VIDEO: Paige Lewis from Panther Parkway chats with Hockeybuzz

Our very own Paige Lewis was today’s guest on Hockeybuzz.com’s Hokeybuzzcast!

Check out Paige as she goes head to head with Josh Rimer, Mike Augello and Eklund here:

Paige talks in depth about the Panthers, and fields questions from the rest of the panel.

Enjoy!

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2014 Draft Profile: Sam Reinhart

Welcome one and all to the Sam Reinhart prospect preview. /thunderous applause/. This is a continuation of Panther Parkway’s 2014 Draft Profile Series. Considering this piece will be profiling the Kootenay Ice phenom Sam Reinhart I took the liberty of seeking out the sage wisdom of Cody Nickolet. Cody, formerly @WHLfromabove and now @avs_tweets on twitter, is an expert on Canadian Major Junior hockey with a specific focus on the Western Hockey League.

Cody was great enough to partake in an interview centering around top prospect Sam Reinhart, so here we go:

Mike Obrand: For our readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your familiarity with the Western Hockey League (WHL)?

Cody Nickolet:  I’ve worked in the league for the past 4 years, doing a little bit of everything including radio color commentary, managing the communications and community relations departments for the Saskatoon Blades.  Along with that I’ve worked as a scout of WHL talent for a pair of different draft publications, while also maintaining a blog and personal set of NHL Draft rankings featuring WHL players.  This year I also did a bit of bantam scouting for the Blades, which is nice as I get a more hands-on feel for all the players who will be entering the league over the next couple of years.

So now that you all know who we’re dealing with here, let’s get to the topic at hand.

Standing tall at 6’1 and weighing in at 183 lbs, Sam Reinhart has been hailed as one of the top prospects heading into the 2014 NHL draft. Through 4 seasons playing for Kootenay in the WHL he has amassed 101 goals and 153 assists for 254 points in 203 games, including an astounding 105 points in 60 games this past season. Through 29 playoff games he has tallied 26 points including his 23 points in 13 games in 2014.

Reinhart ranks 2nd overall among Bob McKenzie’s April 15th pre-draft rankings, 3rd overall among North American skaters in the NHLs CSS final rankings and 1st overall on the ISSs rankings as of June 3rd.

While opinion on his draft stock differs it is needless to say that Reinhart is a top 3 talent in this upcoming draft.

You know that the Panthers have the first overall selection. Will they use it on Reinhart? Should they? Well…

MO: First off, to be blunt: do you think that Sam Reinhart should go 1st overall in the 2014 entry draft?

CN:  Unfortunately, I don’t think he should.  And that’s not because I don’t like him as a player, I do.  I think he’s just in a bit of a tough spot this year, mostly because of the class of 2014.  It’s not a super strong crop at the top and unfortunately that leaves him in a somewhat bad light.  As for the rest of his competition at the top in 2014, the guy for me is Aaron Ekblad.  Not only is he a do-it-all defender with size, but I’m usually a guy that wants to ensure my team has a solid core of defenceman going forward.  Is Aaron Ekblad a legit 1st overall type of guy in another draft year?  I would probably say no to that too, so it’s not only a guy like Reinhart who might take some undue criticism in a few years when looking back at this class.

Cody blames the overall talent of this class for the lack of a clean cut number one pick, which I agree with. Teams will look at need over flat out ability. The Panthers have a solid crop of young forwards with skill so the time may come to go for the top flight defenseman, as Cody suggests.

Nevertheless, Sam Reinhart is a player that would help any team including the Panthers. Let’s take a closer look.

MO: Can you speak about the play style of the Kootenay Ice and how Reinhart fits in with that style?

CN: This is an interesting question, just because Reinhart has had two different coaches during his time with the Ice.  When he first entered the league he played under Kris Knoblauch.  He was a young coach who played an extremely disciplined system.  They could lock it down as good as any team in the CHL, and they won a WHL title with him at the helm in 2011.  Reinhart was a 15 year old on the team at that time and wow was he ever impressive then.  He was so smart and fit in well as a 3rd line center with a cage on, due to his age.  It’s pretty unbelievable thinking back to those early games of his WHL career.  Since then they’ve hired Ryan McGill, who really lets the offensive guys be creative and likes to play with much more tempo than the previous staff did.  They’ve had an extremely small top 6 in the last couple of seasons and like to play with speed.  That speed has forced other teams to back off when trying to defend, and Reinhart has used his vision, hockey sense and passing ability to shred teams apart.  He’s a great fit for how they play and in the end it’s likely an offensive style that was molded to make a player like him succeed by using his best talents.

