While NHL development camp rosters are predominantly filled with players in their teens to early twenties, the Florida Panthers had a more experienced face take the ice in Coral Springs as they kicked off their development camp earlier this week.
26-year-old Ludovic Waeber is the oldest player at Panthers development camp and is without an NHL/AHL game under his belt, however the Swiss goaltender isn’t a newcomer by any means.
Despite never playing professional hockey in North America nor outside of Switzerland, Waeber is by far one of the most experienced players at development camp.
The 6 ‘1 goaltender spent the last six seasons playing in Switzerland’s National League (NL), one of the top men’s professional hockey leagues in the world. b
His last three seasons in Switzerland were with the ZSC Lions, a consistent playoff team in the National League. His final year in Zurich saw him post a 2.50 goals against average, and a .914 save percentage in 19 NL games. Waeber signed a one-year deal with the Panthers this offseason.
As Waeber makes the move to North America, he and his family are getting ready for life in a new country.
“There’s a lot of challenges like just changing countries,” said Waeber. “Back home you have like a cocoon, you’re near family and stuff… so it’s a big change.”
“The wife is coming with me and it’s gonna be a good year,” he added.
Coming to North America from Europe is usually a big on ice transition for skaters because of the style of game and size of the rink. That case is the same for goaltenders.
“Back home you have a little bit more time to adjust,” said Waeber. “Here everything goes a little bit quicker. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
While there are no other Swiss players in the Panthers’ organization at the moment, Waeber’s good friend and former Lions teammate Denis Malgin was with Florida from 2016 to 2020.
Waeber said Malgin spoke to him about the Panthers after he signed with the team a few weeks ago.
“We talked a little bit together, he’s a good friend of mine,” said Waeber. “He told me it was a good organization and I should enjoy myself here.”
Behind the scenes of the Panthers’organization, the goaltending excellence department boasts names that have gotten the goalies at camp excited to mention.
Hall of Famer Roberto Luongo and long-time NHL goalie coach Francois Allaire are big parts of that.
“When I had the first zoom call with Leo [Luongo], Francois Allaire and Roberto [Luongo], it was a big deal,” said Waeber. “I used to go to Francois Allaire’s training camp in Verbier, Switzerland, so I knew about the demand and his philosophy of goaltending.”
As for Roberto Luongo, Waeber was a fan of his growing up in Switzerland.
“Back home I had a poster of him on my wall in my room, so it was kind of impressive for me to talk to him.” Waeber did specify later that Luongo was wearing a Canucks jersey on the poster.
Waeber says he plans to return to Switzerland following development camp to finish his offseason training with HC Fribourg-Gotteron before coming back to South Florida at the end of August.
While Waeber is expected to begin the 2023-2024 season with Florida’s AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, past seasons have shown that goaltending situations in the NHL are never entirely written in stone.