Aiming To Secure A Spot
Camp Battles: Veterans and young players alike aim to land a spot for opening night.
Coming into the season, Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said there would be opportunities. And he has said numerous times that he didn't have any preferences on the age of the player as long as they could make the Panthers better.
On Wednesday, he reiterated that once again.
"Everybody has a chance. I'm telling everybody at training camp today that they have to compete for a job," said Tallon on Wednesday before speaking to the team Wednesday night at the first get-together prior to Camp opening up Thursday. "Everyone here is fighting for a chance to play for the Panthers to make us win.
"No guarantees to anybody."
With that both veterans and the young players alike not named Jonathan Huberdeau, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann and the like will be fighting to make the team and help them bounce back from last season.
"They haven't said anything," said forward Quinton Howden who played in 18 games for the Panthers last season in his first professional season. "I have to earn that spot and I know that. I'm going to work as hard as I can and hopefully things can work out for me."
"It's very different. It's probably the first time that I've had to do that," said veteran Brad Boyes who is in camp on a tryout. "This is new to me but it will be a different mindset. Something I definitely have to go out there and earn. Nothing is given to me."
In the off-season, Tallon brought in players like Bobby Butler, Joey Crabb, Scott Gomez and Jon Matsumoto along the forward ranks and Matt Gilroy and Mike Mottau on the backend to compete with young players such as Howden, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trocheck up front and Alex Petrovic and Colby Robak on defense. Besides guarding against injuries which plagued the team last season, that competition is what the Panthers are banking on in helping them improve as they become a more complete team throughout the lineup with multiple, moving pieces.
And in goal, with Scott Clemmensen out for three weeks, the Panthers have been speaking to prospective netminders, including asking the availability of Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov and former Panther Jose Theodore.
"We're looking at everything," said Tallon when asked about Thomas and Bryzgalov respectively but might as well been focused on the entire team. "We're not in a position not to look at anything and we want to get better. It's important that we investigate every possible scenario to make our team better."
The competition, especially in training camp as 59 players look to be a part of the final 20-23 players that are part of the opening night lineup should be fierce. Players will have to be on their games every single day.
"You have to perform every day," said Bjugstad. "I'm just looking forward to the challenge."
And for even those that have a place on the team, they know they will have to work for playing time which is what all players look for.
"There's a lot of veteran guys that are coming to the camp and you never know what's going to happen. Each one of us has to earn their spot," said Huberdeau. "It's going to be a hard camp and everybody wants to play on that team so it probably should be good. It's nice to see veterans come to the camp and is going to bring a good energy."
"It's been my main goal since I got here. I want to be the starting goalie," said goaltender Jacob Markstrom. "That's nothing to be shy about. I'm here to play and I really want to play. I really want to play good and help the team win."
The Panthers know that Tallon, head coach Kevin Dineen will put whoever on the ice that will help the team win, no matter who.
"You look at that. It's about opportunities," said Boyes who posted 35 points for the Islanders last season. "You look at the roster and what guys are here, potential fits. For me question marks is just the young guys…there's a lot of young guys here for me that I don't know a lot about…for me it's however you matchup with to go out and produce and provide scoring opportunities, that's what I know I've done in the past and that's why I'm here now.
"There's the case there if they're not ready that the coaching staff and Dale will provide stuff with players that are ready," said defenseman Brian Campbell on the young players vying for spots. "You can't get behind like we did last year with a slow record and you're just out of it. Those guys, there's jobs waiting for them. Do yo want to take it or not. That's the option. Do you want to be a good player or do you want to be a great player.
"For me that's what they're going to have to strive to do and the opportunities are there which is what you need and what you want as a young player but you still have to take that opportunity. I don't think anything is going to be given to them…They're going to have to succeed or else there's somebody else that's willing and waiting I'm sure to take over."
Players To Watch In Camp
Bobby Butler - Signed to a two way deal on July 24, forward spent last season split between New Jersey and Nashville, recording 11 points (4-7-11) in 34 games while being almost a half-a-point a game player with Nashville (nine points in 20 games).
Jesse Winchester - Playing with Jokerit (SM-liiga) last season (three points in five games), the center has played in 233 career NHL games and posted 52 points (11-41-52), all with Ottawa. Signed to a two-way deal on July 5.
Brad Boyes - In camp on a tryout, Boyes posted 35 points (10-25-35) while playing in all 48 games last season with the NY Islanders. 43 and 33 goals in back-to-back seasons (2007-08, 2008-09) with the St Louis Blues.
Drew Shore - Played in 84 games split between Florida and San Antonio in his first professional season, becoming an AHL All-Star for his 30 points in 41 games (10-20-30) before spending second half of season with Florida and posting 13 points (3-10-13) in 43 games.
Nick Bjugstad - Posting close to a point-a-game in his final two season at the University of Minnesota before turning pro after his junior campaign, Bjugstad played in 11 games with the Panthers at the end of last season. The center recorded four goals and five points in three Prospect Camp games.
Quinton Howden - After wrapping up a successful Junior career in which he posted 98 goals and 209 points in 177 games over last three seasons, Howden recorded 30 points (13-17-30) in 57 games with San Antonio while skating in 18 games with the Panthers.
Vincent Trocheck - Trocheck won several accolades in his final Junior season, winning the OHL's Most Valuable Player for his 109 points (50 goals) in 63 games, splitting his season between Saginaw and Plymouth. Also helped Team USA win a gold medal at this past World Juniors.
Matt Gilroy - The 29-year old signed a two way contract on July 24 after spending last season in the NY Rangers organization. Played in 15 games with the Rangers and posted 15 points (6-9-15) in 34 games with the Connecticut Whale. Has played in 209 NHL games and recorded 46 points.
Mike Mottau - Blueliner has posted 58 points in 313 career games over eight NHL seasons while also spending time in the AHL. Spent last season split between San Antonio (seven points in 16 games) and Toronto (AHL) (seven points in 18 games). Signed to a two-way contract on July 5.
Alex Petrovic - A year after being named the WHL's best defenseman while wrapping up his Junior career with the Red Deer Rebels, Petrovic registered 17 points and 102 PIM in 55 games while playing in six games with the Panthers.
Colby Robak - Playing in his third professional season, the 23-year old posted 23 points (5-18-23) in 63 games with San Antonio and picked up his first NHL point in 16 games with Florida last season.