Monday, July 25, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are next and they've got a large OHL prospect group as they continue to draft heavily from the league. Definitely one of the best prospect groups in the league when it comes to OHL players.

1. Lawson Crouse - Kingston Frontenacs
I think you have to look at Crouse's development last year in two ways. Firstly, the Frontenacs emerged as the best team in the Eastern Conference and it was largely in part to players like Crouse. He's such a complete player and the Frontenacs rely on him in a variety of different situations (penalty kill, powerplay, protecting the lead in the last minute, etc). While the value he brings to the team offensively is evident, it was his strong two-way game and defensive prowess that may have been most important to Kingston, who had the best goals against in the Conference. Secondly though, I'm not really sure his offensive game developed a whole lot. He still isn't the type of take over a game offensively, and I'm not sure he'll ever possess that ability. Does that mean that he can't develop into a top 6 player at the NHL level? Absolutely not. He does so many things well and does possess good hands and good vision as a playmaker along the wall. But he's going to be more of a complimentary player at the next level. That is unless he can continue to improve his ability to handle the puck in transition, improve his shot, and improve his ability to find scoring lanes. The question is, what does Florida do with Crouse next year? I think he's definitely ready to play in the NHL on a checking line. So does Florida keep him (they definitely have some room for him in the bottom 6), or do they send him back to Kingston for his final junior season in hopes that his offensive game really takes that next step forward towards dominance? If I bet on it, I'd say he's in Florida.

2. Adam Mascherin - Kitchener Rangers
Definitely one of the more underrated 2016 draft picks from the OHL, Mascherin was one of the best goal scorers available in the draft. His shot and release is already NHL quality. But other parts to his game (skating, intensity away from the puck, defensive awareness) continue to need improvement. As I've said a bunch, he reminds me a lot of current King Tyler Toffoli. Mascherin will head back to Kitchener next year. The Rangers are definitely losing some key pieces, but they should still be a competitive team and Mascherin has a good chance to at least replicate his offensive success of the previous year (35 goals). I'd actually be very surprised if he doesn't crack 40 next year.

3. Juho Lammikko - Kingston Frontenacs
Over the course of his two year OHL career, Lammikko was able to progress to the point of being one of the league's top two-way players. Like Crouse, Lammikko was key to the success of Kingston because of the stringent, hard-nosed game he plays. With size, skating ability, terrific work along the boards, and a true understanding of his two-way responsibilities, Lammikko is the perfect fit to be a 3rd line center in today's NHL game. He could very easily develop into a shut down defensive center and penalty killing expert (think of a guy like Paul Gaustad, or a Troy Brouwer). As he starts his pro career this year in the AHL, I'd expect Lammikko to put up modest numbers (15/15), but his strong overall game shouldn't go unnoticed by the coaching staff.

4. Thomas Schemitsch - Owen Sound Attack
Started the 2015/16 season on the shelf after fracturing his wrist at last year's Panthers' rookie camp. But I don't necessarily think that contributed to him having somewhat of a "so-so" season. Even pro-rated to 68, his offensive numbers were down from where they were in his NHL draft season. I still like Schemitsch as an NHL prospect, but I don't necessarily feel like he improved in any particular area. Offensively, he possesses great instincts and a good shot, but he hasn't taken that next step as a dominant puck rusher and the majority of his offensive contributions come from being the 3rd or 4th man in, or from the powerplay. But even as a powerplay QB, I'd like to see him play with more confidence, taking true control over the point and looking to utilize his shot more. Defensively, he still needs to use his size more efficiently, especially in the corners and in front of the net. Currently without an NHL contract (doesn't have to be signed until next June because of a late birthday), I think Florida would be wise to send Schemitsch back to Owen Sound for his overage season. Let him continue to build up his confidence at both ends of the ice. Owen Sound has a chance to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference and he'd be a huge part of it. If in the OHL, I think he cracks the 55 point mark and is one of the leading scoring defenders in the league.

5. Riley Stillman - Oshawa Generals
Tremendous pick up by Florida at this year's draft. Stillman is a very raw prospect, but he's a really good young kid who's already improved so much and has such a good attitude. He started off this year as a rookie trying to crack the roster and finished the year with an 'A' on his chest and was arguably Oshawa's top defender. He can play in all situations and is just scratching the surface of what he's capable of offensively (because of his hockey IQ, mobility, and excellent point shot). I honestly expect him to have a breakout season. I think he's got a chance to double his point production and crack the 40 point mark, playing for an upstart Oshawa team looking to improve after a rebuild.

6. Jonathan Ang - Peterborough Petes
Another pick I really liked by Florida. Ang is another kid that has improved a ton already over his OHL career. Speed is the most noticeable trait of Ang's, as he does everything at a high tempo. A late season shift to the wing really helped him, as it allowed him to simplify things offensively, using his speed to drive the wing and push the pace of play. His game without the puck has also come a long way and I think he has the skill set to develop into a terrific penalty killer and energy player. Peterborough should be one of the top team's in the Eastern Conference next year and Ang will be a top 6 player on that team (just as he was this year). Look for him to him be above the point per game mark next year and a 70 point player at the very least.

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