This seems like a very good fit from a Panthers perspective. Dale Tallon has preached that he wants an offensive coach who knows how to utilize the talents at his disposal. There is no doubt in my mind that Sam Reinhart would flourish in such a system as he has with Kootenay.

MO: What would you say are Reinhart’s most attractive assets as an NHL prospect?

CN:  First things first, his hockey sense.  In my several years following the WHL and hockey prospects closely, I don’t think I’ve seen a player as smart as Sam Reinhart.  He processes the game at such a high level, really approaches his offensive attack like a game of chess.  He knows where to go to and where to put pucks in order to generate offensive chances.  To go along with that, his passing ability and vision are both phenomenal.  You mix in a shot that’s steadily improved over the last few years and you have a guy that can beat you in a variety of ways, and often does.

I don’t think there’s much more that you want from a prospect. A lot of the time you see that a player has the skills but lacks the sense. In Reinhart’s case you can see that first and foremost his hockey sense is his best asset. The ability for a player to see two steps ahead and act instead of react is something that makes a star NHL player.

MO: What would you say are Reinhart’sleast attractive assets as an NHL prospect?

CN: His skating has always been an area that I looked to as an area that needs to improve.  He’s a fine skater at the junior level, but he’s not an overly dynamic player.  There aren’t too many games where I’ve seen him blow by defenders or catch guys flat-footed.  I think his stride is ok, I just think it will take some time for him to get a stronger lower body and to work on his explosiveness and footwork.  If he can ever get that part of his game to an “above-NHL-average” level, he could be an extremely dangerous weapon to have.

Strength comes with time and Reinhart has just that. As he continues to grow and train with NHL players with NHL regimens you’ll see that leg strength come into play. Chances are he won’t reach the elite level in terms of his skating but I don’t think that will hamper his career as an NHLer.

MO: How high is Reinhart’s ceiling? What role do you project him to fill when he reaches his prime?

CN: I think he has the ability to be a middle of the pack 1st line center. That might sound harsh, but I think he could end up being a guy that’s not quite a top 10 center in the NHL, but is more of a guy who is ranked 10-15 in that area of the league.  I don’t see him as a true franchise cornerstone guy, even though I’m sure some scouts do.  Ideally for me he would be a guy that is one day a fantastic second line center on a championship-caliber team.  I think he’ll be a captain of an NHL team one day and a guy that can play first line powerplay minutes and also someone who can kill penalties if you need him to.

Obviously if you’re picking somebody first overall you want them to be a franchise player. The perceived weakness of the draft class may be hurting Reinhart here but I think it would be perfectly acceptable for a team to select this type of potential 1st overall should the team need these services and talents.

MO: Is Reinhart NHL ready?

CN:  This is a tough one.  I think it really depends on the team and situation he ends up in.  If you just analyze his game, he’s very close.  He’s so smart and can think his way around the ice.  But, can he get around the ice well enough as an 18 year old?  That’s debatable, but probable.  Can he match up physical against grown men as an 18 year old?  That’s also debatable, but less likely to be probable.  I think if Reinhart was going to an established team that could insulate him effectively and protect his minutes, it would be an easy yes for me.  But, if he ends up with a team like Florida or Buffalo or Edmonton, teams who lack some size, depth and experience up front, things get more tricky.  In the end, with a gun to my head, I say Reinhart plays in the NHL in 2014-15. 

Slotting a player in based on need isn’t necessarily the best way to go when it comes to developing prospects but if a player is going to help you win then it shouldn’t be a question. As a winger, Reinhart can slot into the Panthers lineup immediately and make a difference but I don’t think he is best suited there as Cody indicated above.

It might be a blessing in disguise for Reinhart as the Panthers’ do have great depth down the middle. Another year in Kootenay could help his strength and stock before cracking the NHL down the middle later on his career.

Is a center what the Panthers need most with the top pick? I don’t believe so, but a player of Reinhart’s caliber is something that no team can afford to pass on.

Luckily, or unfortunately, for the Panthers it is their choice to make.

A big thank you to Cody Nickolet for the interview.

Florida Panthers Win 2014 NHL Draft Lottery

Things may finally be looking up for the Florida Panthers as the team won the NHL’s annual draft lottery on Tuesday night.

By winning Tuesday’s lottery, Florida erases the bad memory of missing out on last year’s 1st overall selection, even after finishing with the worst record in the NHL.

