Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Panthers seeking speedy wing man
Team hopes to add scoring threat at No. 11
Generally, predraft news conferences are about as revealing as burqas, however, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon made it clear last week that he’s looking to bolster the team’s scoring by adding a speedy right wing in this weekend’s NHL draft at the BB&T Center.
Tallon said he will also look to enhance the team’s depth in net by drafting a young goalie to be Roberto Luongo’s heir apparent. Luongo turned 36 last April, but is coming off one of his best years since 2010. However, the Panthers are thin in net throughout their organization because Jakob Markstrom didn’t pan out.
Panthers director of scouting Scott Luce said that the draft lacks “star power’’ in net but believes there are eight forwards who should be available for the team with their No. 11 pick. After the Oilers take consensus top pick OHL superstar center Connor McDavid at No. 1 and the Sabres likely snatch up Boston University Hobey Baker award-winning center Jack Eichel at No. 2, several highly touted European right wings could be had by the Panthers, including Finland’s Mikko Rantanen or more realistically Mi-
chael Spacek of Czechoslovakia.
Rantanen would certainly blend well with fellow Fins on the Panthers, center Aleksander Barkov, the 2013 No. 2 pick, and veteran Jussi Jokinen. However, Rantanen isn’t expected to get past the Devils at No. 6 or Flyers at No. 7.
Most mock drafts have right wing Timo Meier lurking outside the top 10 and within the Panthers’ grasp. Meier scored 44 goals in 61 games for Halifax of the QMJHL last season.
The Panthers were ranked 25th in goals and were especially weak at right wing. Brad Boyes, who has a year left on his contract, dropped from a teamleading 21 goals in 2013-14 to 14.
Tomas Fleischmann never rediscovered his scoring touch after leading the team with 27 goals in 2011-12, as he scored seven goals in 52 games before being dealt to the Ducks at the trade deadline.
Jimmy Hayes, a restricted free agent who’s expected to return, was a pleasant surprise with a career-high 19 goals. Veteran right wing Tomas Kopecky, who had a team-leading 15 goals in the 2012-13 lockout shortened season, scored just two goals in 64 games and Tallon said the impending free agent won’t be resigned.
The Panthers added future Hall of Fame right wing Jaromir Jagr in March, who at 43, instantly energized Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau by notching 18 points in 20 games. Expected to be competing for a right wing slot are speedy Rocco Grimaldi, a converted 5-foot-6 center, and Logan Shaw, who scored 14 and 13 goals respectively in their first AHL season.
“For us we’re looking at our depth chart and filling our needs with speed and scoring,’’ Tallon said.