Joel Dorcas | April 24th, 2020
The Florida Panthers are oh so close to being mentioned as one of the premier teams of the Atlantic Division. The emergence of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and the steady play of rearguard Aaron Ekblad have all majorly contributed to the Panthers being a team on the rise. If the goaltending and defense can tighten up, the potential here is high. It appears as though future versions of this franchise will be getting an influx of talent that will put this team over the hurdle. Let’s take a closer look at some promising prospects within the organization.
Number 3; Grigori Denisenko/ Left Wing, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
Denisenko is rather raw at this stage of his development as he has yet to be exposed to the North American style of play. His latest body of work has occurred in the KHL where he has scored just six goals and 12 points in 38 games for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. His time spent in World Junior competition has painted a much better picture. In the 2019 tournament, Denisenko led all scorers with nine points for Russia. He then followed that up with another nine-point showing while being captain for Russia in the 2020 World Juniors.
The Panthers selected Denisenko 15th overall in 2018. He is a great skater with elite puckhandling skills, he has great playmaking abilities with the ability to finish. His skills are best suited to play on a top line rather than a checking line, but he will still need to add muscle to his 5’10”, 165-pound frame. Denisenko is likely at least two years away until he gets a sniff of hitting the ice with the Panthers.
Number 2: Spencer Knight/ Goaltender, Boston College (NCAA)
Knight was drafted as the 13th overall pick in the 2019 draft by Florida. He is widely regarded as one of the best goalie prospects in the league with many vouching for him as the best. It may be a while until we see the 6’3″ netminder at the NHL level as the Panthers are committed to Sergei Bobrovsky for the next six years at a very high cap hit. Knight is very young and inexperienced and will be building up his game in the minors until his mid-twenties(goalies take longer to develop).
Knight suited up for 33 games for Boston College in 2019-’20 as a freshman and sported a sparkling 1.97 GAA with a .931 save percentage. He also performed very well at the 2020 World Junior Championship guiding the U.S. to a silver medal. He was named as one of the top 3 players for the Americans in the tournament.
Number 1: Owen Tippett/ Right Wing, Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL)
Tippett is the most likely of this group of prospects to make the team next season out of training camp. There is a multitude of forwards on the roster that have contracts set to expire in the off-season. At least one or two roster spots at forward is likely to be up for grabs.
A 10th overall selection by the Panthers in 2017, Tippett is decently sized at 6’2″ and 205 pounds. He has all the makings of being an elite 40 goal type sniper. He is blessed with a heavy, quick and accurate shot which led him to back-to-back 75 point campaigns in 2017 and 2018 for the CHL’s Mississauga Steelheads scoring 44 and 36 goals in each respective season. He has since continued on his development with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds where he has put up a respectable 19 goals and 21 assists in 46 games.
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images