Dale Tallon added 13 prospects through the draft and four more players via the trade route. Players added that will have immediate impact are Chris Higgins, signed as a free agent, Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner obtained in a swap wth Vancouver, and Dennis Wideman who was obtained in the Nathan Horton trade.
Getting rid of Horton will improve the team in the dressing room, as Horton did not want to be there. Higgins will replace some of Horton’s scoring and Wideman will replace Ballard’s minutes for less cap space.
The immediate impact of the new draftees will be felt in Rochester and not in the parent club, although it is exciting to see the massive amount of depth that was added at all positions (except goaltending which was already the strength of the organization).
The only prospects who appear to have a chance to make the team are Keaton Ellerby and Eric Gudbranson. With seven defencemen already signed, Ellerby or Gudbranson will have to have quite a camp to force one of the seven into the Press Box.
So with all of the new additions, how much impact on the standings will be felt on the parent club? The Panthers should improve but not enough to make the playoffs this year. Next year or the year after promises a playoff team with the emergence of the new draftees Gudbranson, Quinton Howden, Nick Bjugstad and John McFarland, and the maturing of Ellerby Shawn Matthias and Dmitri Kulikov.
So patience is the word for Panther fans, as all of the changes take hold and new players develop into their new roles and jockey for position on the depth chart.
About the Author
Written by Marvin Miller
Freelance Sportswriter for many years. Hockey coach for 10 years up to Bantam AA. Certified Level 2 in both hockey and racquetball. Works now as a Senior Technical Writer. Hobbies, racquetball, playing guitar, and following hockey, particularly the NHL Draft.