Florida Panthers: Dark Horse Prospects to Watch (2019/2020 Edition)

It’s almost time. Hockey season is almost here. Finally. With the summer winding down, training camp is right around the corner and we will have a lot to talk about. But right now is our chance to say, “we liked him before he was cool.” We at Panther Parkway put out this article so we can say “I told you so!” during the year when one of our picks makes it to the big time. So, for the second year in a row, we’ll be highlighting some of the prospects in the pipeline who haven’t been getting as much attention heading into training camp. Last year, we named 14 under the radar prospects who weren’t necessarily expected to play in the NHL last season. Of those 14 players, eight of them ended up playing for the Panthers at some point last season. That speaks to the depth of the Panthers’ system which will come into play if the Cats are to make a playoff run. We’ll call our eight players who went from this list to the Panthers’ roster, Dark Horse Graduates.

Told you So!

Yes, I said it! Now that I got that out of my system, here are the eight players we highlighted in last year’s edition who went on to play for the Panthers last season. The Dark Horse Graduates:

Dryden Hunt, Jayce Hawryluk, Juho Lammiko, Sam Montembeault, Josh Brown, Jacob MacDonald, Anthony Greco, Riley Stillman.

We’re looking forward to the next group of players who open some eyes come training camp. With that said, let’s get to it.


Aleksi Heponiemi, C/LW

Heponiemi certainly isn’t off the radar to be an impact player for the Panthers. Most people agree that the 20-year-old will eventually become a big time player for the big club. But, we’re including him on this list today because almost everyone who’s mentioned Heponiemi this summer has him slated to play the year in Springfield with the Thunderbirds. I feel like people don’t understand just how talented this guy is. But, once people get a look at him in camp and preseason, there will be no doubt about what he can do. He tore up the WHL for two years and then proceeded to dominate the Finnish Liiga with 46 points in 50 games. He led all rookies in scoring and was barely beaten for rookie of the year by Kaapo Kakko even though he outscored Kakko. He also led the World Junior tournament in scoring en route to a gold medal with Finland. He has simply dominated every league or competition that he has been a part of. His offensive potential is second to none. So if a spot in the top nine becomes available, or if he outshines the likes of Owen Tippet and Denis Malgin, expect to see him in Sunrise.

Anthony Greco, RW

Greco is 25 years old now so he’s a little bit older than most of the other prospects. But, even though he got a taste of the NHL last year for a game in Minnesota, he still spent his season in Springfield. But, this guy just keeps getting better and this year might be his year to make the team. He tallied career highs in goals (30), assists (29), and points (59) last year for the Thunderbirds. He also won the AHL fastest skater award with a time that actually beat Connor McDavid’s last season. He was among the final cuts a year ago after a very good preseason showing so I would not be surprised to see him crack the opening night roster as a fourth liner or extra forward. He has NHL talent but he hasn’t had any NHL opportunities to this point.That may change with Joel Quenneville running the show.

Serron Noel, RW

Noel is obviously one of the top prospects in the pipeline but he is not expected to make the roster this year. Unless of course, he comes out and uses his massive frame, NHL-ready physicality and net front presence to earn himself a nine-game stint to start the year. And what if he takes a nine-game stint and plays solid hockey? Solid enough to net him a spot on the roster for the year. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but most people seem to think he’s a lock to head back to the OHL for another year. In hearing from him at Development Camp, he has his sights set on the NHL sooner rather than later. All it takes is a hot stretch of hockey and we’ve seen it before. He’s a giant on ice and has underrated skill. He tallied 81 points on 34 goals and 47 assists in the OHL last year. Don’t sleep on him this September if he shows well in camp and preseason.

Other forwards to watch

Jonathan Ang, RW/C

Sebastian Repo, RW/C

Patrick Bajkov, RW


Brady Keeper, D

Brady Keeper was one of the best stories of last season when he signed with the Panthers out of the University of Maine. He is out to prove that he is NHL ready as a 23-year-old rookie. He has yet to play an AHL game and he only has one NHL game to his name, but the talent is there and he has all the qualities of a good NHL defensemen. He is definitely a player who can play on both ends of the ice and can move the puck quickly. After scoring 7 goals and 15 assists last year the Panthers gave him his first shot at the pro ranks. He also showed very well at Development Camp this year so he certainly seems like he is poised to challenge for the seventh defenseman spot this season. He plays with a real physical edge and tenacity on defense but he has good feet, sharp passes, and a big slapper on offense. He will be a valuable depth player for a Panthers team aiming for the postseason.

Riley Stillman, D

Stillman was a fourth round pick in 2016 and he is coming off a solid rookie year in the AHL where he tallied 17 points in 59 games. He was also a very respectable +8 on a bad team. He played well enough to earn a call-up for a game against Arizona last year and could be in line for a lot more NHL time when the season gets going. He plays a tough brand of hockey and loves to throw the body. But, his shot from the point has some good speed and Stillman has good feet. He certainly knows what it takes to break into the NHL. His dad, Cory Stillman, was a Panther not too many years ago. Riley will most likely start in the minors unless something crazy happens, but watch for him to earn a call-up or two this year as a good depth option.

Ethan Prow, D

Prow is almost an identical case to Jacob MacDonald a year ago. At 26-years-old, he’s an overage prospect, but he exploded last season and tore up the AHL in the Penguins farm system. He scored 18 goals and 32 assists for a total of 50 points. He’s a power play quarterback and can create offense from the back end consistently. I’m not saying he’ll make the team, but nobody thought Jacob MacDonald would last year either. Prow is a name to know when September rolls around, because even though he put it all together a little bit late in the process, he has rare offensive gifts for a D-man.

Other Defensemen to Watch

Thomas Schemitsch, D

Jake Massie, D


Ryan Bednard, G

The seventh-round pick in 2015, Ryan Bednard, finally turned pro at the end of last season after dominating college hockey. Bednard had a 1.77 goals against average which is absurd. His .927 save percentage also shows that he was an elite goaltender at the college level. He hasn’t played in the NHL or AHL yet, but he was the best goalie on the ice at Development Camp and his huge frame is what will entice the coaching staff the most in camp. Hopefully he will get some preseason time between the pipes. I don’t expect that he’ll challenge Sam Montembeault for the backup job, but he has a strong case to be the AHL starter and first call-up to the NHL in the event of an injury at the goaltender position.

Chris Driedger, G

Driedger had a strange year last season. He started as the fifth goalie on the depth chart. He was actually buried in the ECHL to start the year. But with Michael Hutchinson, James Reimer, and Roberto Luongo all out of the picture at various times for various reasons, he ended the year as Springfield’s starter after Monty became a full time NHLer. He’s 25 years of age and was once thought of as a top goalie prospect for Ottawa. It hasn’t panned out for him but he was good in Springfield last season with a .924 save percentage and 2.45 goals against. He actually played far better in the AHL than the ECHL which is odd to say the least. Either way, he is slated to be the starter in Springfield this season and will likely be the first player called up if the Panthers should have injuries or other struggles in net. He has a slim chance to beat out Monty for the backup job with a spectacular training camp showing. Keep an eye on him because the talent does seem to be there and it’s finally showing as he reaches his age-25 season.


Is there anyone you think we’re missing from this list? Who from our list has the best shot to make an impact this season? Let us know in the comments!

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