Continuing with our fresh new format, here’s a new round of Panthers thoughts from the past little while.
1. In the second round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers had options.
At the top of their list was Adam Mascherin, a thick winger with an NHL release fresh off a 35-goal sophomore campaign with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.
Also on their list – but lower – was 5’7″, 165-pound forward Alex DeBrincat who potted 16 more goals than Mascherin that season to lead the league in scoring with 51.
The Panthers opted to take Mascherin with the 38th overall pick and the Chicago Blackhawks chose DeBrincat with the very next selection.
Mascherin went on to finish third in OHL scoring with 35 goals – again – and 100 points in 65 games the following season.
DeBrincat led the OHL in scoring for the second consecutive year with an incredible 65 goals – nearly doubling Mascherin – and 127 points in just 63 games.
He added another 13 goals and 38 points in 22 playoff games for the Erie Otters.
This season, DeBrincat, now eligible to play in the AHL, managed to make the Blackhawks’ roster out of training camp.
Entering Saturday’s game against the Panthers, DeBrincat had 7 goals in 21 games, including six in his previous nine, putting him on pace for 27 goals over a full-82 game season while playing mostly in the middle-6.
The Panthers have yet to sign Mascherin to a contract, and after suffering a shoulder injury at the end of last season, he wasn’t medically cleared to play and therefore didn’t attend the Panthers’ development camp during the summer.
Because of his age, Mascherin wasn’t eligible to start this season in the AHL unlike DeBrincat.
Through 26 games of his final OHL campaign, he has 26 points which puts him at an even point-per-game pace but would mean he’d finish the season with much lower offensive totals than the past two seasons.
After leading his team by 40 points last season, he’s currently the only player at or above the point-per-game mark, which says a lot about him just as it does about the rest of the roster.
Also, there have been noticeable improvements made to his all-around game, especially his play away from the puck and in the defensive zone.
The Panthers still have time to sign Mascherin, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t considering they don’t exactly have an overwhelming array of players with a similar shooting ability.
If they don’t, he’ll be eligible to re-enter the draft, which obviously would not be ideal.
It’s still too early to say if passing on DeBrincat was the right move or a wrong one, but early returns suggest he is likely to at least be a serviceable NHL player while the jury is still out on Mascherin.
For the Panthers, this could turn out to be one of the stories of the 2016 Draft for them. Only time will tell which team made the better pick.
2. Continuing with the theme of Panthers draft picks, 2016 fourth-round pick Jonathan Ang signed his entry-level contract a little over a week ago.
Unsurprisingly, the slim, speedy forward is in the midst of a relatively productive final season in the OHL, tallying 31 points in 27 games with the Peterborough Petes.
His skating ability, skill, and prowess as a penalty-killer certainly give him a good shot at becoming an everyday NHL player, but it may be that he fills a bottom-6 role instead of a top-6 one.
Even as fourth-year player in the OHL, he’s not exactly lighting the league up like you’d expect given his age and skill set, and he’s shown to be streaky at times in terms of his offensive production.
He’ll also still need to bulk up – at least a little bit – in order to be effective at the next level, and hopefully that comes without sacrificing his foot-speed.
Keep an eye on him though.
3. Remember Lawson Crouse?
The Panthers (disappointingly) drafted him with the 11th pick at the 2015 Draft and traded him away to the Arizona Coyotes over a year ago as a way to escape the chokehold of Dave Bolland’s contract.
He spent all of last season with the Coyotes, registering 12 points in 72 games while logging mostly fourth-line minutes on a bad Arizona team.
This year, he lasted just seven games before being sent to the AHL where he has eight points in 11 games.
And that’s while spending 91 percent of his ice time with Dylan Strome, the AHL’s second leading scorer, and 79 percent with Nick Merkley, who’s fourth in scoring, according to Prospect Stats.
That’s definitely disappointing, especially considering he’s already played an entire season in the NHL.
The pick was a bad one in 2015, and it looks like that remains the case in 2017. And because it was a bad pick, the Panthers missed out on some really good players, like Kyle Connor, Matthew Barzal, and Brock Boeser, among others.
4. Anthony Greco, signed to an AHL contract by the Panthers last summer, earned a two-way NHL deal last week.
Undrafted out of Ohio State University, Greco tallied 31 points in 74 games last season as a rookie with the Springfield Thunderbirds.
His 16 goals were good for second on the team behind Chase Balisy (17).
This season, he leads the Thunderbirds with eight goals in 22 games while playing mostly on the top-6 and both the power play and penalty kill, so he’s earned a shot at making the big club at the very least.
Greco is one of the fastest skaters – if not the fastest – in the AHL, and if he ever makes it to the NHL, he’ll be one of the fastest there too, and that’s no exaggeration. His acceleration is elite and it’s what makes him an effective player.
At 5’10”, he’s not the biggest player but he’s built like a truck and has bite to his game. He’s not afraid one bit of going to the front of the net or mixing things up with bigger players.
Don’t expect him to light up the NHL any time soon, but considering the Panthers don’t have much in the way of good forward depth, he’s a fine option to have in their back pocket.
5. It looks like 2014 fifth-round pick Miguel Fidler is out for the season for Ohio State.
He missed the Panthers’ development camp in June with an injury and has yet to suit up for the Buckeyes, who have already played 14 games this season.
A gritty forward that can play up and down the lineup, Fidler doesn’t currently project to be much of a difference-maker, at least offensively, at the next level, but could help out in the bottom-6 down the line.
6. Here’s the latest on Jonathan Marchessault.
He has a goal and two assists in each of his last three games and was named the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday. He’s compiled 21 points in 19 games.
On Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos had this to say: “There’s also a lot of talk of the Florida Panthers are looking for a top-six player.”
It’s kind of like selling your car and then realizing you suddenly have no way of getting to work aside from taking public transportation. No one likes public transportation. Nor is it efficient to walk.
Except the Panthers sold two of their cars, because Reilly Smith, who has 19 points in 22 games, was given away to Vegas as well. For a fourth-round pick.
Entering Monday’s game against the Devils, the Panthers have scored just six goals on 185 shots (3%) over their last five games and have been shut out once.