With the departure of Ludwig Bystrom, Jacob MacDonald, Matt Mangene and Julian Melchiori, the Springfield Thunderbirds will have distinctly different look on the blue line this season. Tommy Cross and 2019 AHL All-Star Ethan Prow each agreed to two-year, two-way contracts with the Florida Panthers to add a veteran presence to the Cats group of developing prospects.
Let’s take a look the players that will prowl the back end for the Thunderbirds this season.
The all-time games played leader in Providence Bruins franchise history (364), Cross joins the Panthers organization after skating in 73 games for the Cleveland Monsters last season, where he put up 34 points (7G/27A) and 71 penalty minutes. The 29-year-old former P-Bruins captain has reached the Calder Cup playoffs in each of his seven full professional seasons following a collegiate career at Boston College that saw him capture two NCAA championships (2010, 2012).
Prow, 26, had a breakout season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2018-19, leading the team in scoring with 50 points as a defenseman to go along with a sterling +26 rating. His nine power-play goals were third-highest among AHL defensemen, and his 50 points placed him fourth among league blueliners. Prow played four years at St. Cloud State prior to turning pro.
Keeper left the University of Maine after his sophomore season to sign an entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers on March 21, 2019. He made his NHL debut on March 28 against the Ottawa Senators. As a freshman with the Black Bears, Keeper scored six goals and added 16 assists in 37 games. His final NCAA campaign saw him put up seven goals and 22 points in 36 games.
As an AHL rookie, Stillman played in 59 games for the Thunderbirds, displaying a solid two-way game while totaling 4 goals and 13 assists while racking up 52 PIM, the highest total among the team’s defenseman. On February 26, he made his NHL debut against the Arizona Coyotes and became the first second generation player in Panthers history. Stillman will likely be competing with Keeper to be first in line for a call-up.
In his second season in Springfield, Schemitsch produced AHL career-highs in both assists (15) and points (24) despite playing in 13 fewer games than in 2017-18. Had he not missed 22 games he would’ve hit double-digit goals again and probably eclipsed the 30-point mark. Schemitsch’s nine goals and +4 rating were both second-best among the team’s defensemen, while his 93 shots on goal were the third-highest total among the group.
Originally selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2015, Massie signed an ELC after turning heads at Panthers development camp. The 22-year-old appeared in 30 games with the University of Vermont in 2018-19, recording nine points, including five goals. The 6-foot-2, 177-pound native of Sainte-Lazare, Quebec, played 95 games over three seasons with the Catamounts, producing a total of 23 points (6G/17A).
Acquired on Friday from Minnesota for future considerations, Bouramman appeared in 23 games with the AHL’s Iowa Wild during 2018-19 season. The 6-foot, 194-pound native of Stockholm, Sweden was originally selected in the seventh round (201st overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Signed to an AHL contract by Springfield in July, Lochead, 21, completed his major junior career with the OHL’s London Knights this past season. Serving as an alternate captain in London, the 6-foot, 196-pound blueliner logged 54 games, scoring 17 points (6G/11A) and posting a +29 rating to go along with 92 PIMs. In 210 career OHL games between the Knights and Niagara IceDogs, Lochead totaled 40 points, a +40 rating, and 313 penalty minutes.
MacPherson played in two games with the Thunderbirds last season after signing an ATO after completing his junior career with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers. In 181 games there, MacPherson produced 43 points (6G/37A) to go along with a +15 rating and 36 penalty minutes. A native of Redcliff, AB, MacPherson produced his first professional point on April 14 against Providence. The blueliner stands 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. He was inked to a one-year AHL deal in July.
Barring a trade, the Thunderbirds will most likely get a defenseman, either Ian McCoshen, Josh Brown or MacKenzie Weegaar back from the Panthers, as Florida currently has eight listed on the NHL roster and are unlikely to carry two extras.