At the end of the regular season, it didn't look like the Florida Panthers would have too much ammunition to work with in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. That draft-day prognosis changed for the better on May 25, when the Cats dealt rugged defenseman Erik Gudbranson to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Jared McCann. In addition to McCann, Florida got Vancouver's second-round pick (33rd overall) and fourth-round pick (94th overall), while surrendering its fifth-round selection (140th overall) to the Canucks. That pick originally belonged to the New York Islanders.
With two of the first thirty-three selections, and five overall, the Panthers are now in a better position to restock a cupboard that, with so much of the organization young talent already on, or soon to be on, the NHL roster. is starting to thin out a bit.
Let's take a look at where the Cats' picks will come this weekend at First Niagara Center in Buffalo:
The Panthers have the 23rd pick in round one. Most mock drafts have the Cats grabbing a forward (winger) at this spot. With Gudbranson out of the fold, the club could also take a defenseman here, if one of the top-rated blue line prospects slips (like Charlie McAvoy did in SBN's mocker). The Panthers seem to be pretty high on goaltender Samuel Montembeault, so choosing another goaltender-of-the-future type here would be a surprise.
The Panthers will choose third in the second round (33rd overall). This is the pick they received from Vancouver in the Gudbranson trade. General manger Tom Rowe should be able to get a player with a first-round grade that slipped into the second round in this spot.
Florida traded its own second-round pick to the Calgary Flames for pending UFA Jiri Hudler this spring.
Unfortunately, barring a trade, the Cats will not step to the podium during this round. The Panthers dealt its third-round pick (84th overall) to the Edmonton Oilers for pending UFA Teddy Purcell.
The Panthers once held the 76th overall selection (originally Minnesota's) by virtue of the February 24, 2015 trade that sent Sean Bergenheim and a seventh-rounder to the Wild. The Panthers used this now well-traveled pick to acquire Jaromir Jagr from the New Jersey Devils two days later. Now that's the way you make use of an asset. The Buffalo Sabres eventually ended up with this pick, by the way.
This is a round the Panthers can really make some hay in, if they can hit on the two selections they hold.
First up, is the third pick in the round (94th overall) that was part of the haul for Gudbranson. The Cats will choose again later in the round with its pick, which is 114th overall selection.
As of now, the Panthers are slated to sit this round out, too. Florida once held the 140th overall pick (originally Montreal's) by virtue of a trade with the Islanders. This pick now belongs to the Canucks, courtesy of the Gudrbanson - McCann swap.
Florida traded its own pick in this round (144th overall) to the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the trade to acquire the now-departed Brandon Pirri.
The Panthers were supposed to get two kicks at the can in round six, going back-to-back with the 22nd and 23rd picks of the round. Instead, they will select once in the round as the first of those two picks was dealt on Monday night for the rights to Keith Yandle who they signed to a huge seven-year contract.
The Rangers will now take Florida's pick (174th overall) and the Cats will make their choice with Anaheim's (175th overall) immediately after that. The Ducks took the aforementioned Pirri off the Cats' hands for this late-round selection back in February.
Unless they make a trade, the Panthers will call it a day after the sixth and sit out the final round. Florida traded its seventh-rounder (204th overall) to Minnesota as part of the Bergenheim trade in 2015.
1. Round One (23)
2. Round Two (33)
3. Round Four (94)
4. Round Four (114)
5. Round Six (175)