Florida Panthers 2018 Draft Class update
Serron Noel and Grigori Denisenko look like the surest bets
After checking in on the Florida Panthers 2019 NHL Entry Draft class earlier in the week, let’s take a look at 2018’s six-man draft haul and see how they are doing so far this season.
Grigori Denisenko (First Round - 15th overall)
Denisenko continues to a) find his way in the KHL and b) excel against his peer group, which is probably a better indicator of his true value as a 19-year-old prospect.
In 31 games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL, Denisenko has scored 5 goals and added 4 assists. Relatively modest totals, but slightly better than his 6 points (4G/2A) in 25 games with the club last season.
After a winning a bronze medal at last year’s World Junior Championship, Denisenko captained Russia to silver this year while matching his 2019 output of nine points, which tied him for sixth in scoring in the illustrious tournament.
Denisenko also scored four goals in three games for Yaroslavl’s winning junior team at the Junior Club World Cup this past summer.
Serron Noel (Second Round - 34th overall)
Noel showed great improvement in his third season in the Ontario Hockey League. The 6’6” winger put up career junior-highs of 34 goals, 47 assists and 81 points and helped lead the Oshawa Generals to the Eastern Conference final, where they were swept by Ottawa. In 14 postseason games, Noel produced 4 goals and 7 assists.
After attending training camp with the Panthers, Noel returned to Oshawa, where he put up 29 points in 28 games before he was traded to the Kitchener Rangers on January 8.
After going pointless in his first three games with the Rangers, Noel has a goal and three assists in the last five games with his new club.
Noel has missed some games this year and can only top out at 55, which makes it highly unlikely he’ll come any near matching his offensive output from last season. Not a big deal, he is still averaging close to a point a game and doesn’t have too much more to prove at this level other than additional playoff success.
Depending on when his junior season ends, look for Noel to get some time in Springfield later this spring. He should be a full-timer with the Thunderbirds next year.
Logan Hutsko (Third Round - 89th overall)
Hutsko is enjoying a successful junior season for the Boston College Eagles, where he plays with fellow Panthers prospects Spencer Knight and Ben Finkelstein, with a career NCAA-best 14 goals and 7 assists in 18 games.
This jump in production is most welcome after Hutsko dropped from 12 goals and 31 points as a freshman to just six goals and 26 points as sophomore.
Hutsko had 10 of those 26 points in Boston College’s final 10 games in 2018-19, so if we include that segment, he has collected 31 points in his last 28 games played, a sign that he has solidified things at the college level.
The Panthers have yet to sign the 20-year-old, who has dealt with some serious injury issues in the past, to an entry-level contract. That could be coming in the near future, or perhaps they let him sign an ATO with Springfield later this spring to see what he has when stepping up in competition. It will be interesting to see if the Cats feel Hutsko should be inked to a deal or would benefit more from going back to BC for an additional year before making a decision.
Justin Schutz (Sixth Round - 170th overall)
Schutz spent most of the 2018-19 season with EC Salzburg II of the Alps Hockey League, where he scored 12 goals and picked up 16 helpers in 25 games.
After appearing in three games for Red Bull Munich last year, the 19-year-old Schutz has graduated full time to the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the top level of German professional hockey.
In 31 DEL games this season, Schutz has scored 7 goals and added 5 assists to go along with a solid +8 rating. Munich has also played ten Champions League games and Schutz has produced four goals and an assist in that contest.
Schutz represented his country at the 2020 World Junior Championship and helped Germany stay in the Elite Division with a 2-1 regulation series win over Kazakhstan. He played in all seven of Germany’s games and finished the tournament with four assists.
Cole Krygier (Seventh Round - 201st overall)
A left-shooting defenseman with good size, Krygier, along with his twin brother Christian, made the jump from the USHL to Michigan State University in 2018-19.
Krygier scored one goal and added four assists in 26 games as a freshman for the Spartans. He finished the season with a -5 rating and 16 PIM. Krygier had two assists over the final six games of the season, drawing a helper on Adam Goodsir’s game-winning goal against Penn State and then earning another at Ohio State on March 1.
As a sophomore, Krygier has scored three goals and three assists with a +1 rating while playing in all 26 games for the 13-12-1 Spartans.
Santtu Kinnunen (Seventh Round - 207th overall)
The second of Florida’s seventh round picks, the lanky Kinnunen, a 20-year-old defenseman, is again splitting his time between Finland’s top two divisions as he did in 2018-19
In 22 Liiga games with Pelicans, Kinnunen has produced one assist, 14 PIM and a -10 rating.
With Peliitat Heinola of second tier Mestis, his offensive numbers (5A) and plus/minus (-2) were better over 13 games.
At a very light 154 lbs, Kinnunen will have to add size and strength to his 6’2” frame if hopes to have a pro career in North America.