After five days of on and off-ice activities, the Florida Panthers wrapped up their Development Camp Friday in Coral Springs.
As the guys go their separate ways for the summer, here are six players who stood out at camp and should be on your radar.
Mackie Samoskevich — Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)/Charlotte Checkers (AHL) — FORWARD (20)
It was no surprise to see Florida’s top prospect Mackie Samoskevich turn heads at development camp.
The 2021 first-round pick of the Panthers had an impressive sophomore season at the University of Michigan, putting up 43 points in 39 games on route to a second consecutive Frozen Four appearance with the Wolverines.
Samoskevich turned pro at the end of the college season, joining Florida’s AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers for their playoff run.
The 20-year-old was undoubtedly the most NHL ready player at development camp this week — pulling out all the tools in both the on-ice drills and Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage.
Samoskevich is probably the only player from development camp that has a chance to crack the Panthers’ roster out of camp — which is a goal Samoskevich set out for this season.
“I’d love to play down here [in Florida]. I think that’s the main goal,” Samoskevich said. “I don’t think it’s a far-fetched goal, I know I can do it, I think I can play up in the big leagues.”
Samoskevich’s tool bag is impressive — between his skating, shooting, hands and hockey IQ, he has the skill to play in the NHL now.
Jack Devine — Denver Pioneers (NCAA) — FORWARD (19)
Florida’s seventh-round pick in 2022, Jack Devine caught my eye early on during camp.
The University of Denver forward was great on his feet in close-quarter situations like the 3-on-3 and board battles drills.
Coming in at 5-foot-11, Devine had no problem getting around bigger players — mostly because of his explosive first step.
He has an extremely quick shot release that stood out all week and he pairs it well with his skating.
Devine will return to Denver for his junior season as he tries to win his second National Championship with the Pioneers.
The 19-year-old looked a lot better than many guys at camp who already had pro experience under their belt — he’s a hidden gem in Florida’s prospect pool.
Evan Nause — Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) — DEFENSEMAN (20)
While I don’t think Evan Nause will be NHL ready this season, I do think he is one of the best blueline prospects Florida has. Geordie Kinnear and his staff in Charlotte should be excited to get Nause for his first professional season in the AHL.
Nause is a 6-foot-2 smooth skating defenseman who isn’t afraid to jump up in the rush but understands his role as a 200-foot blueliner.
The former Quebec Rempart won the Memorial Cup just one month before the start of development camp.
Nause has a big frame, but he’s surprisingly mobile for someone of his size.
His edge work and puck handling reminded me slightly of a younger Aaron Ekblad — who even now is still crafty with the puck for someone that is 6-foot-4.
Defensemen traditionally take longer to develop than forwards and with the amount of NHL blueliners the Panthers signed this offseason plus the bodies they already have in Charlotte, Nause will have plenty of time in the AHL to learn the pro game.
Kai Schwindt — Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) — FORWARD (19)
Mississauga’s Kai Schwindt is Florida’s most intriguing prospect for me.
The first thing that immediately stands out for Schwindt is his size, the kid is 6-foot-4. But while there’s a lot of tall guys in hockey whose calling is being big, this isn’t why I have Schwindt on this list.
I say Schwindt is an interesting case because at times during camp he looked like a guy that should absolutely tear up junior hockey.
He isn’t the fastest guy but he moves well for a guy that big. The lack of elite speed is offset by him using his size effectively to carry the puck. He can shoot — during development camp I saw him go top shelf four to five times off the rush in about 15 minutes.
He had an impressive camp that ended off with a snipe in the intrasquad scrimmage. Rookie camp should be another good week to evaluate his game.
Saying this, his offensive production in the OHL the last two seasons doesn’t translate to what he’s capable of. Last season in the OHL, Schwindt had 25 points in 67 games with the Steelheads.
“Schwindt needs to drive the play more,” Intermission Sports Steelheads beat reporter Mitchell Fox said. “He has the speed and energy to be an effective, gritty winger, but he needs to put it all together.”
Schwindt has the upside needed for a professional and if he can put it all together, I could see him in a fourth-line to bottom-six role on an NHL team one day. But he’ll need to have a better year in the OHL next season as one of the more experienced players on a young Steelheads team before anything.
Josh Davies — Swift Current Broncos (WHL) — FORWARD (19)
Ryan Lomberg is a fan favorite in Florida with his gritty play and sneaky offensive skill.
If you want a Ryan Lomberg 2.0, bring in Swift Current forward Josh Davies.
A sixth-round pick of the Panthers in 2022, Davies is a 5-foot-9 forward who hits hard and plays in the dirty areas. Does that ring a bell? That’s Ryan Lomberg.
Davies had 34 points and 131 penalty minutes in 62 games with the Broncos last WHL season. When the WHL season was over, Davies signed an Amature Tryout Agreement with the Checkers — getting in one game with the team before their playoffs started.
The 19-year-old is hard to bounce off the puck and has a pair of wheels on him that will be crucial to his game as he eventually makes it to the pros.
He will return to Swift Current next season for his final year of junior hockey.
BONUS: Matteo Giampa — Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL)/Canisius College (NCAA) — FORWARD (19)
I went a little off the board here with this ‘bonus’ pick and took Matteo Giampa, an undrafted, unsigned player who was a camp invite by the Panthers.
Giampa tore up the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season with 92 points in 54 games with the Bonnyville Pontiacs, while leading the AJHL in playoff scoring with 22 points in 16 games.
He’s going to play Division 1 hockey next season with Canisius College and will be 20 by the time the season rolls around. Playing D-1 hockey for the next few years should be a good indicator of how much Giampa can develop his game.
Giampa stood out the most during the 3-on-3 drills, where he was weaving in and out of tight spaces while getting quality looks on goal. He seemed to be really strong on his lower half, which is a good trait to have for a guy that clocks in right at 6-foot.
In the scrimmage, he pulled out a trick from his hat, flipping the puck to himself and batting it in midair during the shootout — capping off an impressive week in style.
Giampa going undrafted means no team owns his NHL rights and with him going to college, he can’t sign a deal with the Panthers or any team for that matter without losing his NCAA eligibility.
He had a really good camp so I decided to still include him in this list despite him not being a Panthers’ prospect.
Sandis Vilmanis — Sarnia Sting (OHL) — FORWARD (19)
Kasper Puutio — Lahden Pelicans (Liiga) — DEFENSEMAN (21)
Ludvig Jansson — Lulea HF (SHL) — DEFENSEMAN (19)