It's both refreshing and interesting to hear very little draft scuttlebutt regarding the Panthers this offseason, as for the first time since 2009, the Panthers are picking outside the top ten. Back then, a very young Dmitry Kulikov was selected 14th overall, giving the Panthers a high-value pick at that spot and providing them with an extremely solid young defensive prospect for years to come. This time around, Florida sits in the 23rd spot, and with much of the top talent already off the board, the Cats will be relying on their scouting talent to try and hit another home run like they did with Kulikov.
Luckily for the Panthers, there are some excellent defensive prospects available in the latter stages of the first round this year's draft, and the LBC staff's consensus pick for the 2012 NHL Mock Draft is another high-quality European defensive prospect: Hampus Lindholm. Read on to learn more about why we picked him, and why we feel he's one of the best options out there for the Cats.
At 18 years of age, Lindholm began his pro career in 2012, signing with Rögle BK of the Elitserien (Swedish Elite League) in March. Listed by NHL Central Scouting as the fourth-best European skater in this year's draft, he's a very solid two-way defenseman, capable of being fully responsible in his own zone while providing a spark to the transition game. Listed at 6'2" and 185 lbs., he's certainly not the largest defensive prospect available, but his intelligence, on-ice awareness and responsible play have earned him many accolades since his pro career began, including a silver medal at the World Junior Championships with Sweden's team. To compliment the medal, he was voted one of the top three players on that silver medal squad.
He stands out for most scouts thanks to one key element of his overall skill set: he's a fantastic skater, capable of playing a major role in the transition game, similar to Brian Campbell, though a full comparison is unfair at this point in his career. He was routinely involved in the transition game for Rögle BK, and posted some solid numbers during his time in the WJC's, putting up four points in six games. In addition to the wheels he possesses, he's got some serious stamina to go with it. Lindholm destroyed the competition during the VO2 max test at the NHL Draft Combine, showing his physical condition was (and should remain) in peak form going into the draft.
So why did the LBC crew pick Lindholm? Well, it's no secret that the Florida farm system is the top-ranked in the NHL, and incredibly deep at most positions. However, with the recent promotions of Erik Gudbranson to the big club and Alex Petrovic to the San Antonio Rampage, there aren't a lot of "impact" defensive prospects in the Florida prospect pool. A defensive prospect is almost a given here, and Lindholm fits the mold of the offensive defenseman the Panthers will need to have in the ranks in the future. With Petrovic and Gudbranson likely in the fold for years to come, the Panthers will have no issues icing a big, nasty, tough defensive lineup, but there is always a need for solid offensive defenseman helping the offensive game.
All the picks (so far) and full SB Nation Mock Draft coverage here.