Camp is now complete, and the 36 prospects that the Panthers brought to South Florida head home, where most will prepare for another year or so of development before returning for their shot at the pro roster. Day Five, however, was by far the most entertaining event of the week, as draft selections and invitees showcased their offensive skills in a 6-5 shootout victory for Team Red (full downloadable rosters here).
As for the scrimmage itself, Team Red went up 3-0 (goals courtesy of Mike Vecchione, Logan Shaw and Tony Turgeon) before five straight goals by Team Blue (Cody Payne, Aaron Ekblad, Miguel Fidler, Juho Lammikko & Zach Hyman) made it 5-3. Team Red quickly roared back to tie it at 5 (Colin Suellentrop, Connor Brickley). Following a scoreless overtime period in which the new AHL 3-on-3 rules were tested, Team Red won it in the shootout thanks to Yaroslav Kosov.
Twitter feed of the action:
Underway here! pic.twitter.com/daCqVlRLfT— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Note: Team Blue was dressed in white sweaters. Seems whomever drew up the names might have been colorblind?
Weegar driving play through the neutral zone. Good speed and hands— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Weegar just ran over Taker as Taker tried standing him up at the blue line. Another rush from Weegar. Good stuff.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Weegar leads yet another rush. He's a true game changer out of the back end. Great vision and instincts.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Wow, does MacKenzie Weegar have serious skill at creating offense. The kid is a wizard coming through the neutral zone with the puck, or stepping up in the rush late and taking a shot in the high slot. It's very easy to see why Dale Tallon already has him penciled in as potential power play quarterback of the future.
Ed Wittchow blazing right around Weegar. Still needs defensive help.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Weegar got dangled by Shayne Taker; really needs defensive help.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Unfortunately, as good as Weegar is offensively, he got used on the rush by two stay-at-home blueliners. He really helps the team control the puck, so I wouldn't be too critical of his defense, but he's most likely going to need a year or two in San Antonio before making the jump.
Vecchione steals it from Ekblad, creates a scoring chance, and nets the rebound. Great hustle to get the puck from Ekblad.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Vecchione with a great feed to spring Tony Turgeon. Really like Vecchione so far in the scrimmage, making the right plays.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Mike Vecchione is a hustle guy, with good hands, who is hard to push off the puck. He really looks like a Jesse Winchester-type (perhaps with a bit more finesse) and could be a good role player in the future. (He isn't signed to the Panthers; he's an invitee from Union College.)
On the topic of Ekblad, however...
Ekblad caught pinching; might still need seasoning before the NHL level.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Tried to do too much with the puck, sometimes. He still made some great plays and controlled the tempo of the game, but he needs to utilize his teammates more, and trust that they can make great plays too.
Beautiful pass by Payne and holy snipe by Ekblad on the rush.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Wow. What a cannon. This is exactly what the Panthers have been lacking on the power play. Ekblad unleashed an absolute bomb from the right side. Goaltender Evan Cowley really had no chance on it. Here's Ek following the scrimmage (FTR: all videos via the club):
Florida boy Cody Payne manages to slide one in. Besides that, Payne hasn't been too good. Pretty non existent, really.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Payne may have had two points in the scrimmage, but one was a very weak goal and the other was really all Ekblad. Other than that, he seemed just a half step behind some of the other guys, and very seldom was able to help the team control the puck. I was really rooting for him, but I don't think that he's got a legitimate shot at the NHL level.
Logan Shaw flies down the wing and snipes it by Fagerblom. Not good positioning from Hugo, got beat really easily by the shot.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Not sure how else to say it, and I've said it before, but Hugo Fagerblom appears very raw right at this early stage. Really needs a lot of work, but the potential to be great is there.
Line of Hyman, Fidler, Spisso is dominating for team blue. Gotta give most of the credit to Hyman.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
This was the third line, but they controlled most of the play and I would call them the most dominant. Hyman took a kid fresh out of high school (Fidler) and a player filling in for an injured Chris Clapperton (Spisso) and made them part of the most effective trio. I wasn't counting, but the Corsi of this line for sure would have been north of 55%. Oh, and they scored:
Miguel Fidler ties it at 3-3 with 8:18 left in 2nd period. Cue your Fidler on the roof jokes whenever he goes top shelf.. #FlaPanthers— Highland Park Hockey (@H_P_Hockey) July 11, 2014
Zach Hyman with the snipe! Hyman looks good. I really, really like Hyman.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Hyman had the assist on Fidler's goal; found Fidler trailing in the slot and the recent draftee picked his corner and buried it.
Zach heads back to the University of Michigan to begin his senior year. His numbers haven't been impressive on the surface, but coach Red Berenson has had him in a defensive role on the third and fourth lines. He's most likely going to be playing right wing, among the top 6 forwards now. Soon to be unleashed on offense, watch out for Hyman; he should log some terrific stats next season.
Racine has a great recovery after Downing turns the puck over. Racine is one of the standouts here; he'll probably get top minutes in AHL.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Jonathan Racine was one of the biggest standouts of the camp. One thing I believe has gone under the radar is how much he is willing to stand up to a challenge. Per Brian Skrudland, "He's not the biggest guy, he's not the smallest, but I guarantee you he's probably the bravest... If I had to pick out of the whole lot, and take one guy out of my corner, if we were gonna get at it with a whole army... I would want him by my side."
Add that to Brian McCabe recently stating he has the "Heart of a lion", and I think it's pretty clear that Racine is making a serious case to be considered for not only top line AHL minutes, but also depth minutes at the NHL level.
Juho Lammikko just undressed a defenseman and blew the shot by Cowley. Him and Barkov will be a dangerous Finnish connection in the future.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Great pick by Tallon. Speed, size, finesse, and a great shot.
Save by Stevens! Kid looks good. Carrying some of his winning pedigree from Union over with him.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Great save on a Vincent Trocheck penalty shot. G Colin Stevens doesn't "wow"; he just seems to win. He won with Union, and when he and Cowley switched, the Red Team had a 3-0 lead. Winners tend to stay in organizations, and for one that's been generally a losing proposition for so long, adding a winner like Stevens might be a smart move.
Hawryluk and Barkov out; Barkov, reason unknown, most likely precautionary. Hawryluk seemed to hurt his shoulder yesterday— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
Saw both Barkov and Hawryluk after the scrimmage. Both are moving fine, functioning fine. No major injuries between the two.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 11, 2014
No concern here.
As for Kyle Rau, he's really determined to finish up in Minnesota. The main reason to go back was to finish things off; both his degree, and the business that was left on the ice in the Gophers' loss to Union. I wish Kyle the best of luck, so long as he doesn't pull a Corban Knight. For further viewing, here's the full interview with Rau.
Trocheck (below) - Did well, really controlled play. Sometimes passed too much, instead of making the play himself.
Rocco Grimaldi - Wowed with his feistiness and speed. Could have had a goal, but shot rang off the crossbar. Overall, had himself a helluva camp.
These are just a few of the names involved on the final day. I can provide deeper info on what I saw from other participants in either the comments section below or via twitter (@shane1342o).
Also, look at @turbuLENTZ for some great pictures of the development camp. Most of the players are using his shots for their Instagram profiles and etc.