2015-16 Florida Panthers Top 10 Prospects

2015-16 Florida Panthers Top 10 Prospects

Top 10 Florida Panthers prospects

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.

After Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, Lawson Crouse may be the most NHL ready prospect from the 2015 draft. Crouse had a breakout performance winning Gold with Canada at the WJC showing his size, skating and defensive awareness. The question surrounding Crouse is his offensive upside. Last year with the Kingston Frontenacs he scored 29 goals and led the team with 51 points. Kingston however had an underwhelming roster without Sam Bennett, and the team was ravaged with injuries leaving Crouse with garden variety OHL line mates most of the season. There is no doubt Crouse will stick with the Panthers out of training camp as he has an eight game OHL suspension to start the season to serve, so returning to junior prior to that makes no sense. Once the suspension is done and he reaches the nine game mark with the Panthers, there will be a difficult decision to make perhaps. Even if his NHL debut gets off to a slow start, Crouse is a big power forward and may develop his offensive game better in the NHL than the OHL.

Scouting Report

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.

After an impressive career at Boston College, Matheson made his long awaited pro debut. Long hailed as arguably the Panthers top prospect, the 21 year old defenceman may need a short adjustment period in Portland with their AHL affiliate. Upon the conclusion of his college career where he scored 25 points in his final season in 38 games, Matheson debuted with San Antonio for their final five games and he managed two assists and a plus -1. It is not out of the question however that at 21 year old, Matheson may impress enough at training camp and start the season with the Panthers as he represents a very bright future on the Florida blueline along with Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and prospect Ian McCoshen (More on him below)

Scouting Report

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.

The 20 year old is entering his junior season at college and will be losing his teammate in Mike Matheson who turned pro. McCoshen is regarded as having a high hockey IQ who is very reliable in his own end, has NHL size and strength and has shown flashes of offensive upside which he is still developing. McCoshen finished his sophomore season with 16 points, a plus -14 and 63 penalty minutes. Looking forward, he has been named an assistant captain and will no doubt take on a much larger role with the departure of Matheson.

Scouting Report

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.

With an influx of small, talented, speedy players enjoying tremendous success recently in the NHL, there is hope for the diminutive Grimaldi, who is quite small but has very good speed and talent. At 22 years old, the time has come for Grimaldi to show what he can do at the NHL level. Last season in the AHL, Grimaldi produced 14 goals and 42 points in 64 games and in seven career NHL games he has but one goal. He will compete for a regular roster spot in training camp, but likely needs to play in the top six as an offensive forward as his size limits his bottom six checking line potential.

Scouting Report

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.

By NHL standards Hawryluk is another small winger on the right wing of the Panthers prospect depth chart, but unlike Grimaldi, he projects towards the bottom six. Hawryluk is a character player who combines grit with some offensive potential. In Brandon of the WHL last season, he scored 30 goals and 65 points in 54 games. If he can carry that offensive ability into the NHL with his pesky shift-disturber attitude, he could give the Panthers a Brendan Gallagher type option, which is tremendously valuable. With one more year of junior eligibility available to him, he should see one more season with the Wheaties where at 19 he should be dominant.

Scouting Report:

“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.

In his final college season, Rau led Minnesota to a Big Ten Championship as team Captain, scoring 20 goals and 41 points in 39 games. Rau then turned pro and made his debut with San Antonio scoring two goals in seven games. Rau is another very small, highly skilled player, but he lacks the grit that Hawryluk and Grimaldi can bring. Despite his small size and strength limitations he is also recognized as a very determined player which will help him reach the NHL level eventually. For now, he will need to show he can be a factor at the pro level consistently in the AHL for a season.

Scouting Report:

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.

Similar to McCoshen, Downing is a physical defensive defenceman who thinks the game well making sound decisions. He is also heading into his junior year in college hockey playing for Michigan in the Big Ten. Another asset Downing possesses, which bodes well for his NHL upside, is his skating ability. For now, he will continue to develop in college before making the jump to pro.

Scouting Report

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.

Goalies can be difficult to project at such a young age, but one attribute that seems to be critical is their mental toughness; Montembeault seems to be strong in that area. The tall athletic goalie has quick feet which take away the bottom of the net, while even when on his knees he can still cover the top corners. He will return for another season in the Q with Blainville-Boisbriand, a long wait, but has potential future starting goalie potential, and with Luongo entrenched for a few more years there is no rush.

Scouting Report

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.

Lammikko and Crouse were teammates with the Kingston Frontenacs this past season and the duo carried some chemistry together through the development camp this summer. Lammikko has signed to play the upcoming season with Assat in Finland where he will turn pro playing against bigger faster men. Lammikko is a solid two-way forward who is versatile and played some centre with Kingston as well.

Scouting Report

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 applied, and almost received exceptional status to join the OHL draft a year early like John Tavares and was taken first overall in the OHL draft by Sudbury. Attitude problems have plagued this supremely talented prospect unfortunately as he played for three different OHL teams in four years and has never been able to find success at the pro level after three seasons. McFarland was re-signed to a one year, two-way contract and needs to figure it out as this could be his last chance. The skill is there, that’s not the question, but will he make the necessary attitude adjustments?

Scouting Report

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

Catch up on any Top 10 Team Prospect list that you may have missed.

Lawson Crouse

Mike Matheson

Ian McCoshen

Rocco Grimaldi

Jayce Hawryluk

Kyle Rau

Michael Downing

Samuel Montembeault

Juho Lammikko

John McFarland