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NHL Entry Draft is fast approaching for Bill Zito & Panthers

The NHL Entry Draft will be held in person, at Montreal’s Bell Centre, for the first time in three years starting Thursday. Montreal and New Jersey won the lotteries for the first and second pick, so for the first time since 1985, when the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Wendel Clark, the host team will step to the podium first overall while the Devils jumped up three spots to nab the second selection.

Thanks to the trade on July 24, 2021, that brought Sam Reinhart to South Florida in exchange for goalie prospect Devon Levi and what turned out to be the 28th overall pick, barring another trade, the Florida Panthers will be relegated to being watchers like the rest of us during Thursday night’s first round.

As of this morning, the Cats will also be taking the second round off as its pick (61st overall) now belongs to the Seattle Kraken.

The Panthers traded the pick to the Calgary Flames in the April 12, 2021 deal that sent Sam Bennett and a sixth-round pick in 2022 south in exchange for forward Emil Heineman and this pick. The Flames traded the pick to the Kraken on March 20 as part of the package for Calle Jarnkrok.

Florida is currently slated to make its first selection in the third round with the 93rd overall pick. This was originally the 92nd pick in the draft, but the Minnesota Wild were awarded a compensatory pick in the second round (56th overall) as a result of not signing their 2018 first-round selection Filip Johansson. So, that moved each following pick down a notch.

The Panthers hold their own picks in the fourth (125th overall) and fifth round (157th overall) and have two selections in the sixth round.

The 186th pick was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets for helping to facilitate Max Domi’s move to the Carolina Hurricanes. That pick originally belonged to Toronto. They traded it to Columbus for Riley Nash. Florida will quickly add another prospect with their own pick, 189th overall.

Florida will make its six and final selection of the draft in the seventh round with the 221st overall pick.

Without a selection until late in the third round, Bill Zito and his scouting staff will need to mine some gems to add quality stock to its prospect base. The Cats are definitely in best player available territory with every pick and should be looking at adding raw skill no matter the position as any player selected will very likely to be on the slow track to Sunrise. Moving down the board to acquire extra picks should also be considered.