2021 TSP: Florida Panthers Prospects

Spencer Knight, 2021 Florida Panthers Prospects

Welcome to the 2021 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2021 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. You can find all the articles here.  Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2021 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2021 Florida Panthers Prospects.

What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2021-22 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.

2021 Florida Panthers Prospects

Panthers Season and Off-Season

The Panthers had an excellent season, finishing second in the Central Division with 79 points. Unfortunately, they would fall in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing to their state rival and eventual Stanley Cup Champions in the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. It was a hard-fought series and gives the Panthers hope that they have arrived and are ready to take the next step in the near future.

The off-season saw goaltender Chris Driedger leave in free-agency/expansion. Other losses include Alexander Wennberg, Lucas Wallmark, Nikita Gusev, and Keith Yandle. The team also made a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, acquiring forward Sam Reinhart. Meanwhile, Joe Thornton also joins the Panthers as a free agent addition, and Maxim Mamin returns from the KHL.

2021 NHL Draft Picks (C): Mackie SamoskevichEvan Nause, Vladislav Lukashevich, Kirill Gerasimyuk, Jakub Kos, Braden Hache
Graduations: Owen Tippett, Eetu Luostarinen

 

2021 Top Florida Panthers Prospect: Spencer Knight

Goaltender – Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born April 19th, 2001 — Darien, Connecticut
Height 6’3″ — Weight 198 lbs [191 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 1st Round, #13 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.

Knight had the type of season that justifies his hype as a future franchise goalie. In six games at the World Juniors, he put up a 1.63 goals-against-average and .940 save percentage, helping Team USA to a gold medal. He was outstanding for Boston College, putting up a 2.18 goals-against-average and .932 save percentage in 21 games. When the NCAA season ended, Knight signed with Florida, playing four regular-season games with a 2.32 goals-against-average and .919 save percentage. He was even better in his two playoff games with a .933 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against-average.

Skating and Talent Analysis

Coming in at six-foot-three, Knight has the type of size NHL teams are looking for in goalie prospects as well as room to grow. Knight takes advantage of that size by coming well out of his net and challenging shooters. He keeps his back straight and maximizes his size to take away the top of the net when facing a shooter. His rebound control is especially well developed for a goaltender his age. As with any young goalie, there is still room for refinement, but he is already well ahead of the normal curve for a prospect.

Knight has powerful legs which allow him to take away the bottom of the net. He also gets across the crease quickly and under control. His puck tracking is very good for his age. Knight reads the play well and anticipates where the shot will come from. Add in a quick glove hand and Knight has all the technical ability to be a top goalie. It is clear that he has been well-schooled in his technique, with the way he handles his stick, hugs the post, and uses short quick steps to get across the crease. Knight can also handle the puck to help his defence and start the transition game.

Mental Make-Up

Knight also shows maturity, not being rattled by goals or traffic around his net. He keeps his composure and is ready to make the next save no matter what the situation. His coolness and composure become a source of strength for teammates. They look to him in order to calm things down when his team faces adversity. Knight also shows leadership ability, communicating with and instructing the defenders in front of him.

One area where Knight can improve is in keeping his focus when he does not face a lot of shots. This was a bit of concern during his time with the US NTDP, as they were dominant in 2018-19. There were times where this could happen. When that next flurry of shots finally arrives, Knight can sometimes have trouble being focused to face them.

Outlook

Knight’s emergence made it a lot easier for the Panthers to let Driedger go. He is ready sooner than most would have anticipated. Knight likely begins the season as the Panthers backup, with the plan to see him play about 30-35 games behind Sergei Bobrovsky. However, if Bobrovsky struggles and Knight excels, those plans could quickly change.

 

#2 Prospect: Anton Lundell

Centre — shoots Left
Born October 3rd, 2001 — Espoo, Finland
Height 6’1″ — Weight 185 lbs [185 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 1st Round, #12 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.

After being drafted in the 2020 draft, Lundell had an outstanding season. He put up 16 goals and 25 points in 26 games with HIFK in the Finnish Liiga. He also added three points in eight playoff games. Lundell led the Finnish team to a bronze medal at the World Juniors, scoring six goals and 10 points in seven games. He also played for Finland at the Men’s World Championships, scoring four goals and seven points in 10 games.

Skating

Lundell has very good speed once he gets moving, however, his overall skating can be improved. His first few steps are a bit clunky and this also affects his acceleration. He can also improve his agility, edgework and changes of direction. On the rush, once he gets moving, his speed is adequate though, and it forces defenders to back off him or get burned wide. That said, the majority of hockey is stops, starts, and changes in direction. Lundell really needs to improve his explosiveness and footwork in these areas. Lundell is strong on his skates and protects the puck well down low. He can fight through checks and take the puck to the dangerous areas of the ice. He also wins his fair share of battles along the boards and in front of the net.

Offensive Game

Lundell uses good stickhandling to create space and make plays. He is able to make quick moves to create space and then take advantage of the wider passing lanes and thus is very dangerous in transition. Lundell also uses his strength and balance to extend plays, allowing linemates to get open. He creates scoring chances thanks to his outstanding vision and playmaking skill. Lundell controls the puck on the powerplay and can use his passing ability to create scoring chances for teammates. He is a smart player who always seems to be in the right spot.

While he excels as a playmaker, Lundell is also a pure sniper. This past season he began to shoot more, and this has taken his game to the next level. His offensive game is more unpredictable and makes him even more dangerous. His wrist shot and snapshot are both hard and accurate. They also feature a quick release that can beat goaltenders. Lundell uses his hands to quickly change the release point on his shot before letting it go, fooling goalies. Lundell is also effective in front of the net, where he can get rebounds and deflections. He is able to extend plays by controlling the puck down low and working in the cycle game.

