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Florida Panthers Top 25 Under 25: #5 Brandon Pirri

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A blazing finish to 2014-15 put #73 high on the LBC countdown.

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Brandon Pirri

Position: Forward

Birthdate: 04/10/1991 (24)

Acquired: on March 2, 2014 from the Chicago Blackhawks for two draft picks.

2014-15 Team/League: Florida Panthers (NHL)

Stats:

GP G A PTS PIM +/-
49 22 2 24 14 6

Nationality: Canadian

Size: 6'0"; 183 lbs.

Contract Status: RFA at the end of the 2015-2016 season ($925,000 AAV)

Drafted by Chicago back in 2008 after piling up 94 points in 44 games in the OJHL, Pirri attended R.P.I. (NCAA), where he produced 43 points in 39 games, for one year before turning pro. Pirri spent most of the next three seasons marinating in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs and getting in some games here and there with the parent club. After splitting his time between the Windy City and Rockford in 2013-14, he was traded to the Panthers on March 2, 2014 and hasn't seen the the AHL since.

After the trade, Pirri finished the '13-14 campaign by notching 7 goals and 14 points in 21 games with the Cats. Unfairly kept off the ice by a veteran-heavy lineup to start last season, when Pirri finally got his chance at full-time duty he quickly blossomed. Blessed with a extremely deadly shot, the Toronto native bagged 3 goals in his first four appearances. After a December cold spell, Pirri start scoring again in January and then totally caught fire in February and March, posting 15 goals in 21 games. A torrid run of the type Panther fans hadn't seen since the glory days of Pavel Bure.

Prri ended 2014-15 with 22 goals and 2 assists, with seven of those goals coming on the power play, in just 49 games. Sure, that's a weird, 1920's-looking stat line, but there is nothing to be alarmed at from a playmaking standpoint. Pirri has shown in the past he's capable of picking up his fair share of helpers, too. A natural center, the former IceHog took to the wing like, well.. a pig to slop.

As opposed to season's past, Pirri enters camp this time around as a bona fide NHLer, with a roster spot already locked down. If he stays healthy and plays a full complement of games, it's very likely he will lead the club in goals and provide a healthy boost to the team's power play, which still needs some improvement. While it might be a stretch to expect him to light the lamp at that insane late-season pace, Pirri could, and should, become Florida's first 30-goal man since David Booth hit that mark in 2008-09, especially if surrounded with more offensively-minded linemates. His .33 goals-per-game average in 105 career NHL projects to 27 over an 82-game season, so a more experienced Pirri, seeking out a lucrative extension, should be able to better that. Forty is not entirely out of the question. Dare to dream Panther fans...

Let's take a look back at what Hockey Future's had to say about Pirri when he was a prospect:

Pirri's puckhandling and playmaking skills are by far his strongest attributes. His decision-making and feel for the offensive game continues to improve at the professional level and has helped him develop into an offensive leader at the AHL level. He is adept at finding the soft spots in the offensive zone and possesses a hard shot. Though his defensive game is a work in progress, Pirri is not quite a liability and has added enough strength to compete against larger forwards. A potential top six center, his main hurdle will be adjusting to the speed and tightened space at the NHL level.

The Hockey News scouting report on Pirri reads as such:

Pirri has a wealth of skill and shooting ability. Can both set up linemates and finish plays off with aplomb. He's also a solid defensive player. Career potential: Talented scorer with upside.

Where We Voted for Pirri

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
9 5 6 4 6

Who We Voted 5th

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
Lawson Crouse Brandon Pirri

Mike Matheson

Aleksander Barkov Rocco Grimaldi