthers’ President and CEO Matt Caldwell and Chief of Staff Sean McCaffrey.
“It’s a humbling day for me and I’m excited to begin the next chapter of my career in hockey,” said Thornton.
“The business side of operating an NHL team has always fascinated me. I have had the privilege of learning from and working with a number of first-class individuals, leaders and organizations during the course of my playing career and I look forward to applying some of those lessons in my new role.
My family and I are very grateful that we’ll be able to continue to be a part of the Panthers family and the South Florida community.”
Rookie Tournament Announced
For the fifth straight year, the Panthers will participate in a four-team rookie tournament from September 9th through September 12th at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida.
The Panthers’ prospects and roster invites will face off against the prospects of the Lightning, Capitals, and Predators.
Last year’s tournament was held at the Panthers’ Ice Den in Coral Springs where Denis Malgin exploded onto the North American scene, scoring 6 goals to help the Panthers sweep the tournament.
Here’s this year’s schedule:
Saturday, Sept. 9
1:00pm – Florida vs. Washington
4:30pm – Nashville vs. Tampa Bay
1:00pm – Tampa Bay vs. Washington
4:30pm – Nashville vs. Florida
Tuesday, Sept. 12
10:00am – Washington vs. Nashville
2:00pm – Florida vs. Tampa Bay