In twenty-one appearances at the NHL Entry Draft, the Florida Panthers have only managed to hit twice, although the jury is still out on the most recent selections, so far in round seven. One of the two players, Matt Bartkowski, was traded to the Boston Bruins before he made his way to the NHL and is still in early portion of his career, so that leaves Peter Worrell as LBC's choice as the best of the Cats' seventh-rounders.
Worrell was drafted in 1995, 166th overall. by former Panthers GM Bryan Murray. In three seasons with the Hull Olympiques, the huge winger racked up an astounding 1202 PIM. In addition to his physical play, Worrell was close to a point-a-game player for Hull over his final two years, accumulating 122 points in 125 games. During his stint in the QMJHL, the Olympiques won two league championships and took home the Memorial Cup in 1997. Worrell turned pro in 1997-98, suiting up in 50 games for the AHL's Beast of New Haven (15-G/12-A/309-PIM) and 19 scoreless tilts with the parent Panthers, where he amassed 153 PIM. The next season, the punchy forward played just 10 games in New Haven and spent 62 with the Cats, scoring 4 goals, adding 5 helpers, and finishing with 258 PIM. Worrell spent the next four seasons full-time with Florida, where he posted a career-high 10 points during the 2000-01 campaign. The next season, he set a career-high with 354 PIM. In the summer of 2003, Worrell and a second round pick in the 2004 Entry Draft were shipped to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Eric Messier and center Vaclav Nedorost, two players who didn't last very long with the Panthers. The Pierrefonds, QC native played just one knee injury-shortened season with the Avalanche. He scored 3 goals, one assist, piled up 149 PIM, and finished with a plus rating for the only time (+2) in 49 games for Colorado. Worrell took the entire lost 2004-05 season off, choosing not to play elsewhere while the labor war raged on. He signed on with the New York Rangers when the NHL returned, but never played for them, ending his comeback attempt with a 37-game run with the ECHL's Charlotte Checkers. His final totals in the NHL were 391 games; 19 goals; 27 assists; 46 points; a -48 rating; and 1554 PIM.
During his time with the Panthers organization, Peter Worrell was fan-favorite, who played the enforcer role to a tee, pretty good stuff for a lowly seventh-round draft choice. Unfortunately, he was forced to endure some racially-charged run-ins with both fans and fellow players during his career. Peter has remained active on the South Florida hockey scene since his playing days ended, coaching both the FAU club team and the varsity squad at North Broward Preparatory School. Among a field littered with seventh-round roadkill, he was an easy choice for today's honor. Having said that, here's hoping a few short years from now, a prospect like MacKenzie Weegar makes us gladly revise this selection.