The Florida Panthers have been a rebuilding team for most of their existence in the NHL it seems. Since Dale Tallon was brought on board, things have been looking brighter and the franchise is on the cusp of turning the corner.
Built on drafting and developing players such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Alex Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, the core of this franchise is very young. The addition of key support veterans like Roberto Luongo, Jaromir Jagr, and Keith Yandle give an attractive blend of youth and experience.
The Lawson Crouse trade shows the team identifies the strength in their young players and was willing to move Crouse to save the cap space needed to add players in a win now mentality.
The window to win is opening wide in Florida, and with a young core and more help on the way it could be sustainable for years to come.
Top 10 Florida Panthers Prospects
1. Michael Matheson, Defence
2015-16: Portland (AHL)
Drafted: 23rd overall in the first round of the 2012 draft by Florida
The Panthers have been patient in grooming Matheson for four years at Boston College and one more year playing pro in the AHL last year. After posting 20 points and a plus -14 as a rookie in 54 games, he finished the season with a three game NHL look and was a key player on Team Canada at the World Championship winning Gold.
Matheson has won a job to start the year in the Panthers top four pairing and is off to a very strong start to the season. Matheson is a key part of the Florida Panthers going forward and in short order could play his way into the top pairing with Ekblad to form one of the league’s top pairings.
2. Ian McCoshen, Defence
2015-16: Boston College (HE)
Drafted: 31st overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Florida
After completing three seasons at Boston College, McCoshen has turned pro this year and will cut his teeth in the AHL in Springfield, where he will try to follow in the footsteps of former BC teammate Matheson.
McCoshen is a more defensive defenceman than Matheson, and plays a more physical style of game. While his offensive game may not translate in the NHL, his defensive and physical style will see him into the roster in time.
3. Jayce Hawryluk, Center
2015-16: Brandon (WHL)
Drafted: 32nd overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by Florida
The undersized Hawryluk had a break out final year in junior posting 106 points and 101 penalty minutes, leading the Wheat Kings all the way to the Memorial Cup.
Hawryluk will begin playing pro this season, but will start in the AHL after her returns from surgery on his wrist. He sustained the injury in a prospect exhibition game in a fight with Jakub Vrana.
Hawryluk is an offensively skilled player who despite his size plays an aggressive and physical game and can get under opponents skin.
4. Samuel Montembeault, Goalie
2015-16: Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)
Drafted: 77th overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by Florida
The Florida goalie of the future is Montembeault. He is the leading goalie in the QMJHL to start the season with an impressive 1.41 GAA after seven games. He was named to Team Canada last season for the WJC, but did not manage to get into a game there.
He has good size and with Roberto Luongo under contract until 2022 there is no rush on Montembeault, allowing the Panthers to develop him slowly and correctly until he is ready to take the crease.
5. Adam Mascherin, Left Wing
2015-16: Kitchener (OHL)
Drafted: 38th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Florida
Mascherin is a sniper and is off to a red hot start after being returned to junior, scoring seven goals and 23 points in his first 11 games. Mascherin has excellent compete level, owns a lethal shot, and is a plus skating skills.
Despite being a short player at 5-10, he is not a small player as he possesses good hockey strength. The potential upside on Mascherin is impressive, but he may take a few years to arrive.
6. Henrik Borgstrom, Center
2015-16: HIFK (Fin Jr.)
Drafted: 23rd overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Florida
Florida went slightly off the board in selecting Borgstrom in the first round in Buffalo. He is a raw package of skill and has a high ceiling who can develop into a productive NHL player in the future.
He has committed to play NCAA hockey this year and needs to add some strength to his tall lean frame. He also needs to refine his defensive game, physical game and some other typical and manageable aspects. A long term project, with high upside.
7. Juho Lammikko, Right Wing
2015-16: Kingston (OHL)
Drafted: 65th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by Florida
In his two seasons in Kingston under Coach Paul McFarland, Lammikko showed impressive development in his defensive game, as well as his puck skills.
Lammikko is a very versatile player who can play a variety of positions in a variety of situations and be effective. Lammikko will begin his pro career in the AHL with Springfield.
8. Michael Downing, Defence
2015-16: Michigan (Big 10)
Drafted: 97th overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by Florida
With young studs like Aaron Ekblad, Mike Matheson and Ian McCoshen, the Florida blueline is looking pretty crowded. After a solid three seasons at the University of Michigan, Downing will make the jump to pro and will play in the AHL with Springfield.
He has the size, skating and offensive ability to make an impression as a rookie and is an underrated prospect.
9. Dryden Hunt, Left Wing
2015-16: Moose Jaw (WHL)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2016
The late blooming Hunt had a breakout season as a 20-year-old in his final season in the WHL, scoring 58 goals and 116 points in 72 games. His performance did not go unnoticed and there were several suitors for the undrafted winger.
Florida was able to sign Hunt and he continued to impress this summer at the rookie camps. Hunt will start his pro career in the AHL with Springfield where he will look to translate his offence against stronger competition.
10. Linus Hultstrom, Defence
2015-16: Djurgarden (SWE)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2016
With an overhauled blueline this summer there was some thought that Hultstrom could crack the roster and make an impact. The smooth skating offensive defenceman had an impressive season in the SHL last year and looked to follow in the footsteps of countryman John Klingberg.
However, Hultstrom failed to crack the Panthers roster and in a surprising move, rather than adjust to North American hockey in the AHL he was loaned back to the SHL.