LBC's Top 25 Panthers Under 25: #19 Casey Wellman

Acquired by Florida from the New York Rangers during the off-season, Casey Wellman is the oldest player in our rankings. The Brentwood, CA native was a career 1.04 point per game player in college, and a 0.83 in the AHL. Signed to a one-year deal, Wellman will be one of the young Rampage forwards challenging for NHL ice time.

Position: C/RW ▪ Shoots: Right
Height: 6-0 ▪ Weight: 161 lbs.
Born: October 18, 1987 (Age 24) in Brentwood, CA
Draft: Undrafted

Wellman played high school hockey at Cranbrook Kingswood in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he won state titles in 2004 and '06. He spent the next two years with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL, where he was a career 0.59 point per game player in 109 appearances.

Following in the steps of many USHL players, Wellman moved on to the NCAA, attending the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) in Hockey East. During his first season with the Minutemen, Wellman scored 33 points (11G/22A), second in team scoring, earning him a spot on the NCAA (Hockey East) All-Rookie Team. The next season, Wellman would again place second in team scoring, but would lead the Minutemen in goals with 22.

On March 16, 2010, Wellman signed a a two-year entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild. He would play 12 games with the Wild that year, scoring four points (1G/3A). The following season, Wellman spent most his time in the AHL, playing 42 games with the Houston Aeros, scoring 35 points (14G/21A). A frequent call-up to the Wild, Wellman failed to surpass his totals from the previous season and scored only two points in 15 NHL games. In the AHL playoffs, Wellman participated in all 24 Aeros playoff games, scoring 11 points (6G/5A) as the Aeros lost to the Binghamton Seantors in the Calder Cup Finals.

With the exits of forwards John Madden and Antti Miettinen, many expected Wellman to push for a permanent spot on the Wild roster. He played 26 games with the Aeros, scoring 25 points (14G/11A), while also reaching a career high of seven points in 14 NHL games with the Wild. However, on February 3, 2012, Wellman was traded to the New York Rangers for center Erik Christensen and a conditional 7th round draft pick in 2013. Wellman failed to crack the Rangers roster, and played 31 games with the Connecticut Whale, scoring 22 points (9G/13A). In the Calder Cup playoffs, Wellman lead the Whale in scoring with nine points (4G/5A) in all nine of their playoff games.

Wellman has all the tools needed to be a top-six forward in the NHL. He plays with a great level of energy in his game, generates solid scoring chances, and has success in every league he's been in but the NHL. The Panthers paid a small price to acquire him (a fifth-round pick) and if he's able to make the jump to the NHL this season, it could be a steal. However, time is not on his side.