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News

Panthers Draft Party A Success

Close to 1,000 Cats fans attend party at BB&T Center to watch Panthers take Aleksander Barkov with top pick.

Wednesday, 07.03.2013 / 4:25 PM / News
By Nicole Comparato  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Panthers Draft Party A Success
A couple of young Panthers fans enjoy some of the activities at the BB&T Center (Eliot J Schechter)

At the end of the day Sunday, fans walked out of the BB&T Center's NHL Draft Party with full stomachs, children with painted whiskers on their faces and most importantly, an excitement and eagerness that Panthers hockey season is just a few months away.

What stood out most about the near 1,000 fans gathered in Club RED and the lower bowl of the arena was their enthusiasm and energy, as they welcomed Aleksander Barkov to South Florida at the team’s annual NHL draft party.  

The Colorado Avalanche affirmed what they've been saying for weeks when they chose Nathan MacKinnon from Halifax with the first overall pick, a player that many thought would go to the Panthers before Avs executives announced they would pass on top prospect Seth Jones and go with a forward.

As expected, sighs were let out throughout the BB&T Center when MacKinnon pulled on his new Avs jersey, but anticipation was still at its peak as many tried to predict what Panthers GM Dale Tallon would do next. After just a short time waiting, the TVs told the audience that the "PICK IS IN," and the cheers grew louder, only subsiding enough for them to hear that Aleksander Barkov was the Panthers’ pick.  

Although top prospect Seth Jones and CHL Player of the year Jonathan Drouin were both still up on the board and available at that time, Cats fans were happy with the decision to take Barkov instead.

"I thought we were going to get Seth but I'm fine with Barkov," said Dennis Dill, who said he's been a Panthers fan for all 20 years of the team’s existence. "He's (17) years old and he's already playing in professional hockey in Finland, and you know to me it was a jump ball and I have no problems with that pick."

Other fans said they also had their minds set on the idea that the Panthers would draft Jones or Drouin, but it all came down to putting their faith in the front office. 

"I like it," said fan Blake Mathesie. "I know (Tallon's) good with the younger guys…In Dale we trust."

The 17-year-old Barkov is a skilled player who may have lacked the media exposure that the top three North Americans received, but was touted as Central Scouting Service #1 ranked European prospect. Barkov totaled 48 points (21-27-48) in 53 games with Tappara in the Finnish Elite League during the 2012-13 season, finishing second on his team in scoring. The 6-foot-3, 209-pound center has represented Finland at each of the last two World Junior Championships. He recorded seven points (3-4-7) in six games during the 2012-13 tournament in Ufa, Russia.  In 2011-12, Barkov became the youngest Finnish player ever to be selected to play in the World Junior Championships.

"I thought (Barkov) was a good pick," said season ticket owner Randy Brandt. "I think hopefully with (Rookie of the Year Jonathan) Huberdeau he'll do real well, and I know we wanted a big center for him to play with."

Once the stress of that top pick was over, fans returned to enjoying the activities offered at the draft party while they waited for the second pick at No. 31 to come along. One fan said he was enjoying the activities so much that he actually missed the No. 2. pick.

Panthers fans watch the No. 2 pick Aleksander Barkov and GM Dale Tallon talk following the Cats selection (Eliot J Schechter)

"We were out on the main floor doing all the activities that they have, so I really didn't have a chance to pay attention to the draft," said Panthers fan Jason Sarnowski, who appreciated all the opportunities to get his kids involved at the party. "We really enjoyed ourselves and were glad we were invited."

Linda Richard, who has been a season ticket holder for years, said the draft party was a great time as she watched her kids doing the slap shots on the floor while she waited for the 31st pick. The pick eventually came around and defenseman Ian McCoshen of the Waterloo Black Hawks became the second prospect to put on the Panthers jersey Sunday.

Fans also snuck in a few autographs with team captain Ed Jovanovski, who made an appearance and went on air with former Panther Bill Lindsay, which got fans even more excited about his return next year during the Cats' 20th anniversary season.

And though the draft party ended much earlier than the draft did, with eight new players drafted including one Finnish powerhouse, Panthers fan Jacob Dovis said the future looks bright next year.

"It can only get better," he said. 

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
N. Bjugstad 44 15 12 1 27
J. Huberdeau 41 8 17 1 25
A. Ekblad 44 6 19 7 25
J. Jokinen 43 4 20 0 24
J. Hayes 36 13 7 1 20
B. Boyes 42 9 11 1 20
S. Bergenheim 33 7 9 4 16
T. Fleischmann 38 5 8 9 13
V. Trocheck 28 4 9 6 13
D. Kulikov 39 1 12 -2 13
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 17 10 8 .923 2.32
A. Montoya 3 4 2 .887 3.09
 
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