The Florida Panthers will likely draft a prospect from the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL this summer, but whether it ends up being Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin remains to be seen. Former 2011 top pick Jonathan Huberdeau showed the team how easily QMJHL players can make the jump to the NHL, as he was one of the Panthers’ leading scorers this season. Some of the Panthers top picks from the 2012 draft had promising seasons, and look like they could be a big part of the team’s future.
The Panthers selected USHL defenseman Michael Matheson in the first round, and he recently completed his freshman season at Boston College. Matheson scored eight goals and had 25 points as a freshman, while also picking up 78 penalty minutes in 36 games. He’s a few years from having an impact for the Panthers, but he’s part of a deep group of defense prospects.
Scoring forward Steven Hodges was selected in the third round, and while he doesn’t have great size, he’s been a consistent scorer in juniors. Hodges scored 21 goals and had 46 points for the Victoria Royals of the WHL during the 2011-12 season, and his 28-goal, 51-point performance this season (in 12 fewer games) shows that his freshman effort was no fluke.
In the fifth round, the Panthers took a chance on Russian prospect Alexander Delnov. He has great size, and made the jump to North America this season. In his first season with the Seattle Thunderbirds, Delnov scored 20 goals and had 49 points in 69 games. He got a chance to join the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL before the end of the season, but failed to register a point in six games.
Last year’s draft showed that the Panthers’ scouting staff knows what they’re doing, and gives a lot of hope for this summer. While they’ll look to grab a player in the first rounder who can have an immediate impact, they have at least three players from the 2012 draft who could have an impact.