This was the third time in franchise history that the ping-pong balls bounced favorably and the Panthers won the annual lottery. In both 2002 and 2003, Florida traded its top pick for the third overall selection.

With just an 18.8% chance of winning, Florida jumped over Buffalo (25% chance), much like Colorado had done to the Panthers just a year ago.

This year will mark the fourth time in the past five seasons that the Panthers have had a top-three pick. Selecting Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson in the previous three. Given their history of trading the overall top pick, the Panthers haven’t actually picked first since taking current team captain Ed Jovanovski in 1994.

Void of a consensus number one pick in this year’s draft, the Panthers may once again look to move their pick as it seems quality players will be available throughout the majority of the first round.

However, if the team does decide to hold onto their pick, players such as D Aaron Ekblad, F Sam Reinhart and F Sam Bennett are thought to be this year’s top talent.

The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will be held on June 27–28, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

[Read more…]

Luongo Dominates Debut, Gives Panthers First Shutout Since 2012

Roberto Luongo (Credit: Jameson Cooper Olive)

Roberto Luongo (Credit: Jameson Cooper Olive)

Making his first start as a Florida Panther since 2006, goaltender Roberto Luongo not only led his team to a 2-0 shutout victory over the Buffalo Sabres, but also gave South Florida a taste of what life with an elite goaltender can be like.

Luongo, 34, stopped all 25 Sabres’ shots he faced and in doing so gave the Panthers their first shutout victory since March 11, 2012 when Jose Theodore blanked the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0.

“It was nice,” Luongo said of his debut. “It was a great reception right from the start of the game. I thought the boys played really well. I was really impressed by the speed that we generated. The future is very promising.”

[Read more…]

Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Sabres

Stars of the game

1st: Roberto Luongo (25-25 saves – Shutout)

2nd: Jesse Winchester (1G-0A-1P)

3rd: Michal Neuvirth (42-44 saves -.955 sv%)

Goals (Panthers 2 , Sabres 0 )

FLA: Jesse Winchester (9) (Powerplay) Assists: Scottie Upshall, Scott Gomez

FLA: Dmitry Kulikov  (7) (Powerplay) Assists: Brad Boyes, Nick Bjugstad

Highlight

Roberto Luongo made his 2nd debut with the Florida Panthers, recording the first shut out the Panthers have seen since March 12, 2012 (Jose Theodore)

Quote of the game

“It was nice, it was a great reception right from the start of the game. I thought the boys played really well. I was really impressed by the speed that we generated. The future is very promising.”

-Roberto Luongo

Tweet of the game

Next Up

The Florida Panthers take on the Boston Bruins at the BB&T Center, on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

Tune into FOX Sports Florida to catch all of the action!

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Q & A With New Panthers F Brandon Pirri

Before being buried under the media frenzy that surrounded Roberto Luongo’s return to Florida, the Panthers made headlines last week when they announced that they had acquired F Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick in 2014 and a fifth-round pick in 2016.

A 2nd round draft pick (59th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Pirri, 22, has tallied 11 points (6-5-11) so far this season for the Blackhawks while competing in 28 games in mostly a bottom-six role.

Already one of the youngest teams in the NHL, Pirri will spend the last 21 games of the 2013-14 regular season trying to stand out as numerous players fight for limited roster spots heading into next season.

Getting ready to compete in his first home game at the BB&T Center, Pirri was nice enough to talk to Panther Parkway after today’s morning skate and shed a little light on the trade that sent him to Florida, as well as his first few days of being a Panther.

[Read more…]

Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Sabres. Don’t Run Back Inside

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 19-23-7 (45 PTS.) vs. BUFFALO SABRES: 13-27-7 (33 PTS.)

TSN GAMEDAY

GAME DAY SONG: Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

The Florida Panthers complete their quick three game road trip tonight with the second of back to back games against the Buffalo Sabres.  The Panthers are coming off an emotional victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, ending the Penguins 13 game home winning streak by simply out playing the Pens in every facet of the game.

The Panthers came out flying in the first 10 minutes giving goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury a taste of what was to come the entire night.  The forecheck was aggressive, the shots were more accurate, and guess what?  The net presence and pysicality was noticeable.  While the Panthers continued their power play futility, their first goal was scored on a short handed opportunity late in the first period by Drew Shore who buried a shot past Fleury as the Panthers were on an odd man rush, catching the Penguins by surprise.  Shore would later score his second goal of the game at 13:34 of the middle period giving the Panthers a two goal cushion.

