A look at the Florida Panthers top 10 prospects heading into the 2015-16 season.
1. Lawson Crouse: Left Wing – 6’4” / 215 lbs
Drafted: 11th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by the Panthers.
Crouse is a big physical forward who hits with aplomb and is quick to drop the gloves when called upon or in defence of a teammate. His work along the boards is formidable and he provides a strong net presence. Focus this year under Coach Paul McFarland has been defense first, but Crouse has plenty of offensive ability as seen since being united with Sam Bennett at the end of the season.
Crouse is strong on his skates with excellent balance and mobility for a big man with breakaway speed. Has decent hands, but is better suited at going through players as opposed to around them. Uses his size well in the corners and is adept at using one hand on the stick to control the puck while using his free arm to fend off opponents. Crouse has a hard shot which he can release very quickly. He is dangerous shooting off the rush and on one timers. With his size, skating ability and offense he is a sure fire NHL power forward in the mold of Rick Nash. Profile from: Peter Harling – Mar. 30th
2. Mike Matheson: Defence – 6’3” / 205 lbs
Drafted: 23rd overall in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Panthers.
Matheson is a top-flight offensive defenseman prospect. He has improved his defensive positioning since early in his college career but is still a work in progress in his own zone. He needs to improve his physical play and focus less on the puck as opponents attack. When he moves out of his zone Matheson shines. He has dazzling speed and is a skilled puckhandler who adds tremendous pressure up ice with his skating and his shot.” Hockey’s Future
3. Ian McCoshen: Defence – 6’3” / 218 lbs
Drafted: 31st overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Panthers.
Of all the talented BC defenseman, McCoshen’s game is probably the least flashy and simplest. He doesn’t have quite the dynamic skating ability or puck skills of the others, but he’s very solid and does his job well. He’s not overly physical like Santini, but he wins on-one-battles, is strong on gap control and has a good stick. His reach allows him to to pokecheck and keep opposing forwards to the outside. SB Nation
4. Rocco Grimaldi: Right Wing – 5’6” / 160 lbs
Drafted: 33rd overall in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Panthers.
Grimaldi is a top-flight NHL hockey player in a small package. He is a terrific skater, both with and without the puck. His quickness and acceleration are truly high end and he has the agility to match. His shot is deadly, and his passing skills are professional grade. Grimaldi is a tireless worker and often the most competitive player on the ice. His combination of puck skills, compete level and explosive skating give him everything he needs to overcome any issues he might have because of his size. – Hockeys Future
5. Jayce Hawryluk: Right Wing/Centre – 5’10” / 190 lbs
Drafted: 32nd overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Panthers.
“Hawryluk was spunky and had a good work ethic; he’s undersized , but plays big and with grit. He has decent hands and good instincts, and definitely had a tremendous second half.” – NHL Central Scouting
6. Kyle Rau: Centre: – 5’8” / 173 lbs
Drafted: 91st overall in the third round of the 2011 draft by the Panthers.
Rau is an agile and quick skater with impressive hockey sense. His ability to anticipate plays allows him to consistently find the one place on the ice where the puck will go and where he can have the greatest opportunity to score. His defensive play is underrated, and despite his smaller frame he plays a tough, physical game. He has quick hands around the net, and is a tireless worker. – Hockeys Future
7. Michael Downing: Defence – 6’3” / 192 lbs
Drafted: 97TH Overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Panthers.
Downing has good size and plays a defense-first game. He is an excellent skater and isn’t afraid to carry the puck up the ice, but he has yet to fully display true offensive ability. Downing has to develop a better feel for the game, and he could stand to be a more physical defender in his own end. – Hockeys Future
8. Samuel Montembeault: Goalie – 6’3” / 173 lbs
Drafted: 77th overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by the Panthers.
Montembeault has done an admirable job in his first year as a starter in the QMJHL. He is one of the big reasons that the Armada currently sit first place in the West Division. One of his biggest strengths in the poise he shows while in net, as he doesn’t get rattled easily. He also showed off a high level of concentration during the game in Moncton. It was an affair that didn’t feature a lot of shots, but he was able to make a few key saves at the right time to protect a one-goal lead at the time. – Hockey Prospectus
9. Juho Lammikko: Right Wing – 6’3” / 189 lbs
Drafted: 65th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Panthers.
A winger with promising size, Lammikko works hard at both ends of the ice and is strong in small spaces and corners. He is a decent skater with good stickhandling and playmaking ability. Lammikko has been an eager shooter in the juniors, but seems more apt as a set-up man with his vision and IQ. He is also characterized by good decision-making and sound defensive play. Elite Prospects
10. John McFarland: Right Wing – 6’0” / 211 lbs
Drafted: 33rd overall in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Panthers.
McFarland is a highly-skilled player who has struggled to produce at the rate originally expected of him. He has speed and a quality wrist shot which make him a dangerous breakaway threat whenever he is on the ice, but he has struggled to use those skills to generate consistent, team-based offense. He often works hard to create space but he doesn’t play an overly combative game despite his size and is inconsistent with his defensive responsibilities. – Hockeys Future
Recent Roster Graduates: Alex Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden, Jonathan Huberdeau, Brandon Pirri, Vincent Trocheck, Aaron Ekblad, Dylan Olsen, Alex Petrovic.
Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling