After starting off with couple of smaller skaters and a goalie, next up on our countdown is a super-sized power forward project.
#17 - Joe Wegwerth - right wing - Notre Dame
Highest rank: 15 Lowest rank: 19
The Florida Panthers took the big-bodied forward in the fourth round (92nd overall) of the 2014 Entry Draft after the young forward completed his second year in U.S. National Team Development Program. Wegwerth was a member of Team USA’s gold-medal winning entry at the 2014 World Junior Championship, finishing the tournament with two assists and a +1 rating in seven games.
In 2014-15, Wegwerth played a combined 59 games for the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. The native of Burnsville, MN finished the campaign with 9 goals and 21 assists, showing off a little more of a scoring touch than he displayed with the USNTDP, especially as a Gambler. Although he was less productive in Cedar Rapids, he did put up 3 points in 3 playoff games with the RoughRiders.
Wegwerth moved on to the NCAA this past season, where he suited up in 30 of 37 games for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Florida prospect potted just one goal to go along with three assists. In addition, he finished his freshman season with 18 PIM and -4 rating.
This year Wegwerth should have a larger role in South Bend, and he’ll need the increased ice time to work on his positioning and offensive skills.
There is no doubt that Wegwerth is a long-term project, but you can’t teach size. If the Panthers are patient and allow Big Joe the time to fully develop, they might have a big, fourth-line banger on their hands a four or five years down the road.