Florida Panthers 2019 draft class update: Knight continues to shine
A second look at the Cats nine-man haul from June
With another off day on the post All-Star Game schedule I thought today would be a good time to take another brief look at how the Florida Panthers most recent draft class is doing as we’ve passed the midpoint of the 2019-20 schedule. I’ve included the text from the first update published in late November to help track their progress.
Spencer Knight (1-13)
November: Knight is doing exactly what was expected of him, and that is be pretty damn dominant as a college freshman. The 13th overall pick and first goaltender ever selected in the first round of the draft by the Panthers has compiled a 7-4 record with a 1.91 GAA and .936 save percentage for a good, but not great Boston College Eagles team. In addition to his other eye-popping numbers, Knight also has posted shutout wins over Colgate, Connecticut and Vermont and has his club on a five-game winning streak and in fourth place in Hockey East.
January: Since we last checked in with Knight, he has gone 7-3 for Boston College with one shutout, although he is just 3-3 since returning from the World Junior Championship. Against the best of his peer group in the Czech Republic, the 18-year-old overcame a rough first start against Canada to go 2-2 with a 2.49 GAA and .913 save percentage as the American team was bounced in the quarterfinals thanks to a tough 1-0 loss to Finland. His overall NCAA numbers (14-7 / 2.04 GAA / .927 save pct / 4 shutouts) remain very strong and his future is blindingly bright.
Vladislav Kolyachonok (2-52)
November: In 23 games with the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, the 18-year-old blueliner is already up to six goals. That’s two better than he produced in 53 regular season games last season. Kolyachonk has collected eight assists as well, putting him on pace to eclipse last year’s point total of 29. The Minsk native is currently +3 (he finished -23 last season) and is playing a much more disciplined game for the Firebirds, who are in third place in the Eastern Conference.
January: While his team has dipped a bit in the standings, Kolyachonok has picked up his offensive pace since we last checked in, with 3 goals and 6 assists in 12 games played, which gives him a total of 23 points (9G/14A) in 35 games. The 18-year-old blueliner has already set a new OHL career-high in goals and is a good bet to do the same in assists and points despite missing all but one of his club’s December games. Kolyachonok headed home and appeared in two games with Belarus at the World Junior Division IA Championship where he picked up an assist in a win over Austria.
John Ludvig (3-69)
November: Many draftniks considered Ludvig a reach when the Panthers selected him 69th overall. However, it looks Tallon Inc. knew exactly what they were doing when they scooped up this Portland Winterhawks defender. The 19-year-old Ludvig is blossoming offensively in his third WHL season. After producing a combined total of 7 goals and 25 points in his first two campaigns in the league, this season Ludvig is up to nine goals and 20 points in 23 games. While he has managed to increase his scoring totals to an unexpected degree, he has not lost the physical edge to his game.
January: Ludvig has played in all 46 games for Portland which gives us a tidy 23/23 split to analyze his numbers since November. After scoring nine times in the first 23 games, the 19-year-old has unsurprisingly cooled off a bit in that department with only 4 goals since then. However, he has kept up his overall offensive numbers by racking up 18 assists in the last 23 games. With 42 points in 46 games, fourth best in the league for a defenseman, and +41 rating (second best in the WHL), Ludvig continues to surpass expectations. As a member of one of the league’s top teams, Ludvig could be in for a long postseason run and might be playing himself into an entry-level contract in the near future.
Cole Schwindt (3-81)
November: The tall and lanky Schwindt had a solid second turn (49 points in 68 games) with the Mississauga Steelheads during his draft season to catch the eye of the Cats. This season, Schwindt, who currently has 5 goals and 12 assists in 23 games, is on pace to finish with an OHL-high of 50 points on the strength of an uptick in his assist numbers. He’ll have to start finding the back of the net more often if he wants to better last year’s 19 goals. This might be a tough task for the 18-year-old right winger as the Steelheads aren’t looking like a quality side this season and could miss the playoffs.
January: Well, it looks like Schwindt has heeded our advice and caught fire since our last article, pouring in 17 goals and adding 15 assists in his last 20 games to equal the 49 points he produced last season with plenty of games (21) left in the regular season. The 18-year-old’s offensive outburst has the Steelheads in second place in the OHL’s Central Division despite a sub .500 record. A 30-goal season looks like a safe bet for Schwindt and he could possibly breach 35 if he stays hot.
