One thing the Florida Panthers are watching for this preseason is the play of their young prospects. Players like Shawn Matthias, Michael Frolik, and Michal Repik will be closely watched. The type of preseason these players have may determine the amount of playing time they get in the upcoming season.
Here are the Panthers top five prospects that may see playing time in the 2008-09 NHL season:
Shawn Matthias (Center)
Matthias was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi. He has been rated as one of the Panthers' highest prospects. Matthias is a big, offensive, and hard-working hockey player. In 2007-08, Matthias had one of his best seasons for the Belleville Blues. He scored 32 goals with 47 assists.
Matthias is one of the more-likely Panthers' prospects to see playing time. He played in four games with the Florida Panthers. In one game against the Washington Capitals, Matthias scored two goals, both from being lodged in front of the net.
Michael Frolik (Center)
Frolik is a fast, exciting player who has the potential to be a first-line center in the NHL. While playing for Kladno in Czech Elite League in 2005-06, Frolik was dubbed "Baby Jagr" by Czechs. In the 2007-08 season, Frolik had a very nice year, scoring 24 goals with 41 assists.
Frolik is another prospect who is likely to see a good amount of playing time in the NHL this season. Frolik's exciting speed and offense will make him a key component to a Panthers' offense that is lacking scoring.
Jacob Markstrom (Goalie)
Markstrom was drafted 31st overall in this year's entry draft. Markstrom has begun to truly develop into an elite talent. Markstrom is a big, tall goaltender, who is excellent at making himself look even bigger in the net. He plays with a butterfly style in net and possesses a good glove and excellent agility.
Markstron definitely has a future in the NHL, but the multitude of talent in net will keep Markstrom in the minors for awhile. Goalies like Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson will stay between the pipes for the Panthers for the foreseeable future.
Michal Repik (Right Winger)
Repik is a solid skater with great speed and scoring ability. He also possesses great puck-handling skills. Repik has become a key fixture on his WHL team, the Vancouver Giants. In 2007, Repik played in 51 games, but tallied an impressive 61 points.
Repik has an incredible amount of talent, but needs to work a bit on improving his defensive game. I feel Repik is about one year away form being ready to play in the NHL.
Keaton Ellerby (Defenseman)
Ellerby is an excellent shutdown defenseman, who may possibly develop into a solid two-way defenseman. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and can be rough and physical when it is necessary. In the 2007-08 season, Ellerby split between Kamloops and Moose Jaw, and developed into a solid offensive defenseman. He accumulated 25 points.
Ellerby is still a few years away from making the NHL. He still needs to develop into a more complete hockey player. The depth of the Florida Panthers' defense also will hurt Ellerby's chances of making the team in the next few years.
The Panthers rely on young talent with players like David Booth, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss, and they will continue to do so in the future. These young prospects could become the future stars and leaders of the Panthers and the NHL.
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