When you think of team’s that are loaded with prospects, the Florida Panthers don’t generally jump to your mind first. If you take in this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships, which start today in Edmonton and Calgary, chances are you’re going to run into a Panthers prospect along the way.
The Panthers have seven youngsters representing their countries in this year’s tournament, five on just Team USA and Team Canada as it is, and that’s not counting Erik Gudbranson (staying with Florida) and Rocco Grimaldi (injured) who aren’t playing this year. Instead, guys like Team USA’s Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, and Connor Brickley will be out there with Team Canada’s Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden. Joonas Donskoi suits up for Finland while Yaroslav Kosov skates for Russia.
As you might expect, Panthers GM Dale Tallon is beaming over like a proud father discussing the tournament as he shares with George Richards of On Frozen Pond.
“These are the best kids in North America,” Tallon said. “We have a bright future and a good core. Our fans should be excited about what’s coming. You talk and talk about your prospects but until you see them in action, fans don’t know. But they should be excited to know the kind of players we have.”
The rise of the Panthers is starting this season with an unexpectedly strong start to the year and a push for the playoffs. The eerie resemblance to how the Chicago Blackhawks came back to power are only going to grow stronger as the years roll on. Say, Tallon might know what he’s doing after all.