The Florida Panthers will kick off Rookie Camp today with weigh-ins and physical exams. While most of the names on the 26-man roster are already familiar to most of us, there are some new faces that were not at July's Development Camp. Let's take a quick look at these eight players who will be trying to impress the club's decision-makers over the weekend during practices and the four-team Prospect Tournament taking place at the sparkling new Ford Ice Center in Antioch, TN. This lineup of young Cats will be taking on fellow prospects from the Predators, Lightning and Bruins.
Liam Heelis is a 23-year-old center from Georgetown, ON. He played four seasons in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes and Owen Sound Attack. During his one season with the Attack, the team won the league title and participated in the Memorial Cup. After ending his junior career, Heelis enrolled at Acadia University where he has played for the last three years, accumulating 86 points in 81 games. After his most recent 24-goal, 42-point campaign, Heelis was awarded the Senator Joseph A. Sullivan Trophy as the MVP for Canadian university hockey.
Stephen MacAulay is a 22-year-old forward who was a sixth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2010. MacAulay played five seasons in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs, where he was a Memorial Cup-winning teammate of Jonathan Huberdeau, and Halifax Mooseheads. After turning pro last season, he suited up for 8 games with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs (1G/1A) and 12 games with the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers (0G/2A) before he decided to attend St. Mary's University in Canada, where he totaled 12 points in just 14 games. MacAulay is hoping use his time at St. Mary's as a springboard to return to the pro game.
Stephan Vigier is a diminutive, 24-year-old center from Manitoba, who just finished up a successful four-year stint at Northern Michigan University. Vigier posted career-highs of 16 goals and 17 assists during his senior season. After leaving school, he played 8 regular season games with the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays and made a quick impression by scoring 5 goals and 1 assist. He was held without a point in four playoff games. Vigier has signed a contract to play with the Panthers' shared ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones, this season.
Andrew Blazek is a 26-year-old defenseman hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, who just finished his collegiate career with Robert Morris University, where he posted 51 points in 129 games. After his senior season, Blazek joined the Cincinnati Cyclones and suited up for 6 regular season games (0G/4A) and 20 playoff games (OG/1A) as the Cyclones ultimately fell to the Alaska Aces in the Kelly Cup Finals. Blazek started off with Robert Morris as a forward before he was converted to defense, so despite his advanced age for a prospect, he is still relatively new to being a defenseman. In 2011, he was invited to prospect camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Keevin Cutting is a 21-year-old defenseman who played five seasons in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack, where he set the club record for most games played (regular season and playoff) with a total of 374. He was the team's captain during the 2012-13 campaign. Last season, the stay-at-home blueliner attended the University of New Brunswick, where he scored 2 goals and added 5 assists. Despite being a bit on the slight side, Cutting won't shy away from physical play.
Michael Quinn is a 21-year-old defenseman from Surrey, BC who just finished his college career at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Quinn's best individual output came in his senior season, when he tallied 2 goals and a career-high 22 assists for the Nanooks. Prior to playing in the NCAA, he spent four seasons in the BCHL with the Surrey Eagles and Westside Warriors. Quinn, who is considered a good puck-mover, has signed on with the Cyclones for the upcoming season.
Clarke Saunders is a 25-year-old goaltender who spent the last four years toiling in the NCAA. He played his freshman and sophomore seasons at the University of Alabama-Huntsville before finishing school at the University of North Dakota. His best at the NCAA level came in his junior year, when he appeared in 26 games for the Fighting Sioux and posted a 2.30 GAA and 13-9-4 record. Saunders has a lot of games under his belt for a prospect. Prior to attending UAH, he played four years of Junior "A" in Ontario with the Brockville Braves. He is slated to spend this season with the Colorado Eagles of the ECHL.
Jacob DeSerres is a 24-year-old goalie from Calgary, AB. He has spent the last three years playing in his hometown for the University of Calgary. Last season, DeSerress posted an impressive 13-2-2 record and 2.15 GAA for the Dinos, winning CIS Goaltender of the Year honors. Prior to attending university, DeSerress logged extensive Major Junior action with the Seattle Thunderbirds, Brandon Wheat Kings and Saint John Sea Dogs. He played in back-to-back Memorial Cup Finals, losing with Brandon in 2010 and winning with Saint John in 2011. DeSerress was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the third round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but was never signed to a contract.