The Florida Panthers officially started their training camp last week at the Ice Den in Coral Springs, Florida. Everyone both young and veteran is looking to refine their tools on the ice or make a name for themselves by impressing their coaches and their veteran peers. There are some that will make the cut but there will also be some that have to go home.
However, three prospects give the team a bright future and their selection and development should be praised by the front office, scouting department and the development team. Those bright young stars are Matt Kiersted, Grigori Denisenko, and Justin Sourdiff.
The young defenseman Kiersted came into the fray by signing a contract with Florida back in 2021 after being the most sought-after college free agent out of North Dakota. Unlike a good chunk of the prospects at camp, he’s actually dressed for a fair number of NHL games. With that in mind, his experience gives him a big edge in making it into the main lineup as opposed to being designated to the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Charlotte Checkers. This includes being featured in AHL playoff games.
With the departure of MacKenzie Weegar this offseason, he looks to make an impact and slot into the lineup as a starter. The days of him being a healthy scratch or sent to the minors are seemingly coming to an end.
Drafted 15th overall back in 2018 by then-general manager Dale Talon, Denisenko has spent most of his time developing in the AHL. Much like Kiersted, the forward also got his feet wet in the NHL this past season after coming in on short notice due to a COVID-19 outbreak (from ‘Panthers place 5 players in COVID-19 protocol ahead of Thursday’s game vs. Kings’ The Athletic, Dec. 16, 2021) within the team last December. In addition, he tallied four assists through seven games in the 2020-21 season.
He did not register a point in his only NHL appearance last season. However, he had 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) through 30 games with the Checkers last season. At training camp, he will show once again why he was called up to the active roster.
Sourdiff became a Panther in 2020 after being drafted in the third round, 87th overall. Unlike Denisenko, Sourdiff is a draft pick from current general manager Bill Zito. In the Western Hockey League (WHL), he was given the “C” for the Vancouver Giants, showing he has great leadership skills. In his five seasons with the Giants, he tallied 166 points (69 goals, 97 assists) through 167 games dressed, nearly a point-per-game average. In addition, he played in 24 playoff games, nabbing eight points (two goals, six assists). Afterwards, he had a short stint with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the 2021-22 season, tallying 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists). That season, he got to taste the WHL playoffs again, scoring five goals and assisting on nine others in 19 postseason games.
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Unfortunately, Sourdiff missed some of camp due to an injury he’s been nursing since this past WHL playoffs. But, there’s still plenty of time for him to gain some traction by the coaching staff while also getting a potential shot at preseason play. However, he is projected to get some time over in the AHL to hone his skills. Despite that, Zito got himself a gem.
Who Will Step Onto the Scene?
Two of the three prospects listed have gotten a first-hand feel for the NHL. But, they’ve all been put through the blender that is being a rising hockey star. Some have been sidelined due to injury while one never got to experience his name being called at an entry draft.
However, the stories behind them are nothing but fuel for them to strive for greatness. Under an experienced system with new head coach Paul Maurice, along with Cup winners as veteran presence, they will strive for greatness for the team in some form and start winning in paradise.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!