Being that this is summer time hockey, when players aren’t in peak form, it’s important to remember that a couple days of drills and practices won’t necessarily knock off all the rust or replace a couple weeks of regular season play.
Also, the format for each 25 minute half was to go from 5-on-5 to 4-on-4 and then to 3-on-3 within each half.
So these assessments aren’t really meant to be finite, and the stretches of play that factor in extended special teams sequences are no doubt varied from a regular season or playoff game. But since the rust/summer factor is applicable to all the players, wanted to document my observations.
With the 13th pick being invested in standout goaltender Spencer Knight, thought I’d start with my observations pertaining to all things keepers.
Knight - Positioning and technique are definitely two aspects of his game he’ll be able to fall back on no matter the level of competition he’ll face. Especially with his 6’3 frame being a constant and a quality feel for the crease already in place. However with any young goalie, rebound control and lateral movement will most likely be his focus as he continues his development at Boston College and beyond as he moves into the pro ranks.
As for the two goals against in the scrimmage, not sure if he was screened when a rebound got put away for the first goal against, but Karch Bachman’s stick wasn’t exactly tied up. The second goal allowed was similar as the puck got moved cross crease, however was more of a bang bang play off a nice fake shot and pass cross crease by Dylan MacPherson to a wide open Bachman - who got his 2nd goal by being opportunistic net front.
Ryan Bednard - Not sure if he had extra vinegar pumping through his veins seeing his club draft a top flight goalie prospect, but it’s clear this 7th round pick from 2015 won’t simply be giving up the net.
While towering over the crossbar with his 6’5” frame, Bednard showed off an impressive array of skills. From reading developing plays to his top of crease positioning to his reflexes and lateral movement. The Panthers have an advanced keeper that leaves shooters with limited options and is ready to challenge at the AHL level. With more experience and seasoning, I can see Bednard pushing Montembeault for an NHL spot by the 2020-21 season.
Stefanos Lekkas - University of Vermont keeper with a good foundation of technique and athleticism, but at 5’9” has an uphill battle working his way up the ranks. However does have good battle level and instincts in net.
Mack Guzda - If one could blend Lekkas’ skill set with Guzda’s 6’5” frame, you’d have a quality prospect. But as is, Guzda needs to work on his angles and feel for the crease. Cheats to strong side and gives up too much of far post. Shooters took advantage of the Owen Sound (OHL) goalie cheating to glove side while simply shooting or pulling puck over to far side for markers.
With Owen Tippett (1st Round, 2017) and Serron Noel (2nd, 2018) being the household names for the Panthers faithful, will start with them.
Tippett - Mostly seemed to stay under control early on while he got a feel for the flow and pace. Generally doesn’t have much to prove in an intra-squad scrimmage such as this, but while not showing off much pace early on, definitely started to control the puck and flow of the game after the 1st 10-15 minutes. Savvy on the boards, got pucks towards the net, silky hands along with a toe drag were on display, as was his vision. Overall would like to see him develop more of a burst to enhance his chances at the NHL level, but got to be pleased with his development up to this point.
Noel - While Tippett can make things happen with his hands and vision, Noel’s calling card will be grinding on the boards and using his noticeable stride and jump to drive the net and wear out the opposing defense down low. And in the process, hopefully open up shooting lanes from the points and high slot/center point. Took an unfortunate knee on knee hit early in the scrimmage - honestly kind of surprised he wasn’t removed - but also not surprised to see him tough it out. Wasn’t the same after the hit, but much like Tippett, the talent is there.
Some of the lesser known names that stood out to me:
Jaydon Dureau (5’11” 165lbs) - While a lot of the younger players - included the drafted ones - only showed flashes, this undrafted 18 year old going into his 2nd full season in Portland (WHL) did well to show off a quality blend of speed, acceleration, puck skills, hands and vision. Has a good overall feel for finding open ice and creating. Put up 12 goals and 29 points in his 1st year in Portland, but should see an increased role playing for Coach Johnston with quite a few 20 year old players moving on in their careers. Hopefully the Panthers can keep him in the fold.
Liam Pecararo (5’11, 163lbs) - Other than Tippett and Noel, perhaps the forward that stood out the most. But being 23 years old and having 2 games in the AHL (1 assist) should result in a stand out scrimmage.
Overall, did enjoy watching the dangles and quickness this former Northeastern U. winger put on tape. Was the target of quite a few hits and attempted hits, most likely due to his ability to create, but never shied away from contact or tempered his willingness to make plays. Not overwhelming size, but shifty with above average speed and agility. Sees the ice and can get pucks on net. Seems to be on an AHL deal, so will be interested to see how his development tracks.
