Panthers Rookies Defeat the Bolts, Win Prospects Tournament

The Florida Panthers rookies travelled to Nashville this past week, where they took part in the annual rookie tournament against the youngsters of the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Boston Bruins. After playing each team once, the Panthers came away as the prospect tournament champions, winning all three games.

Below, I compiled and posted every goal, assist, and penalty minute scored or taken by the Panthers. (Note: Several stat changes occurred. Thank you to the @ThePredatorial for supplying a few of these statistics.)

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The second place winner will be decided this afternoon when the Predators take on the Bruins at 2pm EST.

Vincent Trocheck: Biding his time

Reading about the 2013 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships held in Ufa, Russia, you’ll see that the tournament was dominated by the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM; 4G-11A-15P.), Markus Granlund (CGY; 5G-7A-12P), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY; 7G-2A-9P), and Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA; 3G-6A-9P), all of whom played between six and seven games.

You’ll see that Anaheim’s John Gibson, he of the now-famous Darryl Sutter-ism that had at least a few people thinking, “was he serious?”, completely dominated the tournament, posting a remarkable .955 save percentage, a full 0.5% more than the next goalie, Tampa Bay Lightning super-prospect Andrey Vasilevski. And you’ll even see the leadership on the gold medal winning team, led by future first rounder’s Seth Jones (NSH), Jacob Trouba (WPG), Connor Murphy (ARZ), and J.T. Miller (NYR).

What you won’t see–unless you look particularly close–is one Vincent Trocheck. Despite not garnering the clout that his peers did in the tournament, Trocheck put up a more-than respectable six points (3G-3A-6P) in seven games, including an empty net goal and an assist in the gold medal game. While Trocheck lacked the size and accolades of his peers, it was readily apparent–a year-and-a-half later–that Trocheck used the experience in Ufa as a launching pad for his career.

After the Pittsburgh, PA native returned from Russia, he was traded from the Saginaw Spirit to the Plymouth Whalers, where he went on to score 26 goals to go along with 33 assists in 28 games. He finished the season by leading the OHL in points with 109 total (50G-59A-109P).

As Trocheck did with the World Juniors, he used the culmination of his amateur career as a stepping stone into the pros. Slated to play the season in San Antonio with the Rampage, Trocheck did nothing but impress, leading the team with 42 points (12G-26A) in 55 games. What sets Trocheck apart from his peers is his instincts: he uses tremendous hockey IQ and vision to hit the open man, while his agility makes up for his lack of top-end speed, allowing him to set-up in the right place at the right time.

What really made Trocheck’s first season as a professional stand out was the way that he played following the trade of Marcel Goc. Eliminated from playoff contention, the Panthers brought Trocheck up from the minors. In his 20 game audition, Trocheck shined, scoring five goals to go with his three assists, while leading the Panther forwards with 18:53 of ice time per game.

Heading into his second professional season, Trocheck puts the Panthers in an intriguing situation. Combining his roster friendly two-way contract leaving him waiver ineligible, the signing of veteran centers Dave Bolland and Derek MacKenzie, and the NHL experience of Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Drew Shore, Trocheck looks likely to bounce back and forth between San Antonio and Sunrise.

Moving forward, Trocheck’s versatility will be key; while conventional scouting wisdom might declare Trocheck NHL ready, the logjam at center remains apparent. Being able to play on the wing, and in different roles–whether that be on an energy line, on special teams, or just five-on-five–aren’t so much bonuses anymore, but rather necessities needed to crack an NHL roster.

Coming off his fourth development camp, Trocheck established himself as the clear-cut leader amongst those in attendance, something management was clearly looking for out of the 21-year-old. Since before he was drafted 64th overall in 2011, Trocheck was championed for having IT, a sports terminology that, in essence, means he’s not big enough and not strong enough, but does the little things that are required out of a truly good player. His hockey IQ, his agility, and his knack for setting-up teammates to score give him the edge over the streaky forward and the puck moving defenseman.

Regardless of when it happens, Vincent Trocheck will force himself into the Florida Panthers lineup. Maybe he can use his fourth and final rookie camp as a springboard into his second professional season.

Florida Panthers sign D Aaron Ekblad to entry-level deal

Today the Florida Panthers announced the signing of D Aaron Ekblad to a three-year Entry Level Contract. Ekblad, 18 was selected first overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft back in June.

“We are very pleased to have signed Aaron,” said Panthers GM Dale Tallon in a release courtesy of the team’s website. “He is a talented, strong, smart and hardworking defenseman who is ready to take the next step in his professional career. We look forward to watching him compete and develop at our prospects camp, throughout our main training camp and in preseason competition.”