The victory was one of the most complete games that the Panthers have played all season, and the scoring finally came from players who haven’t contributed in quite some time, namely Shawn Matthias who scored his 5th goal of the year to make it 5-1 late in the third.  Jonathan Huberdeau also got off the schnied scoring a controversial goal in the third which was under review for what seemed to be 10 minutes.  Huberdeau was in a scrum in the crease, ended up in the net himself, as did the puck.  Finally a goal that was reviewed went the Panthers way.

[Read more…]

Video: Brad Boyes’ Wacky Shootout Goal Leads Panthers to Victory Over Sabres

On a night that included several controversial calls, multiple goals waived off and countless shots ringing off the posts, it’s only fitting that the Florida Panthers’ Thursday night match-up against the Buffalo Sabres would end in an abnormal fashion.

With a chance to win the game in a shootout, Panthers’ forward Brad Boyes – whose game-winning goal had previously been waived off in the 3rd period – finally got a bounce off the post to go his way as his shot would ricochet off both the post and Sabres’ goaltender, Jhonas Enroth, into the net.

So the game is over right? Wrong.

Amazingly, just had they had done on Panthers’ forward Johnathan Huberdeau’s attempt in the previous round, one official signaled a good goal while the other skated in waiving it off. However, unlike Huberdeau’s attempt, the officials would let this call stand as the Cats would go on to escaped Buffalo with a much needed 2-1 shootout victory.

As you can imagine, my description of this series of events does no justice to the actual incident so please enjoy the video of Florida’s wild ending below.

[Read more…]

GIF: John Scott Throws Puck Into Net … Surprisingly it Doesn’t Count

Scoreless midway through the first period of tonight’s matchup against the Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres’ forward John Scott decided to take matters into his own hands – literally.

After play was whistled dead in front of the Panthers’ net, Scott grabbed the loose puck and tossed it past Tim Thomas in net.

What would have been Scott’s second goal of the season had it been both legal and during actual play, instead resulted in two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct in the penalty box.

Gif courtesy of Sean Gentille ( @seangentille )

[Read more…]

Sean Bergenheim Earns Point in Return to Panthers After 18 Month Absence

Nearly 18 months since his last game with the Florida Panthers, forward Sean Bergenheim made his return to the lineup on Friday night against the struggling Buffalo Sabres.

Last seen in an NHL game during Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, Bergenheim missed all of the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season and the first 10 games of this season while recovering from multiple lower-body injuries.

“It’s been a while, but I don’t feel that it’s been that long,” Bergenheim told Alain Poupart after the Panthers’ morning skate. “When I look at how many months it’s been since I played, I don’t feel that on the ice. I don’t feel it’s been that long. I’m really happy to be back. For sure, I missed this.”

Having earned a career-best 17 goals during the 2011-2012 season, and three goals and three assists in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Bergenheim’s scoring abilities should be a welcome addition to a Panthers team that currently sits near the bottom of team scoring in the NHL.

Luckily for the Panthers, Bergenheim didn’t take long to dust off the cobwebs and get back on the score sheet as a crisp pass to Jesse Winchester gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 13:58 in the first period.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was great to see Bergy (Bergenheim) get in on it, especially so early on in the game,” Winchester said. “Hopefully he can build on that for the next one.”

Still adjusting back to the rigors of competitive hockey, Bergenheim played 6:33 through the first two periods of play while being eased back into the lineup by Panthers’ Head Coach Kevin Dineen. However, after looking impressive throughout the first two periods, Bergenheim briefly made his way off of the 4th line and earned a personal game-high 5:26 TOI during the 3rd period as the Panthers tried desperately to get puck past Sabres’ goaltender Jhonas Enroth who stopped a staggering 44 of 45 shots.

“I thought Bergy had a solid game”, said Dineen. “He made good solid plays and was in there creating offense. A lot of try and a lot of push, but unfortunately like the rest of us he couldn’t find the back of the net.”

Unfortunately for the Panthers, Bergenheim’s return to the lineup was not enough to spark the team to a much-needed victory as the Panthers fell to the Sabres 3-1 behind an astounding performance by goaltender Jhonas Enroth.

While it may be hard to continue to find silver linings for the Panthers as the losses continue to pile up, the addition of Bergenheim’s scoring ability and energy should help bolster the team’s struggling offense.

Bergenheim will look to build on his early success as the Panthers welcome their cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Jameson on Twitter @JamesonCoop

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

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