Let’s take a look at some of the Panthers’ prospective forwards who have a serious chance of earning a spot on the lineup this season.
Drafted 11th overall in the 2015 NHL draft, Lawson stands at 6”4 215 lbs. Last year he played his final year in Kingston recording 62 points in 49 games. Crouse is known to be a power forward I think with his size and puck possession skills, he would be a great fit on the right wing of Nick Bjugstad. Nick has been looking for a solid winger and I think after the 3 years in the OHL Lawson will be ready to step up and make an impact.
As the 76th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, this powerful winger has spent some time on NHL ice. Last season, he played in 53 games with the Panthers and was a great fill in on the third and fourth lines. He can play center, right wing, and even help out on the penalty kill. Although he may not directly impact the score sheets, Shaw will be one of those two-way players that we can utilize on the fourth line alongside Derek Mackenzie. With his 5 goals, 2 assists, and only 13 PIM, I believe that he would be a solid fit on the fourth line this year or at least a solid replacement for any player that goes down.
Drafted 91st overall in the 2011 draft, Kyle played his minor hockey at the university of Minnesota alongside Nick Bjugstad. He is getting to that age here he need to either make the turn and be an NHL player or get lost in the AHL. Last year they tried to bring him up to the big show to play alongside former Gopher Bjugstad, but the same chemistry was not there. I think Rau is a long shot but I need to show love for any Gopher hockey player.
As the 24th pick in the 2014 NHL draft, standing at 6’ 180 lbs, Jared Mccann has the best shot at success among all of the young prospects. He has already gotten accolades from the coaching staff for stepping up and being a leader during the Panther’s developmental camp. Last season, he played 69 games with the slumping Vancouver Canucks, where he put up 9 goals and 9 assists. Although McCann is listed as a center, I believe the Panthers will end up sliding him to right wing somewhere along the third or fourth line.
Jayce Hawryluk had a great season last year with the Brandon Wheat Kings; he posted 101 points in only 58 games and was the fourth leading scorer in the WHL. That being said, I still think he needs one year in the AHL before he is ready to come up and play with the big boys.
Although the Panthers are a tremendously deep franchise, I believe that allowing these players adequate time to develop will be a major key to our long-term success. I know I’m not Tom Rowe, but if I were then I would take a serious look at Logan Shaw, Kyle Rau, Lawson Crouse and Jared McCann for the opening night roster.