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Florida Panthers Draft Preview

Posted By Jack Powell On Jun 19 2010 @ 11:25 am In Florida Panthers | 1 Comment

The closing of the 2009-2010 NHL season showed us that former Chicago Blackhawks General Manager, Dale Tallon, is more than capable of putting the right group of talent and players together through the draft, free agency and trades to build a Stanley Cup champion. Well, Dale, lets see that trick again. The 2010 NHL Entry Draft will allow Panther fans to see what Tallon can do to exhume this team out of its current state of misery, spanning over the last decade.  The Panthers hold the 3rd pick in the first round, and for all intents and purposes, this quite possibly could be the most important pick in Florida Panther history. Yeah, its that bad down here.


To try and single out the most pressing need on this team is practically impossible. Offensive struggles last season led to Panther’s starting goaltender, Tomas Vokoun, having to be nearly flawless in order for the team to win on any given night.  The trade deadline saw the departure of defencemen Dennis Seidenberg and Jordan Leopold, leaving a strain on the Panther blue line. Rookie, Jason Garrison, played admirably in their absence, but youth and talent is still needed at the back end. Goaltending is an area Florida will not have to examine, seeing as they might be the deepest team in goal in the NHL.

Given the fact that every draft expert and talent scout alike have Windsor Spitfires winger Taylor Hall and Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin, both being off the board by the third pick, Dale Tallon will have his work cut out for him in deciding what player and his first pick as Panther GM, will be a cornerstone for this franchise years to come.


1. Cam Fowler (defenceman) of the OHL Windsor Spitfires


Cam Fowler is regarded by many scouts as being the best skater in the draft, ahead of even teammate Taylor Hall. Fowler’s speed and offensive upside will give the Panthers a perfect point player on the powerplay and his game should mesh well with Florida’s first round pick last season, defenceman Dmytri Kulikov. The physical aspect of his game leaves something to be desired along with his play in his own end, especially away from the puck. These shortcomings, however, should be corrected and Fowler has all the tools to develop into an NHL star. His ability to join the rush on offense combined with an accurate shot could make like easier for a Florida team looking to improve on its scoring totals, specifically with the man advantage.


2. Erik Gudbranson (defenceman) of the OHL Kingston Frontenacs


Erik Gudbranson could quite possibly prowl the Florida blue line right out of training camp. Most scouts see him as the most NHL ready defenceman in this year’s draft. The 6′-4″, 195 pound, Gudbranson plays well at both ends of the ice and isn’t afraid to mix it up with other players. Tallon has stressed the need to bring character to this organization and the captain of the Canadian team for the world under-18s will bring just that. A young star with leadership abilities may be just what this Panther team needs. While he doesn’t have the skating ability or offensive potency of Fowler (yet), he does possess a right handed shot that could help out a Florida team lacking in that department (outside of Nathan Horton) on the powerplay.


3. Brandon Gormley (defenceman) of the QMJHL Moncton Widcats


Hockey smarts are all over Brandon Gormley. He has the ability to make good passes, block shots, play well in his own end, and is positionally sound whenever on the ice. Everything you can ask for from a top defenceman. While Gormley doesn’t have the offensive flair of Fowler nor the intimidating presence of Gudbranson, he is a confident player who rarely makes mistakes, especially in his own end and through neutral ice. The Panthers should have a future top pair player if they select Gormley, and he skates extremely well, reminiscent of former Panther Jay Bouwmeester.


4. Brett Connolly (right winger) of the WHL Prince George Cougars


Tallon has shown in the past that he drafts from his gut instinct and will take chances (taking the smaller yet talented Patrick Kane over the larger and equally gifted James van Riemsdyk in the 2007 NHL Draft). Brett Connolly could have enough upside for the Tallon to take the risk. Connolly’s hip flexor injuries kept him from playing all but 16 games for Prince George this year. However in those games he notched 10 goals and 9 assists. Most scouts say that talent wise he is in the discussion with Hall and Seguin for the best player in the draft. Connolly, based on talent alone, would give the Panthers a scorer they haven’t seen the like of since Pavel Bure.


Florida, in rebuilding mode, will find it easier to build from the net out and should address their scoring issues via trades and free agency. The Panthers will more than likely take Fowler or Gudbranson with the third overall pick. Folwer would be the more dynamic player in the offensive zone who can skate with best of them, while Gudbranson could become one of the best two-way defenders in the NHL for years to come. Either way this is the most important Panther draft, most assuredly in recent memory, and quite possibly in Panther history. Not such a bad thing that Dale Tallon put together the best team in hockey in 2010.

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