The NHL Draft Begins on Friday. Bill Zito’s second turn at the high stakes amateur selection draft sees him entering with six picks. As a playoff team, the Panthers are expected to be more active on the trade floor than the draft board, but should Zito choose to utilize all six picks, here is who I think he should pick. These results are based on a simulator I am playing.
Pick 23: Brennan Othmann (LW-Canada)- A goal scoring winger, Othmann is a true sniper, which is something the Panthers need. He put up an impressive 16 points in 34 games in the Swiss Second League. Othmann may not be on the board when the Panthers come up, with many projecting him as being picked in the 15-20 range, but should he slip, the Panthers should be all over him.
Pick 54: Evan Nause (LD-Canada)-One of the biggest potential steals of the draft, the left-handed 6’2 185 pound Nause is a solid skating defender which fits in perfectly with the Panthers breakout style. It would not be surprising if Zito reaches for him in the first round, but if Nause is still on the board in Round 2, Zito shouldn’t hesitate.
Pick 119: Niko Huuhtanen (RW-Finland)-Another goal scoring winger, the 18 year old put up 20 goals in 37 games with Tappara U-20, which is owned by Sasha Barkov. Huuhtanen is another potential steal in the draft, but has a lot of rough edges in his game. Working with the Panthers captain should help him clean up the rough edges in his game, and he could be a legit top 6 winger in the NHL. Huuhtanen is coming to North America to play in the WHL next season.
Pick 151: William von Barnekow (LW-Sweden)-A big left winger, von Barnekow is 6’4, but at only 190 lbs, still needs to gain some weight. He is a strong two-way forward and even cracked the SHL for two games this season.
Pick 183: Joey Pierce (RD-USA)-Another hidden gem, Pierce only played at the High School level, but earned a spot next year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The 6 foot tall Minnesota native is an excellent rush defender and does not give his opponents space to make a move.
Pick 209: Owen Bartoszkiewicz (G-USA)-With the Panthers establishing the Department of Goaltending Excellence, I highly doubt Zito lets a draft pass without Roberto Luongo’s pet project getting a pick. Bartoszkiewicz is another hidden gem that is going to the University of Minnesota next year. He was one of the best rookies in the NAHL last year.