One of the most highly touted prospects in recent years, Ekblad holds the distinction of being the first defenseman taken first overall since the St.Louis Blues selected Erik Johnson first in 2006. Only the  second player to earn exceptional player status in major junior hockey and the first ever defenseman to earn this honor, Ekblad joined the Barrie Colts of the OHL as a 15-year old. Taken first overall in the 2011 OHL draft by Barrie, Ekblad arrived with very high expectations, and exceeded them all.

Ekblad was an All-Star, a Rookie of the year, represented Team Canada on two occasions including winning a Gold Medal at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament  and being the youngest defenseman on Canada’s 2014 World Juniors team. Ekblad most recently won defenseman of the year in the OHL while captaining the Colts. His resume on paper is quite impressive to say the least, but it’s his versatility and maturity as a player that puts him on an elite talent level.

His 6’3″ 216 lb frame make him an intimidating figure, but his ability to use that frame to his advantage is what made him one of the most sought after defenseman to come along in years. Finishing with a plus-31 rating in his junior career, tells the tale of his defensive responsibility, but his outstanding 116 points (40-76-116) in 175 games shows that he can be a force offensively as well. Ekblad exploded in what could be his final season in juniors. Posting 53 points (23-30-53) in 58 games, Ekblad began showing his capability to quarterback a power play, and rush the puck as well. Ekblad’s 23 goals made him the league leader in goals scored by a defenseman.

Panther Parkway: WRITERS WANTED

It’s about that time again! The 2014-2015 NHL season is about to begin, which means Panther Parkway will be back in full-season mode again and we’ll need YOUR help.

A little about us:

Panther Parkway is going on their 5th season as a credentialed blog with the Florida Panthers (including the two years we were affiliated with Fansided.com). We are a fun bunch. Like, really fun.

What we’re all about:

Look, we know we’re a blog, but the Panthers have also been generous enough over the past 5 seasons to issue us credentials. We know it’s hip and trendy now a days to hate the team you write for, but we’re not about that. As credentialed members, we try to keep the hate to a minimum. That’s not to say we don’t want you to be honest, because we totally want you to be honest. But we also don’t want you dropping the F bomb or complaining about every little thing the team does.

In addition to this, we try to stay away from being “too much” of a fan. Yes, we’re all fans here. But sometimes folks can take it a bit too far. Basically we’re asking for you to remain unbiased. (Unless you’re talking about Aleksander Barkov. You can totally fan girl or fan boy over him.)

What we need:

Game Day Preview Writers: We’ll need people to write game day previews for all 82 games. Basically, you’ll need to tell readers about the history of the match-up between the two teams, players to watch, what to expect, etc.

Featured Writers: We’ll need featured writers during the season to give viewers some interesting content to read on off-days.

Advanced Analytics Writers: Panther Parkway staffer Mike Obrand has been involved in Analytics for quite some time now, while I am still learning. With that being said, we need more of you.

When we need it:

So, now that you know what we need from you, it’s time to apply! If you’re interested, please e-mail me at PeejLewis@yahoo.com, and tell me your name and which position you’re interested in! Everyone who applies will be given a topic for that specific position! If we like you, we will e-mail you and give you a second topic. We will then narrow our candidates down and choose our new writers! Please keep in mind that you DON’T have to live in Florida to write for us. You just have to have access to Florida games on TV. 

You have until September 9th to e-mail me that you’re interested! Then, you will have until September 16th to write your first topic. Have fun and good luck!

Ice Bucket Challenge: The Florida Panthers Get Icy

For weeks now, people from all over have been shoveling chunks of ice into buckets, mixing it with water, pouring it on their heads, and then posting it on their respective social media sites. Just recently players, broadcasters, main stream media, and bloggers from around the NHL have joined the craze. No, they aren’t crazy.  They are raising awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS. The rules are simple: Poor ice water on your head, capture it on video, and then challenge someone else. Chain chain chain.

A few members of the Florida Panthers have joined in on the action:

Shawn Thornton

Vincent Trocheck

Scottie Upshall

Billy Lindsay
Aaron Ekblad

Erik Gudbranson

Jayce Hawryluk

Joe Wegwerth

Quinton Howden
Nick Bjugstad

Sasha Barkov

Florida Panthers Staff

A few members of the Panther Parkway family even accepted the challenge!
Paige Lewis
Mike Obrand

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

 

REPORT: Juho Lammikko to leave Finland, play in the OHL

It has been reported that Juho Lammikko, a Finnish prospect of the Florida Panthers, will leave his team in the Finnish Liiga and join the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL.

A 3rd round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft (via trade), Lammikko has decided to join the North American ranks for the 2014-2015 season, where he could potentially play with this year’s 3rd overall pick, Sam Bennett.