Carter Berger (4-106)
November: After three seasons in the BCHL with Victoria Grizzlies, this year Berger made the jump to NCAA competition with the Connecticut Huskies. The freshman defender has collected two assists in 11 games to go along with 6 PIM and a -2 rating. Berger put up 27 goals and 36 assists in his final season with Grizzlies, so look for his offensive numbers to increase as he becomes more comfortable and his role increases at UConn.
January: After checking in with Berger in late November, he promptly ran off a five-game point streak for the Huskies, which included his first-ever NCAA goal in 7-4 win over Vermont on December 7. Berger hasn’t picked up a point in his last seven games, but continues to have a pretty solid freshman season for Connecticut.
Henrik Rybinski (5-136)
November: After averaging just over a point a game (35) in 33 tilts with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds last season, Rybinski’s offensive totals have taken a serious dip in the first portion of the 2019-20 campaign. The talented playmaker from Vancouver has amassed just 2 goals and 7 helpers in 22 games played. Rybinski is also tied with Andrej Kukuca with a team-worst -18 rating. The Thunderbirds are struggling as a team and Rybinski is definitely feeling the effects of this.
January: Rybinski has turned things around big time since out first update. He has produced 8 goals and 11 assists over his last 22 games as the Thunderbirds have moved into a wild card position in the WHL’s Western Conference. If he keeps up that pace, he should have no problem setting a new personal best in points as he is only seven off that mark (35) with 23 games left to go. Of note, Rybinski is already up to 55 PIM after accumulating a total of 54 in his first two WHL seasons.
Owen Lindmark (5-137)
November: Things are going markedly better for the player the Panthers selected with the very next pick. A graduate of the US National Team Development Program, Lindmark is off to an impressive start to his NCAA career with 4 goals and 6 assists in 14 games with the University of Wisconsin, a rather middling team in the Big Ten. Overshadowed by bigger names on the USNTDP, the talented center might turn out to be a sneaky good pick by Florida in the fifth round.
January: Interesting... After getting off to a much better start than his fellow fifth-rounder in Rybinski, Lindmark is falling off as young Henrik ascends. Lindmark has scored just one goal and two assists in his last ten games. With 13 points in 24 games as a freshman, Lindmark’s overall numbers are still pretty solid for someone stepping up a rung in competition. Hopefully, he’ll get it going again for the Badgers over the final twelve games of the regular season.
Greg Meireles (6-168)
November: Drafted as a 20-year-old, Meireles was a bit of surprising selection by the Cats. With 97 points in his fourth OHL season, the numbers were certainly there, but Meireles, who might have been picked with an eye towards Springfield, failed to earn a professional contract and returned to the Kitchener Rangers as an overager, where has he produced 13 points in 12 games played so far this season.
January: Meireles has increased his rate of production since the early stages of the season with 34 points in his last 24 games, giving him a total of 47 (23G/24A) in 36 games played. The 21-year-old has missed ten games, making it unlikely he’ll be able to match the 97 points he put up in 2018-19. With the Rangers in first place in the OHL’s Midwest Division, perhaps a strong playoff performance could earn Meireles another shot at a pro contract.
Matthew Wedman (7-199)
November: The Panthers took another flyer on an older prospect when they wrapped up the draft by picking Wedman, a physical center who poured in 40 goals in 66 games for WHL Seattle last season. With the Thunderbirds struggling mightily, Wedman is unlikely to match his 77-point performance from last year. Currently, Wedman has 17 points in 16 games so he should finish somewhere in the 60-70 point range if plays in enough games. Wedman could end up getting a shot with the AHL Thunderbirds next season.
January: After playing in three more (scoreless) games for Seattle, Wedman was traded to Kelowna Rockets in early December for three draft picks. In 22 games with his new team, the 20-year-old has scored six goals and ten assists and racked up 48 PIM. The Rockets are a slightly stronger side than the Thunderbirds, so it’ll be interesting to see what Wedman does over the final 21 games of the regular season and the playoffs.