After having one of the first two selections in the previous two drafts, the Panthers will be hoping that they have a later pick in this year's draft, which is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.
Even after the elite of the elite, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, have been taken off the board, teams will still find players more than capable of becoming some of the best players in the world. A late first-round pick in this year's draft could still produce a top-end player, one capable of dominating the NHL when he reaches his prime.
That being said, this year's pick will be crucial in completing the Panthers' young core. By adding the final piece (or pieces) to the prospect group, Dale Tallon could gear this team up for a number of Stanley Cup runs over the next couple of years.
There are going to be logjams at center and defense as Florida's prospects grow into their prime. Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Vincent Trocheck, Drew Shore, Rocco Grimaldi, Brandon Pirri, and Kyle Rau will all be competing with each other to earn roster spots in the upcoming years at center. Aaron Ekblad, Michael Matheson, Ian McCoshen, Mackenzie Weegar, Alex Petrovic, Dmitry Kulikov, and Colby Robak will be in the same situation on the blue line.
The Cats are lacking at winger and goaltender, however, as Quinton Howden and Juho Lammikko (the best wingers in the pipeline) only project to be second line wingers, at best, while none of the trio of Sam Brittain, Evan Cowley, or Michael Houser have shown flashes of NHL-caliber play this year.
There are a number of scoring wingers in this draft, but Mitch Marner, Daniel Sprong, Evgeny Svechnikov, Filip Ahl, Jordan Greenway, and Dennis Yan are several options the Panthers should be looking at, especially this early in the season.
Team/League - London Knights/OHL
Report - As a smaller forward, Marner combines high-end skating ability with quick hands, a hard wrist shot, and elite creativity with the puck on his stick. A natural scorer, Marner also has the ability and vision to create opportunities for his teammates.
More: Brendan Ross looks in depth at Marner's talents.
Team/League - Charlottetown Islanders/QMJHL
Report - A rare Dutch import, Sprong plays a fast, energetic style of hockey that allows him to be consistently involved in his team's offensive efforts. His shot is lethal, and his work ethic on and off the ice will help him keep improving his game even after he makes it to the pro ranks.
More: Neate Sager of Buzzing the Net helps us see just how dynamic Sprong truly is.
Team/League - Cape Breton Screaming Eagles/QMJHL
Report - Standing at 6'3, 205 pounds, Svechnikov uses his size and strength to power his way to the goal. He has a pro-caliber shot already, and is creative with the puck in traffic.
Team/League - HV71/SHL J20
Report - Filip Ahl is another hulk of a man, standing at 6'4 and weighing 210 pounds. He has a good top speed, and is surprisingly mobile, but plays his best when he is able to bull his way to the net. His best asset may be his shot, which is already pro-caliber.
More: Future Considerations tells why Ahl finds himself soaring up this year's draft boards.
Team/League - USNTDP U18
Report - Here we have yet another huge winger, as Greenway stands at 6'5, 222 pounds. Like the other two power forwards, he has a blistering shot, but is also skilled at controlling the puck, using either his large frame or quick hands. His size and skill makes him a great finisher in-close. However, he is prone to bouts of inconsistent play.
More: Greenway's size and skill have gathered the attention of NHL scouts this year.
Team/League - Shawinigan Cataractes/QMJHL
Report - The other wingers mentioned so far are considered to be first round talents. I haven't seen Yan ranked anywhere above the middle of the second round, but he's one of the most offensively dynamic players in this year's draft. He's got the ability to score goals like it's nobody's business, as shown by his numbers in Shawinigan. He's one of my favorites, at least out of those who aren't projected to go in the first round. To get him in the second would be a steal.
It's certainly early in the year, but right now, Felix Sandstrom and Callum Booth seem to be the two most talented goalie prospects in this year's draft class.
Team/League - Brynäs/SHL
Team/League - Quebec Remparts/QMJHL
Though it's early, I feel that these are some players that should be on the radar of the Panthers' scouts. Dennis Yan right now could be a great second round pick, and adding a player like Svechnikov or Greenway in the first round could solidify the top line for the Cats for the future.