Lammikko, 18, is a power-forward who has spent his career playing for his native country, Finland. Before joining the the Finnish Liiga, Lammikko tallied an impressive 103 points with a U-16 Jr. C division, and 53 points the following season with the U-18 Jr. B league. Always playing above his age group, Lammikko joined the U-20 Jr. A SM-Liiga team at just 17 years old, recording 42 points (17G-25A) in just 37 games.

Following the 2014-2015 season, Lammikko will likely return to Finland, where he will re-join the Finnish Elite League, and play with Assat full-time, until he feels he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL, where he could join the Panthers.

 

We welcome your comments and feedback!

 

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Shawn Thornton: “I never thought I’d play in the NHL, let alone win a Cup.”

On July, 1 2014 F Shawn Thornton shipped out of Boston and set his sights on South Florida, signing a two-year, $2.4 million contract. Thornton has been a well-known enforcer within the NHL for over a decade and has not only a wealth of experience that he’s gained through the years, but two Stanley Cup rings to boot. The 6’2″ 217 lb, bruiser spent seven seasons with the Boston Bruins and his leadership and hard work on and off the ice, as well as his intimidation factor were revered in the city of Boston.

Like in the summer of 2011, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon swam a couple of  laps in the Free Agency pool looking for the right pieces to the Florida puzzle during this summer, and made a splash signing six new players, including Thornton. A familiar face for Tallon, Thornton was a part of the Chicago Blackhawks during Tallon’s tenure in the Windy City. Looking for experience and toughness on a young Panthers team, Thornton and Tallon working out a deal seemed like a no-brainer.

“Florida was my first choice.” said Thornton, “I like where the team is going. He (Tallon) was talking about the moves he was going to make in the offseason. I obviously know Dale from Chicago. (We) Love the area. I’ve already been down a couple of times checking it out with the wife, and we’re really excited to be a part of it.”

Thornton, 37 is an elder statesman on a Panthers team whose core players are just reaching, or are barely at legal drinking age yet. The veteran winger knows his role within the team and sees the talent that this team possesses, some of whom he’s taken notice of since playing against them in the past.

“The skill level is obviously second to none. I was actually asking Tuukka (Rask) about (Aleksander) Barkov last year because I didn’t know much about him, but playing against him you definitely notice him. Playing against (Erik) Gudbranson the last couple years, he was extremely hard to play against. I knew every time I went into the corner there was going to be a rough one coming out. These guys are starting to come into their own, their young kids are starting to play the game the right way.”

A humble man, Thornton looks to be an approachable member of the team for the young guys, willing to instill his wisdom whenever need be.

“I never thought I’d play in the NHL, let alone win a Cup. I’m very fortunate where my career has taken me. (Willie) Mitchell and (Dave) Bolland have both won twice. We aren’t going to come into the locker room and say ‘this is how I did it’, ‘this is how I did it’ and ‘this is how I did it’. Kids ask questions, and they’d like to know what it’s about and some things that I may have picked up along the way. Any type of advice and experience I am more than happy to share.”

Off the ice, Thornton created the Shawn Thornton Foundation . Started up in 2013, Thornton’s foundation is dedicated to helping find cures for Parkinson’s disease and cancer. A proponent of a strong community presence, Thornton looks forward to getting involved in South Florida as he has done in the past with his previous teams.

“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve always tried to embrace the community. I think you get a better feel for people in the area when you’re out and about doing most things. I think we’re very, very fortunate to do what we do for a living. To take an hour out of our day a few times a month to put some smiles on faces is the least we can do.”

The enforcer from Oshawa, Ontario will be continuing his offseason training with a trip on Tuesday to Los Angeles, California where he will work with legendary Boxing Trainer, Freddie Roach. A Six-time Boxing Trainer of the year, Roach has worked with countless boxers including Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and Miguel Cotto as well as several Mixed Martial Artists including Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Tito Ortiz and Jose Aldo.

Although seen as a fighter on the ice, Thornton isn’t training for just fighting, but for the conditioning aspect that Roach instills in his program. Thornton views fights on the ice versus the ring as “a different animal”.

Thornton will bring a much-needed edge to the Panthers this season, and with his willingness to drop the gloves with anyone brave enough to return the favor, he could be a fan favorite in Sunrise just as he was in Boston.

 

 

 

Panthers avoid arbitration, re-sign RFA Jimmy Hayes

On Tuesday morning, the Florida Panthers avoided arbitration and announced the re-signing of RFA Jimmy Hayes to a one-year deal.

Hayes, 24, appeared in 53 games with the Panthers last season after being dealt to Florida from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Kris Versteeg. He recorded 18 points (11-7-18) during his first season as a member of the Panthers.

