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Florida Panthers Top 25 Under 25: #14 Kyle Rau

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The small forward spent four years playing with the University of Minnesota, and will now showcase his talents in the AHL this season.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Rau

Position: C/LW

Birthdate: 10/24/1992 (22)

Acquired: 3rd round selection (91st overall selection), 2011 NHL Entry Draft

2014-15 Team/League: University of Minnesota

Stats:

GP G A PTS PIM +/-
39 20 21 41 18 15

Nationality: American

Size: 5'8", 179 pounds

Contract Status: $858,750 AAV (becomes RFA at the end of the 2016-2017 season)

Kyle Rau has been a great player wherever he's played in his career, winning Minnesota's Mr. Hockey award during his senior year of high school hockey before going to the University of Minnesota and averaging a point per game over his collegiate career.

The small-sized forward shows great offensive skills and instincts, and can be the playmaker and the finisher, as he is equally adept at setting up teammates and converting on chances. His two-way play is also spectacular, as Rau doesn't sacrifice offense for defense and does his job at both ends of the rink.

The biggest knock on him is his size, as Rau stands at a measly 5'8" and occasionally gets pushed around by bigger opponents.

Still, there's tons of talent coming from Rau, and he's managed to put up a point per game pace while playing in the NCAA. His lack of growth in the NCAA does seem to be a bit concerning, as he's averaged a point per game in almost every season he's played (1.08 freshman year, 1.00 sophomore year, 1.02 junior year and 1.05 senior year).

Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the college standout does in his first full pro season, and his potential to make the NHL roster and be a possession driving forward who plays on the third line earned a spot inside LBC's top 15.

For more on what Kyle Rau can bring to the table, we asked Dark Knight 5 from SBN's University of Minnesota blog, the Daily Gopher, some questions on Rau's potential, style of play, and success with the Gophers.

1) What is Kyle Rau’s scouting report? Strengths? Weaknesses? What does he need to work on?

Rau's main strength is his motor.  Minnesota head coach Don Lucia often pointed to Rau as an example of "the Gopher way," which basically means never quit on a play, a game, or an opportunity.  Rau took this concept to heart as much as any Gopher player in recent memory, which is why he was a multi-year captain.

A player like Rau needs that type of motor.  He's fast but isn't the fastest.  He shoots well, but he's not a sniper.  He's a grinder, but he's not the biggest player on the ice.  That size is his biggest weakness, and his biggest barrier to making an NHL roster.  His style of play and skill set are reminiscent of Zach Parise.  The difference between the two is that Parise has a three-inch and twenty-pound advantage.

That said, Rau doesn't have any major technical weaknesses.  He goes hard into the corners.  He battles in front of the net and is great at creating separation from defensemen and burying rebounds.  He sees the ice and distributes the puck well.  His greatest attribute might be how disruptive he is.  He drove opponents CRAZY.  He made the North Dakota Whosits so angry as a freshman that they jumped him in the handshake line after a game. 

2) What do you think Rau’s NHL potential is?

As to Rau's NHL potential.  I just don't know.  He needs to out-work every other player in the league if he's going to make it.  I just don't know if his 5'8" frame can add enough bulk to be able to compete with regular NHL players.  In this regard, he reminds of former Gopher and Hobey Baker winner Brian Bonin (my favorite Gopher growing up).  He had a knack for putting the puck in the net, but just got out-bodied. He never was able to really crack an NHL roster and ended up playing a few years in Switzerland. 

Coaches will love how Rau goes about his business, but I'm not sure he has the raw talent to be a top-six forward on an NHL roster, and I'm not sure he has the size to the be a bottom-six forward either.

3) What is your favorite memory from Rau’s four year career in Minnesota?

I have two favorite moments from Rau's career.  The first is this goal, which sealed the first Big Ten title for the Gophers in overtime in Michigan's Yost Arena.  This is a perfect example of Rau getting away from a defender in front of the net and putting a loose puck away.

Here's my second.  Rau simply wins a faceoff, advances the puck up the ice, takes a shot, and a Gopher scores off a rebound of sorts. Shorthanded. Against North Dakota.  In the National Semi-Finals.  With 9.6 seconds remaining in the third period at the start of the play and 0.6 left in the game at the time the goal was scored.

Where We Voted for Rau

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
14 18 17 13 13

Who We Voted 14th

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
Kyle Rau Juho Lammikko

Alex Petrovic

Mike Matheson Vincent Trocheck