Logan Hutso - Seems raw but also perhaps a bit rusty being that is summertime. Slow start with shaky puck bobbles and passes, but got more involved into the flow and generating into the o-zone.
Owen Lindmark - Responsible two-way player, and considering very few 18-year-olds stood out did well to not get caught out of position or turn the puck over. Most notable was his shootout goal and against Bednard - only goal he allowed. Top shelf glove, short-side upper 90 with some zip. Very nice shot.
Greg Miereles - Didn’t overwhelm, but much like Lindmark, made all the right plays and when pressured with the puck, did well to manage the situation with a combination of safe plays, effective passes, and occasionally protecting the puck using his skill and quickness to beat opposing player.
Matthew Wedman - Big-bodied winger with puck protection and possession ability. Perhaps isn’t the swift power forward skater that Noel is, but can be an effective bottom-6 player with improved burst and agility.
Cole Schwindt - Noticeable presence in the middle. Good size and situational awareness, supports puck and wingers well. Needs to continue improving speed and burst to be effective at higher pace and levels, but being a right-handed center with reach has a chance to be an effective pro and bottom-6 center. Can see why the Panthers invested a 3rd round pick in this past draft.
Henrik Rybinski - Has good sense and nose for offensive game but much like Schwindt needs to boost pace to his game to succeed at higher levels. Not uncommon for newly drafted 18-year-olds like he and Schwindt.
With 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 play being as prevalent as 5-on-5 action, perhaps judging the defense in this setting isn’t ideal. However I was very impressed with the stable of D-prospects on the ice. Excluding Brady Keeper who we saw in the NHL last season, standout blue liners include:
Jake Massie - University of Vermont thumper of a defensemen. Only listed at 6’1” 179 lbs but plays bigger and most definitely forces opposing forwards to keep their heads up when receiving passes and navigating through the neutral zone. Very good gap, mobility and lateral movement, but being 22 and with his NCAA experience, it’s not surprising to see him do well. Has chance to be quality depth d-man with continued improvement to his burst and acceptance of stay at home role.
Tyler Inamoto - Highly mobile 20-year-old 6’2” defender listed at 194 lbs. Makes excellent use of his noticeable reach while reading plays and displaying his high IQ instincts. Effective puck lugger and passer, seems capable of playing with and against top 9 players. Entering 3rd year at Wisconsin after being Panthers 5th round pick in 2017. Would benefit staying all 4 years, but has a real chance to take the next step after next season.
Vladislav Kolyachonok - Newly drafted 2nd round d-man so not surprising to see him display the skills that allowed him to be selected 52nd overall. To go along with all the previously documented traits, also had a clutch blocked shot late in the scrimmage. Looking forward to his development in the OHL and internationally for Belarus.
Dylan MacPherson - 6’3” right handed, highly mobile with puck lugging ability will make this former Medicine Hat defender an intriguing prospect. Much like Pecararo, has 2 AHL games of experience, so perhaps not surprising to see him stand out, but does possess a quality skill set.
Carter Berger - Fresh off being selected in the 4th round in this past draft, Berger displayed exactly what the Panthers saw in him when they went a bit off board to bring this 19-year-old into the fold. At 6’0”, 200 lbs has a good base to build off, as well as plus skating ability and speed. Slick puck carrier with vision and natural playmaking ability. Could see him carrying the UConn d-corp on his way to Springfield in a couple seasons.
Georgy Dedov - With KHL experience as a 19-year-old after quality production in the MHL (Russia’s version of the CHL) it’s probably not surprising to see this 6’3” defender do well against his peers. Liked his defensive acumen, reach and mobility. Competent with the puck in all 3 zones and has good compete and battle level along the boards. Like his upside.
Anthony Wyse - At 6’3”, 225 lbs it’s difficult to miss this 23-year-old former New Hampshire defender, especially when he gets his feet moving and starts closing gaps. Quite capable with the puck and much like Massie, forces opposition to be aware of his presence. Continued improvement to his burst will make him a name to watch as someone who can develop into a quality stay at home shutdown defender.
John Ludvig - Much like Hutsko, after a slow start with shaky bobbles, Ludvig started to get into the flow by making simple plays and picking his spots to jump up into the play. Drafted in 3rd round just last week, is as advertised. Has good defensive IQ and probably most suited for 5 on 5 structured play, along with being on the PK. Acquitted himself quite well for one of the younger players on the ice and will continue to improve playing in Portland (WHL) for Coach Johnston.