The 6’6, 221 lb winger is a native of Boston, Massachusettes and was drafted by Chicago in the second-round of the 2008 entry draft. The big power winger has played 96 career NHL games, registering 31 points (17-14-31), 34 PIMs, a 13.5 shooting percentage, and 176 hits.

 We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

 

 

Panther Parkway Radio: Ekblad, Prospects, Free Agency, Gallant & Playoffs

Tune in to tonight’s show where we discuss the biggest NHL & Florida Panthers news of the week! By the way, this podcast is terrible.

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests: Jameson Cooper, Mike Lewis, and Mike Obrand

Topics

  • Aaron Ekblad and Development Camp
  • Who impressed the most in Development camp?
  • How did the Panthers do in Free Agency?
  • Panthers made 6 Free Agent signings.
  • Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?
  • Jimmy Hayes going to arbitration
  • This show is terrible.

New Episode Here

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Justin Ullestad: Jimmy Hayes Not Yet Worth Seven Figures

(Editor’s Note:) This article was written by Justin Ullestad, former intern of the Florida Panthers and founder to Bigplayz.com

Don’t get me wrong; I really like Florida Panther’s forward Jimmy Hayes. He’s a big (6’6”, 220), physical presence on the ice and is willing to do the dirty work in front of the net. But with fewer than 100 games played in the NHL over 3 seasons, it’s hard to make a case for Hayes deserving seven figures in arbitration.

Hayes, who was traded from Chicago to Florida in mid-November, saw his first 50+ game NHL season last year in a Panthers uniform, and managed to record 18 points. However, with a closer look at his production, over half of the points came in the month of February (6-4-10) after both Shawn Matthias and Marcel Goc were traded, and injuries to Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tomas Kopecky, Jesse Winchester moved Hayes into a larger role in coach Horachek’s system. But keep in mind, he spent most of the season on the 4th line with limited power play minutes, and was passed over by AHL call ups Quinton Howden and Brandon Pirri late in the year. 18 points in 53 games is hardly enough to garner “budding star” bridge deal money, but there are other factors aside from his on-ice production that should drive down the price the Panthers are willing to pay Hayes.

With the addition of veterans Derek MacKenzie, Jussi Jokinen, Dave Bolland, and Shawn Thornton, Hayes’ ice time is likely to be cut down from last season when the Panthers needed him to play out of necessity through stretches of the schedule. With theses quality players coming in (ok…that may be a stretch for Thornton at this point), Hayes’ opportunities to sit in front of the goalie offensively, his spot of value for the Panthers, may be diminished greatly. That coupled with the likelihood that Pirri will be playing a prominent role for Florida this season, Hayes could be seeing his fair share of healthy scratches again in 2014 (was a healthy scratch 6 times last season).

Speaking of Pirri, his recent contract extension may be the most devastating to Hayes’ case for a high dollar contract. Pirri, who was too previously in Chicago with Hayes, recorded 14 (7-7-14) in just 21 games with the Panthers, including seven points in the final seven games. And yet, Pirri signed a bridge deal that will pay him $1.85M over the next two seasons ($925K AAV). It doesn’t take a hockey expert to know that Pirri is worth more at this point than Hayes. Pirri is projecting be a top six winger at some point THIS SEASON. Certainly can’t say the same about Hayes.

But just for fun, lets compare the two even more.

 

2014 Stats w/ Panthers Brandon Pirri Jimmy Hayes
Games Played w/ Panthers 21 53
Point Total w/ Panthers 14 18
Corsi % for the year 51.7% 47.5%
Goals For% 5vs5 for the year 57.8% 48.9%

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With Pirri being more productive, and flat-out a more important young player for the Panthers moving forward, there is no way that Hayes should/will be getting a higher dollar contract than Pirri.

The other underlying issue with Hayes getting a six digit/year contract is that it sets precedent for future signings down the road. Just imagine the money that the agents that fellow 1st round picks Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad would be asking for if Hayes got a $1M+ contract for 18 points in 53 games. Sure the Panthers have the money right now, but there’s always a limit. And with a number prospect contracts ending after the upcoming season, the Panthers need to make sure they are paying fairly according to production across the board.

Again, I like what Jimmy Hayes brings to the Panthers. But realistically, he is a 4th line player and will likely play 4th line minutes next season, while spending a few nights in the press box.

Bottom line, Pirri got a two-year deal, $925K AAV; Dylan Olsen got a two-year deal, $775K AAV; Hayes should be valued somewhere between those numbers.

For a player who still has a lot to prove at the NHL level, and will have to earn playing time on a much better roster than in 2013, that’s an adequate dollar figure. If he out plays that contract – Fantastic. He’ll get paid in one/two years. But until he proves his full worth to the Panthers and fans, he needs to be paid accordingly.

 

(Usage Chart courtesy of ExtraSkater.com)

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