With the NHL set to return July 30th according to the New York Post, the Panthers must prep their roster. The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs are truly unique thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and so each team has been asked to supply 28 skaters and as many goalies as they can for playoff action. I doubt any call-ups will be allowed due to the players being kept in a bubble, so several players will be needed.
Locks: Sergei Bobrovsky, Chris Driedger, Sam Montembeault
With an unlimited amount of goalies allowed, the Panthers will likely need 4 or 5, in case of worst case scenario. A couple of years ago, Vegas, during the regular season, at one point had to start their 4th string goalie due to injuries and had to sign their 7th round pick, a goalie to an ELC to backup as an emergency recall. This means it is important for a team to have a surplus of goalies. The Panthers have 6 goalies in the organization and 5 under contract. The obvious 4th pick for the playoffs would be Spencer Knight, but the 2019 1st rounder is not under contract. I highly doubt the Panthers want to sign Knight yet, as signing a contract would make him ineligible to continue his development in college, so that leaves Phillipe Desrosiers and Ryan Bednard. I think the Panthers should call up both just to be safe, but if the Panthers opt to only choose one of them, I’d give the nod to the veteran Desrosiers. I would personally choose five goalies to be on the roster.
Locks: Jonathan Huberdeau, Sasha Barkov, Evengii Dadonov, Erik Haula, Mike Hoffman, Frank Vatrano, Brett Connolly, Lucas Wallmark, Noel Acciari, Colton Sceviour
With 28 skaters allowed, I expect the Panthers to do a 18-9-1 formation (the 1 being the hybrid Mark Pysyk who can play any position). That means that other than the 10 locks, 8 other roster spots must be filled. I am fully confident that a healthy Brian Boyle and Dryden Hunt will earn roster spots which brings us up to 12. Owen Tippett and Aleksi Saarela are also almost certainties, with Saarela’s impressive late season performance, and Tippett’s successful AHL campaign. Despite his struggles, its pretty safe to assume that Henrik Borgstrom should find himself on the playoff roster too.
Almost Assured (90%): Brian Boyle, Dryden Hunt, Aleksi Saarela, Owen Tippett, Henrik Borgstrom
That leaves three spots left. The Panthers might use Pysyk as a forward, despite his natural position being defense, as they did in the regular season. Pysyk is a hybrid and a lock for the roster, but he will be listed in the defense section. Three other forwards are now needed. Aleksi Heponiemi had a dissapointing AHL season, but a stint in the bigs shouldn’t be completely ruled out. Veteran Paul Thompson should make the NHL playoff roster. The final 3 forward spots should be a competition between Thompson, Heponiemi, Jonathan Ang, Rodrigo Abols, Dannick Martel and Eetu Luostrainen. I expect the Panthers to want to go with experience, so I expect the three guys with NHL experience: Thompson, Martel and Luostrainen to make the final cut.
Extras: Tippett, Borgstrom, Hunt, Thompson, Martel, Luostrainen, Boyle
One question I have is if the NHL will allow more than 28 skaters at camp for players to compete for roster spots. I see it as very unlikely, as the NHL’s COVID test policy is very strict.
I think the Panthers will opt to go with 10 defenders. Mark Pysyk, the hybrid is already penciled in as a forward, but will nevertheless count on the list.
Locks: Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Mike Matheson, Mark Pysyk (Hybrid), Mackenzie Weegar
Noticeably absent from the locks is Anton Stralman. Stralman has a lung issue, and may possibly sit the postseason out. Otherwise, Stralman would be a lock. However, this information requires me to put him in the Assured category. If he decides to play, he is a lock, but if he doesn’t then the Panthers will have to replace him. Riley Stillman and Josh Brown are also assured roster spots, after they had solid campaigns.
Assured (90%): Anton Stralman (Lock if he plays, but still Questionable), Riley Stillman, Josh Brown
This leaves two roster spots left (three if Stralman doesn’t play). Chase Priskie and Brady Keeper are safe picks for those two spots. If Stralman chooses not to play, the Panthers will likely have to choose between three options: Ethan Prow, Tommy Cross and Emil Djuse.
Extras: Brown, Priskie, Keeper