American Hockey League

Samoskevich focused on ‘main goal’ of NHL roster spot

Mackie Samoskevich wrapped up a long stretch of hockey at Florida Panthers development camp earlier this month, after the 20-year-old forward was a part of three different postseasons.

But after ending his University of Michigan career with an appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four and playing in the Calder Cup Playoffs for Charlotte of the American Hockey League, Samoskevich is hoping his next postseason foray takes him to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Samoskevich got a peripheral taste of the NHL postseason as a member of the Panthers’ Black Aces during their run to the Stanley Cup Final, and he’s hoping to earn a roster spot with them in training camp.

“Yeah, obviously, I’d love to play down here,” said Samoskevich, selected by Florida with the No. 24 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. “I think that’s the main goal. I don’t think it’s a far-fetched goal. I think I could play in the big leagues, I hope, and I’m working hard, very hard in the summer. I think that’s the main goal for sure right now.”

Samoskevich (5-foot-11, 191 pounds), who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Panthers on May 8, will be in the mix to fill forward openings for Florida following the departures of Anthony Duclair (traded to the San Jose Sharks on July 1), Eric Staal and Colin White (each an unrestricted free agent).

“I don’t see why he couldn’t (make the team),” Panthers director of player personnel Bryan McCabe said of Samoskevich. “He’s a very strong skater. He’s got a fabulous shot. He plays the game the right way, north-south. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s physically mature too, which a lot of guys aren’t when they’re first turning pro.

“Whether it’s October of this year or January, this kid’s going to play. He’s a good prospect. He’s got a great head on his shoulders and the sky’s the limit for him.”

After finishing his second season at Michigan and earning second-team All-Big Ten honors, Samoskevich had two assists in two games for Charlotte in the AHL regular season before having four assists in seven games in Charlotte’s two Calder Cup Playoff rounds — a three-game series win against Lehigh Valley and a four-game series loss to Hershey Bears in the Atlantic Division semifinals.

Though he didn’t score in any of his nine AHL games, Samoskevich impressed Charlotte coach Geordie Kinnear with his maturity.

“We put him in the lineup right away, added some quality time on ice with some serious responsibility,” said Kinnear, who runs Florida’s development camp. “What I liked about Mackie is he understands an honest evaluation of the play. You need that from players, for an honest evaluation of their own play, and then now as a coach, it makes it very easy. 

“He came in and he was a great player for us, played in some high-intense playoff games in the American League, which is not easy for college kids coming in, and I thought he did an outstanding job.”

Samoskevich isn’t planning on letting up anytime soon.

Following development camp, there was a well-deserved break on the schedule before he resumed skating and he said he was going to come back to South Florida early to get a jump-start on training camp and give himself the best shot at making the Panthers roster.

“It was definitely a tough (decision to leave Michigan),” Samoskevich said. “I knew I had to take that step. As hard as it was, I think coming here is even better. It’s the progress here that I can make with the coaching staff, and other players that are here, is just top-notch, so I think it’s something I had to do for sure.

“It’s a bit different. Now it’s your job. You’re getting paid to do it. I think I like it way more just because it pushes you a little bit more. It’s your job now. It’s something you do for a living and something I love to do for a living for sure.”

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