Thanks for the memories: Saying goodbye to Panther Parkway

After 5 seasons as a blogger, I am calling it quits.

I made this decision about 2 weeks or so ago, but I wasn’t quite sure how I would approach it, so I stared at a blank document for a few days. Well, I finally put my emotions in my back pocket, and mustered up a few words. So, here is goes:

It’s no secret that hockey is my life. I know that sounds cliché’, but this sport literally consumes my entire family. With that being said, I think it’s in the best interest of my family that I stopped writing about the Florida Panthers for Panther Parkway. Even though this decision was quite difficult to make, a good friend once told me “No matter what you choose to do with your career, the sport of hockey isn’t going anywhere”. As simple as that may sound, he’s right, which made my decision to leave Panther Parkway a little easier.

If I’m being honest, I’ve had, on a few occasions, times when I thought about stepping away from this site to spend more time with my son, school work, or to focus on my day job. But every time, something pulled me back in. Well, not this time.

For the past 5 years, I have invested a great deal of my time into various blog sites. I was originally affiliated with The Rat Trick of Fansided.com, and after 2 seasons we decided to move into a different direction (enter Panther Parkway).

Frank Rekas and I began Panther Parkway 3 seasons ago, and it has been everything to me. Although Mr. Rekas called it quits a few weeks ago, this was still very much mine and his baby from the start. Because we were not affiliated with any affiliation site, we spent countless hours trying to build this site from the ground up, with very limited help promoting our independent blog. Well, I’m proud to say that our site has produced over 50 podcast episodes with some of the best guests in the business, along with 1,500 articles since the sites launch 3 seasons ago. We’ve had incredible support over the years from our readers, and we are all so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you. Trust me when I tell you, your support and passion means the world to us.

During my time as a blogger, I’ve seen some amazing writers come in and out – writers who have helped this site grow tremendously, and I’d like to thank them all for it. To Frank, Jameson Cooper, Mike Lewis, Mike Obrand, Dave Lasseter, Chrissy Parente, Josh Luecht and JV Siegal, I can’t thank you all enough for, not only your expertise blogging skills, but being my best friends. You all mean the world to me. I really do mean that.

Along with our staff writers, I can’t tell you how many friendships I have built over the years, and how many amazing people I have met because of this website. As a female trying to pave her way into the hockey world, putting your voice out there was something I was always afraid to do, but many of you welcomed me into the unknown with open arms. I want to thank you all for being my friends, and accepting a female hockey blogger from Florida into your blogosphere. This site, and you people, have been my home away from home for so many years. On my darkest days, I could always count on the hockey community to give me a good laugh, whether it was through a silly little tweet, or a snarky article about Tyler Bozak. I’ve had a blast getting to virtually know all of you.

I want to specifically thank the Florida Panthers and PR Director Justin Copertino for taking a chance on me as an 18-year-old intern, and then again as a full-time credentialed media member. I want to thank you for giving me such a great deal of experience, as well as supplying me with a lifetime of great memories. I hope this website has supplied the team with adequate coverage over the years, and helped do its part in growing the sport of hockey in South Florida.

With both co-founders of Panther Parkway stepping back, I’m not sure what the future has in store for this site yet, nor am I sure if this site even has a future at all. All I know is I am walking away from the site I helped create, and that’s OK. Like I said earlier, I’ve met some amazing people, gained so much experience, and have made some incredible memories to last me a lifetime. But for now, it’s time to stand beside my family, and cheer on the Panthers, the team I love so much, from afar.

Cheers, everyone.

Florida makes roster cuts, announces 51-man training camp roster

The Florida Panthers’ rookies arrived back in Florida late last night after winning the prospects tournament held at the Ford Ice Center in Nashville over the weekend. For some of these individuals, the end of prospects camp means the beginning of NHL training camp, or pre-season. For others, it means the end of their pro careers with the Panthers.

While several individuals impressed at the annual rookie tournament, not every player was fortunate enough to earn a spot at main camp. The following players have been cut from the Panthers, and will not attend training camp:

Player Cuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following names will be attending training camp:

Training Camp Roster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The team will hold their first on-ice practice of training camp on September 19th, starting at 10 a.m. at the Panthers Ice Den in Coral Springs, FL. You can find the full training camp schedule here. We’re looking forward to seeing you all there!

 

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Aaron Ekblad: “I want to be on that opening night roster”

As Aaron Ekblad settles into life in South Florida for his big push towards making the Panthers’ roster as an 18-year-old, it should be apparent to Panthers fans that this will be the first time that Ekblad has faced any sort of adversity as a hockey player. This isn’t to say that you can expect any sort of Lindrosian behavior from the Belle River, Ontario native; the honor roll student is touted for his complete game as a defenseman, more than justifying the fact that he is just one of four players to date to have been granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada.

What strikes you immediately (besides his model-esque appearance) is Ekblad’s ability to walk a tightrope between confidence and meekness. When asked if he had spoken with veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell–a signing I have lauded as a great move by Dale Tallon, not just for the development of Ekblad, but for the progression of the defensive corps as a whole–he said that it “…would be awesome to meet Willie Mitchell,” as if he were hoping the veteran d-man would stop by his locker to extol the virtues of using longer sticks in the NHL.

His performance–to date–is anything but vague. What excited Hockey Canada about the 15-year-old has only matured as he’s grown. Now, the 6’3 216 lbs. blue liner is known for his all-around game, excelling just as much on special teams as he does at even strength. His one-timer is considered lethal, and while he doesn’t do it very often, he’s more than willing to drop the gloves to prove a point. Some have compared his style of play to legendary defenseman Denis Potvin, a favorable comparison that Ekblad takes with a grain of salt. “All comparisons are good, especially to guys who have had storied careers,” Ekblad said, while adding “I want to pave my own path in the NHL.”

With the uncertainty as to what his role will be with the organization next year, Ekblad has a few things going in his favor. For one, the Panthers have only four defensemen locked in as starters (at this point): Erik Gudbranson, Brian Campbell, Willie Mitchell, and Dmitry Kulikov. Another is that he is right-handed, something only one of the four assumed starters (Gudbranson) can boast. Although he’s 18, his two-way game and size should translate well to the NHL, something that naturally keeps 18-year-olds in junior hockey for at least another year or two.

“I want to be on that opening night roster,” Ekblad said. “I want to be given that opportunity and I think if I do, I’ll be able to run with it.”

Along with the natural spark that adding an 18-year-old, former number one overall pick to the fold, is the Panthers much publicized power play woes. Ekblad’s play could easily bolster a unit that shot a comically low 7.6%, while serving to boost the play of Brian Campbell, who could settle into the power play quarterback role, setting up Ekblad’s big one timer.

Aside from Ekblad and Alex Petrovic, who is entering the last year of his entry-level deal, the Panthers have Dylan Olsen and Colby Robak, who would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the AHL. Additionally, Shane O’Brien was invited to camp, and Greg Zanon was signed to a one year, two-way contract.

Like Vincent Trocheck, it’s the options the Panthers have in Ekblad, and that they can send him back to his junior team, that are stacked against him. With that in mind, Ekblad obviously has nothing else to learn in the OHL, as his 23 goals and 30 assists in 58 games would suggest.

If all Ekblad wants is to clear his own path in the NHL, his route thus far is a pretty good start.

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

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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!

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

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