The 2018-19 season is over. Now is the time to take a look at some of the Florida Panthers prospects (Owen Tippett, Henrik Borgstrom, and Grigori Denisenko) and what they have been up to this year. Have some taken a step forward or backward?
Prospect wise, Florida picks in the 13th slot this year. The Panthers garnered nine picks in the 2019 NHL Draft.
2018-19 Top 10 Florida Panthers Prospects
1. Owen Tippett, RW – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Drafted: 10th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Florida.
Tippett traded to Saginaw helped him over the second half of his OHL season as he scored 41 points in 31 games. His playoff impact was more noticeable with 22 points in 17 games (11 goals). The goals stuck out and showed a development many had been looking for in the top-ten pick from two years ago.
Debate exists as to whether Tippett is the top prospect in Florida. However, he looked more comfortable in Saginaw and maybe that development curve ticks up next season. Will Tippett transition well to the AHL? That seems possible. Until then, the right winger could intensify his off-season workout program and again that first step skating wise. He will need that to succeed in the AHL and then ultimately the NHL.
2. Henrik Borgstrom, C – Florida Panthers (NHL), Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL)
HT/WT: 6-3/ 185
Drafted: 23rd pick in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft by Florida.
The forward carries good upside and even showed flashes of middle and maybe top-six offensive talent. Borgstrom scored at a point a game pace in Springfield so Florida was the next step. Once in Florida, the forward showed off his speed and ability to create space. His 18 points in 50 games offered a glimpse into what could be a higher ceiling.
Again, some argue that Borgstrom may not be more than a middle-six forward. There are still some who disagree and believe there is room for the center to hit that top-six level. It depends on who one talks to. One thing is clear, he plays well enough to be good. It is a question of does he put in the work this summer to improve on his skating and shot.
3. Grigori Denisenko, LW — Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
Draft: 15th overall in the first round of the 2018 draft by Florida.
Denisenkov played 25 games in the KHL and showed some flashes of the talent that made him a first-round pick. Some compared him to a poor man’s Johnny Gaudreau. He flashes great hands and good speed but still needs to work on spacing and positioning. The problem is discipline too as he did have 58 penalty minutes. Denisenko did battle an injury or two and played in the MHL and VHL for a few games in stints.
So, the question becomes can Denisenko stick on Lokomotiv for a full season next year? For the sake of his development, that would be beneficial, along with staying healthy. His international play and playoffs in the MHL suggest an upward trend is likely in 2019-20.
4. Aleksi Heponiemi, RW – Karpat (Liiga)
Drafted: 40th overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by Florida.
Heponiemi moved to the Finnish elite league (Liiga) last year after an amazing year with Swift Current (WHL). The forward piled up 90 assists and 118 points then had 30 points in 25 playoff games. There was one problem and that concern was could his game translate to the AHL and NHL level yet? That answer was initially no but playing in Finland has helped some. He had 46 points in 50 games against older competition.
His upside is that of a middle-six forward. That may fluctuate some but based on what has been seen, Heponiemi has room to grow. He shoots the puck a bit more in the Finnish league. The forward needs to add some more weight without sacrificing that lightning quick first step. His international numbers are above a point a game which is encouraging.
5. Max Gildon, D – University of New Hampshire (NCAA)
Drafted: 66th overall in the third round of the 2017 draft by Florida.
The defenseman performed much the same as he did in his freshman season with 21 points in 31 games. He played against some tough competition and held up well enough again. Of course, the question is this. When does he take that next offensive step?
One of his biggest assets Gildon possesses is a lack of fear. He makes plays even if he gets hit. Gildon’s skating did improve slightly over his freshman year which is a plus. Again, one has to see that power-play presence elevate or he will be thought of as a bottom pairing defenseman. There lies a slight chance that Gildon could play himself into a second-pairing role but the time on that ceiling is running out.
6. Dryden Hunt, W – Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL), Florida Panthers (NHL)
Hunt transitioned nicely into the AHL tallying 46 points in 58 games with Springfield. This season, Hunt racked up 44 points in 51 games which warranted another call-up where the forward fared a little better than his first Florida stint. He scored three goals and ten points in 31 games.
Nonetheless, Hunt remains a depth plug-in and little more with Florida. Could he rise above that on the depth chart? It is possible. After all, Hunt was undrafted and had tall odds just to make it to Florida. If he can show more of what he did in the WHL then maybe Hunt has a shot at the middle-six.
7. Jayce Hawryluk, F – Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL), Florida Panthers (NHL)
Drafted: 32nd overall in the second round of the 2014 Draft by Florida.
Hawryluk broke out a bit with 32 points in 31 games with Springfield. That got him a call-up with Florida where he played half a season with the Panthers. The good news is he showed some flashes of middle-six potential. The bad news is that he was easily bodied off pucks much like a lot of Florida Panthers forward prospects.
The winger shows an ability to want to improve and then deliver on that. However, his ceiling keeps falling year after year. Again, the hope is now that Hawryluk can be that third-line player who can play a little top-six when needed without looking out of place. He will have to show Florida he can be trusted to play above ten minutes a night next season.
8. Logan Hutsko, C/RW – Boston College (NCAA)
Drafted: 89th overall in the third round of the 2018 Draft by Florida.
Hutsko enjoyed a solid first season with Boston College. He was a year behind in development due to injuries. The good news is the center piled up 31 points in 37 games. He won rookie of the year in the NCAA. One of the biggest issues with Hutsko is still skating and needs to be worked on over the next few seasons.
Fortunately, there lies still some upside as a middle-six forward. Again, skating and working on his ability to get to loose pucks will be essential. Logan Hutsko is at least a couple of years away from the NHL in a best-case scenario.
9. Samuel Montembeault, G – Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL), Florida Panthers (NHL)
Drafted: 75th overall in the third round of the 2015 Draft by Florida.
Montembault felt like he did not impress much and made very slight progress in his second season with Springfield of the AHL. His 11 game stint with Florida featured a few good starts and then some bad ones. He had a four-game winning streak then faltered. At the end of the season, he offered a glimpse of the future perhaps with a 35 save performance against New York that wowed some in the organization.
Also, the defense in front of him has done him few favors — whether in Springfield or Florida. That becomes part of the problem in development. Can he take a few more steps next season? Florida needs that as far as their goaltending core.
10. Serron Noel, RW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Drafted: 34th overall in the second round of the 2018 draft by Florida
Sadly, Noel is still a long-term project. However, it is clear he made more strides in his development this season. He upped his production level to 34 goals and 47 assists in 68 games with Oshawa of the OHL.
The winger has more high-end skill than most of the prospects higher on this list. However, Noel keeps working on becoming a better two-way player which is a goal. He could still build up as far as upper strength and that will happen in time. It may be 3-4 years but Noel could crack the NHL and if he does, look out!