With the sting of Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Nashville Predators still in the back of their minds, the Florida Panthers once again found themselves playing from behind against the Boston Bruins in Friday’s installment of the team’s annual rookie tournament. After going down 4-0 early in the first period of Saturday’s game, the Panthers once again looked as if they may fall victim to yet another blowout in front of their home fans. After the first intermission gave the Panthers time to “get angry” as center Nick Bjugstad stated, the team decided to pull goaltender Michael Houser midway through the 2nd period in favor of a mostly unknown tryout by the name of Rob Madore.
From that point on the game had a completely different feel. Madore stood on his head for the remainder of the game, stopping all 18 shots he faced, including several sprawling saves. In front of Madore, the team was finally able to establish their offense and complete an impressive 5-4 comeback victory. Although Nick Bjugstad garnered most of the post-game attention after leading the Panthers’ attack with three goals, it’s fair to argue that Madore may have been the best looking player in that game.
The question now is: Who exactly is Rob Madore?
An undrafted free agent out the University of Vermont, the 25-year-old Madore floated around the East Coast Hockey League last season, seeing time with the Chicago Express, South Carolina Stingrays, Evansville Icemen, and Florida Everblades. Madore’s big break came when the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, brought him on board toward the end of the 2012-2013 season.
While in Charlotte, Madore really came into his own – boasting a 1.83 GAA / .951 SV% in nine games played. If the Panthers are lucky, they will be getting the player Madore became in Charlotte, not the ECHL journeyman whose NHL dreams were close to being dashed.
Once passed over as a negligible rookie camp invitee, Madore’s performance this weekend has thrust him into the spotlight and possibly booked him a ticket to the Panthers’ training camp next week. Even with this immense opportunity possibly on the horizon, Madore won’t get lost staring into the future and prefers to take this new opportunity one day at a time.
“You can’t really play for anything past today,” Madore said when asked if the possibility of a training camp invite was on his mind. “I’m taking it day-by-day. It’s the same game I’ve been playing since I was a kid – not trying to change anything up, just trying to work with what I have.”
If Madore does find himself in Florida for next week’s camp he will be joined by current Panther/Rampage goaltenders such as Jacob Markstrom, Scott Clemmensen, Michael Houser and Dov Grumet-Morris. Given that the Panthers seemingly have no guaranteed future NHL goaltenders other than Markstrom, the door is wide open for Madore to make an immediate impact within the Panthers’ organization. However, Madore does not take this lack of depth as a sign that a contract is guaranteed.
“My approach is exact same as it would be if they had seven goalies signed,” Madore said when asked if the team’s goalie depth gave him any extra motivation. “I’m just coming and playing hockey and seeing what comes out of it. It’s something I can’t really control so I try not to worry too much about it.”
If Madore can even end up being a backup goaltender with the San Antonio Rampage this season then the Panthers will be able to pat themselves on the back for discovering an undrafted gem. Though their NHL futures are never guaranteed, the emergence of undrafted tryouts like Madore are what make rookie camps so special.
Update: With the announcement today that backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen will be missing around three weeks after undergoing knee surgery, the likelihood of Madore getting invited to next week’s training camp have become a very real possibility.
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