Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Top prospects for Florida Panthers

1. Henrik Borgstrom, F
How acquired: Selected with No. 23 pick in 2016 NHL Draft
Last season: Florida: 4 GP, 1-0-1; University of Denver (NCAA): 40 GP, 23-29-52
Borgstrom, who turned 21 on Aug. 6, will compete in training camp to earn the third center spot behind Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract and made his NHL debut March 29 after Denver was eliminated from the NCAA Division I men's tournament. He scored his first NHL goal April 8 in the Panthers' final regular-season game. Borgstrom (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) was one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award last season and has excellent puck-handling and playmaking abilities. 
Projected NHL arrival: This season
2. Owen Tippett, F
How acquired: Selected with No. 10 pick in 2017 NHL Draft
Last season: Florida: 7 GP, 1-0-1; Springfield (AHL): 5 GP, 1-1-2; Mississauga (OHL): 51 GP, 36-39-75
The 19-year-old began last season with the Panthers but was returned to Mississauga on Nov. 6 before he finished the season with Springfield of the American Hockey League. Tippett (6-1, 200) will be among several forwards competing for a spot on the third and fourth lines. His offensive ability, highlighted by one of the best shots in the organization, could earn him a job, but the Panthers may decide his defense needs work before he's ready to be a full-time NHL player.
Projected NHL arrival: This season
3. Grigori Denisenko, F
How acquired: Selected with No. 15 pick in 2018 NHL Draft
Last season: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (MHL): 31 GP, 9-13-22
Denisenko, 18, could begin the season with the Panthers, but given their depth at forward, he likely will spend the season in the Kontinental Hockey League after making his debut in the league during its 2018 playoffs (no points in four games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl). Denisenko (5-11, 176) didn't put up big numbers last season in the MHL, Russia's junior hockey league, but showed flashes of the elite offensive skills and playmaking that Borgstrom possesses.
Projected NHL arrival: Next season
4. Aleksi Heponiemi, F
How acquired: Selected with No. 40 pick in 2017 NHL Draft
Last season: Swift Current (WHL): 57 GP, 28-90-118
Heponiemi, 19, will play this season for Karpat in Liiga, Finland's top professional league. He led the Western Hockey League in assists and finished third in points last season. There's little question that Heponiemi has elite-level skills with his vision and playmaking ability, but with his size (5-10, 147), he'll need to show he can withstand the physical rigors of the NHL. Playing against men in Finland will provide a better gauge than playing against junior-age players in Canada.
Projected NHL arrival: 2020-21
5. Maxwell Gildon, D
How acquired: Selected with No. 66 pick in 2017 NHL Draft
Last season: University of New Hampshire (NCAA): 36 GP, 8-15-23
Gildon, 19, stood out at Panthers development camp in July, showing off his tremendous skating ability. As a freshman at the University of New Hampshire last season, Gildon (6-3, 191) tied for second in Hockey East among defensemen with eight goals. He needs to get bigger and stronger though, and he'll get the chance to do that with a few more collegiate seasons.
Projected NHL arrival: 2020-21

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