Now it's beginning to feel close: Monday at 9 am will see the doors of IncredibleIce open to the public's first preseason view of the potential future of the Florida franchise.
Matthias, Garrison, Repik...all the names we've groveled over the past quarter of a year will finally take shape and assemble for the Cats' Rookie Camp in Coral Springs.
In a sense, this is a better brand of competition than the actual NHL Panthers' camp; here it will be decided which "kids" will be ultimately chosen to fight for positions with the Big Club - at least for a portion of the preseason, and hopefully far beyond. There aren't many spots available - and some would argue those scant few open positions should go to veteran NHLers. This week will provide an insight into both arguments.
Behind us are names we'd heard bandied about, season after season: Anthony Stewart, Tanner Glass, Drew Larman, Stefan Meyer, and others have moved on from the organization for varied reasons. Right or wrong, few are crying over these departures.
In their place are some we've seen in previous camps briefly (Jason Garrison, Shawn Matthias, Michal Repik, Keaton Ellerby), others who will be making their debuts on South Florida ice (Dmitry Kulikov, Alexander Salak, Garrett Wilson), as well as a few veterans of Panther camps (Andrew Sweetland, Kenndal McArdle, Brady Calla, Mike Caruso).
Its no secret at this site that I'm all about Repik. Call it a Frolik-hangover, but I'm stoked to see what he can do after a year in Rochester. Same goes for Ellerby, though Garrison may just be ready for The Jump.
We'll be there when the doors open, grabbing lots of photos, shaking out the summer cobwebs. Hope to have some shots online by tomorrow evening, so check back...and please feel free to post your own in a FanShot.