In this article, we will single out the Florida Panthers worst post-first round picks of each draft class from the years 2005 to 2009 - the second half of a decade of utter futility that saw exactly zero postseason appearances, along with the “honorable” mentions from each year.
Again, the rule for this article is that it only includes players selected with the five picks immediately following a Cats selection. If there were more than one useful player taken in that five-pick span, I’ll list the one chosen closest to Florida’s pick.
There is a definite theme to this post, with four of the five listings finding serious fault with what happened in the second round.
Pick 32: Drafted G Tyler Plante, 0 NHL Games
Pick 33: Dallas took F James Neal, 766 NHL Games
After missing on netminder David Shantz high in the second round in 2004, the Panthers blew it by going goalie again in round two, this time badly whiffing on WHLer Tyler Plante. Plante never made it to the NHL, while James Neal, taken with the very next pick, reeled off ten-straight 20-goal seasons once he did. Neal has lit the lamp 270 times so far in his career.
Pick 104: Drafted D Matt Duffy, 0 NHL Games
Pick 105: Phoenix took D Keith Yandle, 907 NHL Games
Pick 103: Drafted D Michael Caruso, 2 NHL Games
Pick 106: St. Louis took G Reto Berra, 76 NHL Games
The Cats didn’t really screw the pooch egregiously in this draft. Well, they certainly did in the first round, but that’s not the topic here. I had to go with something for 2006, and this was the one that best fit. Caruso played his only two NHL games during the 2012-13 season and eventually ended up in Austria. Berra stuck around the NHL for parts of five seasons and eventually played in seven games for Florida.
Pick 40: Drafted F Michal Repik, 72 NHL Games
Pick 43: Montreal took D P.K. Subban, 645 NHL Games
The second round jinx strikes yet again. The Panthers got 72 games and a whopping 9 goals from Czech Michal Repik, who put up good numbers in the WHL, before he headed back to Europe to continue his career. Subban has produced 98 goals and 408 points and won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman in 2013. He just might end up in the Hall of Fame one day. While P.K. annoys some people with his colorful personality, it would have been most welcome here and given the Cats some much-needed media coverage. What’s up, Jacques???
Pick 191: Drafted F Ryan Watson, 0 NHL Games
Pick 194: Toronto took D Carl Gunnarsson, 581 NHL Games
Pick 46: Drafted D Colby Robak, 47 NHL Games
Pick 51: New York Rangers took F Derek Stepan, 669 NHL Games
Robak was a defender with good size who made just 42 appearances with the Panthers before playing five more NHL games after he was traded to Anaheim. A long-time AHLer, Robak played in Finland’s Liiga last season. Stepan scored a hat-trick in his NHL debut for the Rangers and is currently up to 451 points. He was part of the Broadway Blueshirts team that won the Eastern Conference championship before losing in the finals to Los Angeles in 2014 and is now a member of the Arizona Coyotes. This was a bit of toss-up, as Henrique would have been an equally nice get had the Panthers selected him.
Pick 80: Drafted F Adam Comrie, 0 NHL Games
Pick 82: New Jersey took F Adam Henrique, 594 NHL Games
Pick 44: Drafted F Drew Shore, 94 NHL Games
Pick 46: Ottawa took G Robin Lehner, 265 NHL Games
Another toss-up, but I went Shore/Lehner over Birkholz/Smith because 1) Shore was a wasted second round pick while Birkholz was a third 2) The Panthers had Smith on the team for a spell and got rid of him 3) If they had drafted Lehner, maybe, just maybe, they would’ve had Roberto Luongo’s eventual replacement in-house and never needed to sign James Reimer or Sergei Bobrovsky. A strong case could be made for flipping this and the honorable mention.
Shore was a pretty productive AHLer, but couldn’t ever carve himself out a full-time role in the NHL. He put up 20 points in 67 career games with the Panthers before moving on for cups of coffee with Calgary and Vancouver. Lehner has won 97 games (72 of them on mostly bad Ottawa and Buffalo clubs), posted 14 shutouts and has a career GAA of 2.70, and is coming off a breakthrough season with the New York Islanders that saw him share the William M. Jennings Trophy with Thomas Greiss. He may just end up replacing injury prone Corey Crawford as the long-term starter in Chicago.
Pick 67: Drafted F Josh Birkholz, 0 NHL Games
Pick 69: Dallas took F Reilly Smith, 506 NHL Games