After Dale Tallon let Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith go, he said he would give the young prospects a shot. Here are five prospects who may make the jump next year:
Likely on Opening Day Roster
Ian McCoshen (D)
McCoshen impressed when he was called up late in the year. The 2013 draft pick has been glazed over this offseason but expect the Panthers to let someone (cough Jason Demers cough) go to allow for 7 defenseman and McCoshen to be included. He is a two-way defenseman with a defensive first mentality, something the Panthers desperately need.
Mackenzie Weegar (D)
Weegar was another late season call up and also impressed. Weegar, the former 7th round pick hasn’t had anything easy come to him in his hockey career. Working his butt off, Weegar made the AHL All-Star Team last year. Weegar is a good skater and efficient defender but his defensive game needs work.
Will Get Chances This Year
Henrik Haapala (F)
When the Panthers signed Haapala earlier this month, many people have expected him to compete for a spot from the gecko. He put up 60 points in 51 games in the Finnish League last year. However, the 5 foot 9 inch Haapala’s lack of size likely won’t transfer well to the NHL with several failed/nearly failed experiments with small size by the Cats.
Jayce Hawryluk (F)
One of the top prospects in the Panthers system this year, Hawryluk is a gritty and skilled player with the puck. He is strong on the puck and compares himself to Brad Marchand. Like Marchand, he isn’t tall but he protects the puck well. Hawryluk will likely get a chance this year.
Owen Tippett (F)
Tippett is a rare player. He has a shoot-only mentality. Putting up 44 goals last year, the Panthers need goal scoring. If Tippett doesn’t make the roster out of camp he can’t be called up for the rest of the year. Don’t be surprised if Tippett heads back to Canada in October or you see him buying sunscreen at Walgreens.