Grading the Florida Panthers: 2014 NHL Draft

Commish Gary Bettman was heartily booed before the draft started. What else is new? - Bruce Bennett

Now that the dust has settled, how did the Cats do with their selections?

The Florida Panthers began the draft with the No.1 overall pick, and ended with the No. 182 selection. They had four picks in between, for total of six new prospects added to the organization's pool. The prospect haul in general this June was nowhere near as strong as a year ago (or will be in 2015, for that matter), but there were still good players to be found in this draft.

That being said, using draft pick values from a recent TSN study, we'll grade the Panthers 2014 NHL Draft pick by pick, and assess a final grade at the end.  (Each pick has a different value; the No. 1 overall selection isn't worth the No. 210 selection.  Using each value from the study, we'll assign points/grades on a scale of 1-10, and use that as a percentage rate (ex. Pick Value = 5, Panthers assigned 9/10, they receive 4.5 total points), which will be added up at the end.)


No. 1 Overall Pick

The Selection - Aaron Ekblad

The Value - 7.88

The Skinny - Taking Ekblad was the best possible thing Florida could have done with the first overall selection. This is something I've been saying since we won the Draft Lottery, as the return on trading the pick was just nowhere near the value that the team gets from taking Ekblad.  The blueliner from the OHL's Barrie Colts is a dominant physical presence, and is just as impressive from a mental standpoint. Those two attributes combined should allow him to be a total shutdown defenseman. The Panthers get full marks here, not just because Ekblad was the best prospect available, but also because they avoided making a potentially stupid trade.

The Grade - 10/10

Total Points - 7.88/7.88

32nd Overall Pick

The Selection - Jayce Hawryluk

The Value - 2.83

The Skinny - This pick was a bit of a stretch, as Hawryluk wasn't projected to go until later in the draft. He definitely plays with a lot of intensity, speed, and grit, but doesn't necessarily have high caliber offensive skills to go along with his feisty style. On the plus side, he plays much bigger than he actually is, as he only stands at 5'10. Though the pick itself may be a shocker, it's even more surprising that the feisty forward was taken over talented Russian Ivan Barbashev, who was projected by many to be a first round pick. Barbashev is much more talented than Hawryluk, and though he's Russian, he plays a North American-style game and has been in the QMJHL for the past year.  Skipping over top six talent for an agitator in the second round may end up being one of Tallon's worst moves in this year's draft. Credit Dale Tallon for picking up a player who will contribute in the big league; he just could have done better.

The Grade - 7.0/10

Total Points - 1.98/2.83

65th Overall Pick

The Selection - Juho Lammikko

The Value - 2.45

The Skinny - Though the Panthers didn't have a selection in this year's third round, the scouting staff must have seen an opportunity to nab a favored player, as Tallon traded a 2015 3rd rounder to the New York Islanders in order to make this selection. Lammikko is a talented power forward who loves to score (he literally defines what the Panthers were lacking on their roster last season), and may have been a bit of a steal in the third round, as he was projected to go anywhere from the 2nd-3rd round. Though next year's draft is talent laden, picking in the third round is essentially hit and miss; if the Panthers moved up to take the guy they liked, they may end up getting the better end of the deal.  He's still a bit of a risk, but most prospects are at this stage of the draft. This was a great pick for the Cats; a potential steal, in the later rounds, that fulfills an organizational need. What more can you ask for?

The Grade - 9.0/10

Total Points - 2.21/2.45

92nd Overall Pick

The Selection - Joe Wegwerth

The Value - 2.10

The Skinny - This pick almost physically pained me. Wegwerth has close to nothing going for him from a hockey standpoint; he's slow, has average hockey sense, and he doesn't possess exceptional hands. What he does have going for him, however, is a 6'3, 230 pound frame. Tallon likes size in his prospects, but Wegwerth is a long shot to make the pro roster.  Also, he was projected to go much lower than the fourth round; the Panthers most likely would have been able to take him with their 5th round pick. Taking such a risk at this spot would have been better suited on a player with offensive upside, not on a guy with borderline 4th line potential.  The Panthers lose marks here, big time.

The Grade - 2.5/10

Total Points - .53/2.10

143rd Overall Pick

The Selection - Miguel Fidler

The Value - 1.64

The Skinny - The Cats took another scrappy winger with the selection of Fidler, though his scouting report may show that most of his offensive production at Edina this season came as a result of luck. If his offensive production doesn't translate to higher levels of play, which it most likely won't, the Panthers have wasted a pick here.  I really don't know what else to say, beside that it's slightly pathetic that fans can do this research on prospects and players while GMs and scouts can't.  We can hope that the offensive production stays, but it's more likely that Fidler will be nothing better than a scrappy, defensive forward who stays in the minor leagues for the majority of his career.

The Grade - 6.0/10

Total Points - 0.99/1.64

182nd Overall Pick

The Selection - Hugo Fagerblom

The Value - 1.54

The Skinny - This pick literally baffled me. The Panthers said that goaltending wouldn't be addressed this draft, and skipped over the best goaltender available (Thatcher Demko) in the second round, to take a complete unknown, who wasn't even ranked by NHL Central Scouting?  I understand that Tallon thinks that drafting goaltenders is a complete crapshoot, but why make a pick like this?  Fagerblom put up ADEQUATE numbers playing against 18-year-olds in Sweden. That isn't impressive, and certainly not worth using a pick on, especially when talented players with the potential to be draft steals such as Ondrej Kase, Edgars Kulda, and Julien Nantel were still available.  I hope Tallon, Inc. knows something that the rest of the hockey universe doesn't. This pick is also just an obvious show of the organization's borderline addiction for size.  Fagerblom is 6'6, 200 pounds.

The Grade - 1.0/10

Total Points - 0.15/1.54

Note: This isn't to say Fagerblom doesn't have potential.  Anyone with his size is going to have some, he's just a very raw prospect. Tallon probably could have taken a forward here, and still selected Fagerblom late in next year's draft.

Conclusion

Not messing up the first selection hugely helped the Panthers overall grade, as it's an extremely valuable pick and the club nailed it.  They were mostly atrocious in the later rounds, especially rounds 4-7, as their picks just seem to have almost no NHL potential whatsoever. They also messed up the second round by settling for a lesser player, instead of going for a guy who dropped much lower than he should have.

Overall, the Panthers totaled 13.74 out of a possible 18.44 points, or 75%. That's just passing, and is a scary number for a team that's oh so close to finally digging their way out of the cellar and into consistent Stanley Cup competition.  The scarier total?  If the grades aren't weighted based off of the pick value, the Panthers score a pitiful 59%.  That, unfortunately, is a failing grade.  Let's hope Tallon knows what he's doing, and I'm just a rambling buffoon with internet access.

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