|The top 10 prospects pose for a photo at their Draft Luncheon the day before the NHL Draft. (Getty Images)|
For the Panthers it was full of meetings and more meetings, whether it was between the scouting department or a last chat with the prospects. Allowed to be in the room for some of them, there's definitely a lot of excitement that the Panthers will get a quality, highly skilled player wherever they pick. That should be music to Panthers fans.
"We're comfortable at three. That's a really good pick," said Panthers GM Dale Tallon. "We're going to get a really good player regardless of what happens in front of us."
"There's a lot of very good players," said Panthers head scout Scott Luce. "There might not be a lot of franchise guys that you can put that label on right now but there's a lot of players that have that ability to earn that based on the performance at the start of their careers. It might not be there now with the projection but in a couple of years of development and some NHL experience under their belt, they may become franchise players"
For the players, especially the top picks, their days were filled with a media tour throughout Minnesota, a coaching session with young skaters at the American Development Clinic in Mendota Heights, media luncheon to answer hundreds of media questions and then last minute interviews with interested teams.
"I think that would be easier but that's part of the whole draft process is the anxiety leading up to that moment," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 ranked North American Skater according to Central Scouting about not knowing if he would go number one to Edmonton. "It's all a part of the fun."
"They haven't been too bad because I haven't been getting much sleep," added Nugent-Hopkins about getting sleep over the last week. "I think tonight is going to be pretty hard to get to sleep that's for sure."
"I'm not used to all this attention," added Adam Larsson the No. 1 ranked European Skater. "But I like it so far. Hopefully it will be a great day tomorrow."
|Dale Tallon Interview|
|Scott Luce Interview|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Interview|
|Gabriel Landeskog Interview|
|Jonathan Huberdeau Interview|
|Adam Larsson Interview|
For the top three rated North American skaters, Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Huberdeau, all have been in contact with Florida.
"It (the meeting at the combine) was great," said Huberdeau. "You can't say if it was better than other teams but it seemed like they liked me. We'll see."
"Every time you hear about Florida, you hear great things so it would be great to play there," said Nugent-Hopkins. "They (the meetings) have gone really well."
"It would be great to play there," said Landeskog who actually visited Miami a couple days ago for a vacation with his friends and get away from the draft hoopla. "Not just the life there and the hockey and the great future they've got in front of them."
Florida kicked off the draft trading frenzy last summer when they made the trade with Boston for Dennis Wideman and what would eventually be Nick Bjugstad. This summer it was Philadelphia who kicked off the draft trading session with two huge trades. They traded Jeff Carter to Columbus for Jakub Voracek, the Blue Jackets first and third round picks while trading their captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a second round pick. With money to spend and picks available, Tallon has started to hear a lot of chatter.
"Lots of conversation. There's a lot going on. A lot of good things," said Tallon. "They (other teams) understand we have room and they understand we're going to be aggressive. We positioned ourselves painfully to get to this position so we have to start to reap the benefits of it."
It will make for an interesting 24 hours leading up to the first round. Draft coverage on VERSUS begins at 7pm ET.
The NHL released the 2011-12 regular season schedule today adding to a jam packed weekend with the NHL Awards and the NHL Draft sandwiched around it.
The Panthers will open up with two games on the road (at the New York Islanders on October 8th and at the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 11th) before finally opening their home portion of the 2011-12 season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's the second straight year that the two teams will meet in the Cats home opener.
Remember last year's opener? Florida scored early and often with four goals in the opening period on their way to a 6-0 shutout victory. Would be nice for a follow up to kick off the We See Red home opener.
At first glance of the schedule, there's a lot of interesting things to take in. First off is the time change for Saturday night contests. In years past games have started at 7:00pm. This year game start will be 7:30pm. Wondering what effect it will have (if any).
Another interesting look is that this schedule seems to be more balanced than in years past. The most games in a row either at home or on the road is just four games. In year's past the team has played on the road or at home for five, six, even seven games at a time. A more balanced schedule should keep the team on their toes but not also make them traveling vagabonds. There will be four different four-game home stands as well as two different four-game road trips.
The schedule makers made sure that the Panthers played host during the holidays which is great because that's when some of the biggest crowds are on hand at the BankAtlantic Center. Florida will host the Penguns (Nov. 19), Devils (Nov. 21), Rangers (Nov. 23) and Lightning (Nov. 25) during Thanksgiving and then will host the Maple Leafs (Dec. 27), Rangers (Dec. 30) and Canadiens (Dec. 31) around the Christmas/New Years Eve time.
Florida will play in 14 sets of back to back games this year but only play five of them in the first three months of the season. That means a lot of them in the second half of the season. A lot of them will be played in the month of March where they will play in four different back-to-back situations.
One final interesting point, at least on our behalf is the amount of weekend games, especially on Sunday. The Cats are home for 22 games on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Eight of them, which has to be the most in a long time, will be played on Sunday. It's great to see in that families can come out thanks to an early start time (5:00pm) and enjoy the game.
Welcome back everyone to the Panthers Insider blog. It's been a while, ok a long time since our last post but with the upcoming draft and free agency right around the corner as well as the release of the 2011-12 schedule, we figured it was a great time to fire up the Insider Blog. Hopefully this time it sticks longer than the last time.
There was a lot of excitement at the hotel in Minnesota yesterday when we arrived in the afternoon. Panthers scouts, as well as GM Dale Tallon and Assistant GM Mike Santos, were buzzing around the hotel lobby coming and going to meetings. Those meetings were meant to go over their final draft list to make sure the list was set.
There's a couple of big events today. First, we'll be in attendance at the Draft Luncheon where the top ten rated players or so will be on hand to talk to the media. We'll have interviews with them on the site later. Then the media will meet with Tallon and hopefully head scout Scott Luce to talk about tomorrow's draft. Following those meetings, Tallon and Luce will hold some meetings with some of the prospects before meeting with the Panthers staff again.
Much more later. We promise.