Top 3 Florida Panthers Prospects Entering the 2021-22 Season

This article is a continuation of the article I wrote last month. The link to that article will be listed below:

I decided to withhold the top three names. Initially I was going to do one article each for the top three prospects, but I decided that it would be better to just combine it all into one article.

#3 Grigori Denisenko (LW, Russia, 2018 1st Round Pick)

2020-21 Stats: Syracuse (AHL) 15 GP, 5-4-9 and Florida (NHL) 7 GP, 0-4-4

Denisenko had a solid first professional season in North America, as he came over from Russia. Denisenko’s first season was highly unusual due to COVID, which limited his playing time. Denisenko was one of the only Panther prospects to be given top six minutes in his 15 games with Syracuse due to the Panthers sharing their affiliate with the Lightning. Denisenko was productive in those 15 games and managed a quick two-game cup of coffee in the NHL in March. He would be called up later in the season to fill in for the injured Carter Verhaeghe. Denisenko was given opportunities to play with Sasha Barkov, and Denisenko saw his best performances with the Captain, putting up 4 assists in a three-game span, where he saw significant ice time with Barkov. Denisenko struggled this preseason, and with such a depth-laden lineup, he was sent to Charlotte to work on his craft in the minors. Denisenko will likely see top line minutes in the minors and will likely serve as an injury replacement call-up from the minors. With this likely being Frank Vatrano’s last season in red, Denisenko is expected to be the heir apparent to that 3rd line left wing spot once Vatrano is either traded or walks in free agency. Denisenko’s defensive game needs improvement. He has a lot of skill, but he often times can be caught being lazy off the puck, especially in the defensive zone.

#2 Anton Lundell (C, Finland, 2020 1st Round Pick)

2020-21 Stats: HIFK (Liiga) 26 GP, 16-9-25

Picked at 12th overall, Anton Lundell was regarded as a very good defensive center with limited offensive upside. With comparisons to Panthers captain and now-roommate Sasha Barkov, Lundell exploded offensively in 2020-21, putting up 16 goals in a 26 game campaign that was limited by injuries and a battle with COVID. Lundell’s talent saw him as a lock for the opening night roster, but a nagging injury suffered at rookie camp has kept him off the ice for the majority of training camp and preseason. Lundell made his debut on NHL ice last night in a 6-2 loss, and as I didn’t watch the game due to a soccer game, I have no idea how he did. Twitter reviews seemed pretty mixed. With Noel Acciari going down with a long-term injury, Lundell’s high odds of making the opening night roster have increased. Unfortunately, Acciari’s injury will require Lundell to play a more defensive game, as he has been used as a penalty killer and will likely have to serve as a checking center to make up for Acciari’s absence. Lundell will have to beat fierce opposition from fellow Finns Juho Lammikko and Eetu Luostarinen, as well as grizzled vet Joe Thornton for one of the center roles. It wouldn’t surprise me if Lundell was sent to Charlotte for a few weeks to make up for the time missed during camp, but I don’t believe he will stay there long.

#1 Spencer Knight (G, United States, 2019 1st Round Pick)

2020-21 Regular Season Stats: Boston College (NCAA) 21 GP, 16-4-1, 2.18 GAA, 3 SO, .932 SVPCT and Florida (NHL) 4 GP, 4-0-0, 2.32 GAA, .919 SVPCT

2020-21 Playoffs: Florida (NHL) 2 GP, 1-1, 2.06 GAA, .933 SVPCT

Arguably one of the best, if not the best prospect in all of the NHL, Spencer Knight enters his first professional season with a guaranteed NHL job. Spencer Knight is absolutely incredible. Knight is an incredible goalie, with excellent positioning, great reaction times, but his biggest strength is his poise. Knight is a calming presence in the storm. Hockey isn’t his whole life, and he plays the game to have fun. He is regarded as one of the most mature players in the league already, despite only having a half-dozen games under his belt. Knight was drafted in 2019 and was so impressive, he was signed to an NHL contract at age 19, making his NHL debut the day after he turned 20. Knight was awesome in the regular season, going perfect in his 4 outings, saving nearly 92% of all shots faced and only allowing around 2.3 goals per game. Knight cemented his status in the playoffs, as Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger both struggled, forcing Joel Quenneville to call on his 20 year old netminder in a do-or-die game 5. Knight allowed the first shot he faced in, but shut the door, with a performance for the ages, firing up his home crowd and leading the Panthers to die another day. In Game 6, Knight kept the Panthers in the game, as the Panthers struggled to breach Tampa’s trap elimination game and with Andrei Vasilevskiy turning into a brick wall. Unfortunately Knight’s efforts were in vain, as a Steven Stamkos patented-one timer and a Brayden Point incredible deke daggered the Panthers. Knight’s preseason performances have been solid so far. Knight is a great goalie, and will likely take over the starting job this season. My biggest worry is that Knight tends to have some off nights, and when that happens, he is putrid. The key is to make sure to limit those putrid outings as much as possible. Either way, the sky is the limit for Knight.