Defensive Game

Lundell also uses his high-end hockey IQ in the defensive end as he’s already a strong two-way player. He does a good job of bringing backpressure and forcing opponents into bad situations when supporting the defence against the rush. He also does a good job of supporting the defence down low and defending against the cycle game. As Lundell matures and gets stronger, he will be even better at this. Lundell also has a quick stick, which helps him to create turnovers that are quickly transitioned into offensive chances. He is also good in the face-off circle.

Outlook

Lundell is an excellent all-around player. There are some questions about his skating, but this can be improved with a good skating coach. He can do it all in both ends of the ice and should become an important contributor to his future team on both the power play and the penalty kill. Lundell will be given every opportunity to make the Panthers in training camp, but he is very young and if he has to wait another year and continue improving his game that should not be seen as a failure for him.

 

#3 Prospect: Grigori Denisenko

Left Wing — shoots Right
Born June 24th, 2000 — Novosibirsk, Russia
Height 5’11” — Weight 176 lbs [181 cm/80 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 1st Round, 15th Overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Denisenko came to North America last season, making his AHL and NHL debuts. In 15 games with the Syracuse Crunch, Denisenko scored five goals and nine points.  He played seven games with the Panthers, and while Denisenko is still looking for his first NHL goal, he did pick up four assists.

Skating

Denisenko is an excellent skater. He has a smooth stride that leads to quick acceleration and very good top-end speed. His quick feet lead to very good agility and edgework. This makes him tough for defensemen to handle on the rush. He can beat them to the outside and cut to the net, or make a quick move and weave through traffic. Denisenko can get a bit stronger on his skates though. This would lead to better balance, and make him harder on the puck in the cycle, and better in battles along the boards. It is more evident when he faces men in the KHL then when he is playing at the junior level.

Offensive Game

Denisenko is extremely dangerous off the rush. As noted, he is an excellent skater. He pairs that skating ability with the hands to make plays while moving at top speed. His soft hands and excellent stickhandling ability gives him a number of quick dekes and feints that can beat a defender one-on-one. If defenders give him too much space, it opens up passing and shooting lanes and Denisenko is skilled enough to take advantage of the situation. He has outstanding vision and passing skills. He can make a perfect tape-to-tape pass to a teammate. Denisenko has the stickhandling ability and the intelligence to slow down the play and wait for the perfect time to make that pass to his teammate.

Denisenko’s snapshot and wrist shot are very accurate. They also feature a quick release. However, he could stand to add more upper body muscle and this would lead to more power on his shot. He has the soft hands to finish in tight to the net. He is not the type of player to find himself in front of the net without the puck, as one criticism is that his game is played a bit too much on the perimeter at this point.

Defensive Game

Denisenko’s defensive game is a work in progress. He does not get himself involved with the backcheck, often cheating up the ice and hoping for a turnover and offensive chance the other way. He is not much of a physical player. When he does come back, Denisenko also has a bad habit of puck watching and not keeping his feet moving. This allows the defenceman he is supposed to be covering to find open ice and set up for a point shot. Overall there will need to be some real improvements at the defensive end, or he will drive his coaches nuts.

Outlook

Denisenko is another young forward who will be given every opportunity to make the Panthers in training camp. However, he made need some AHL time to continue to round out his game. If sent to the AHL, don’t expect Denisenko to be there the full season. He will be one of the first forwards called up if injuries hit the Panthers.

 

#4 Prospect: Aleksi Heponiemi

Right Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born January 9th, 1999 — Tampere, Finland
Height 5’10” — Weight 154 lbs [178 cm / 70 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 2nd round, #40 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft.

With the North American season delayed due to Covid-19, Heponiemi started his year with MoDo in the Swedish Allsvenskan. He put up six goals and 14 points in 16 games. He also added six assists in six games with the Syracuse Crunch. Heponiemi made his NHL debut last season, picking up one goal and one assist in nine games.

Skating

Undersized at just 5’10”, and weighing just 154 pounds, Heponiemi certainly faces some issues with his size. When one looks at the players who have overcome being undersized to really excel in the NHL, they have one thing in common, and that is fantastic skating ability. Heponiemi certainly meets that criteria.

He is very fast, with an excellent first step and acceleration. Defenders must respect Heponiemi’s speed, as he can beat them to the outside, and cut back to the net. He changes speeds very well, which can fool a defender or catch them flat-footed. He is also very elusive in one-on-one situations. Heponiemi has very good agility and edgework and is able to get past defenders with quick turns and cuts. He is also able to use these skills to make quick movements to change angles, and open up passing lanes. Heponiemi needs to get stronger though, as this would help his balance, and his ability to win battles on the boards.

Offensive Game

Heponiemi has outstanding hands. He can make dekes in a phone booth and is extremely dangerous one-on-one as a result. Heponiemi sees plays developing, and makes smart passes. He is an excellent playmaker, who can make tape-to-tape passes through tight openings. He also uses his stickhandling and skating to extend plays, waiting for a teammate to get open. Heponiemi has an accurate wrist shot, with a good release. He has worked on using it more this past year and that has made him harder to predict and more dynamic as a result.

Heponiemi is better in the cycle game than one would expect based on his size. Of course, there is room to improve by bulking up. However, he is able to control and protect the puck by having good hockey IQ. He uses his smarts and angles to avoid being hit.  When he does get hit, its rarely a clean shot. He is able to roll off of checks and keep control of the puck.

Defensive Game

Heponiemi works hard in his own zone and tries to backcheck, but his size can cause issues. He is overpowered in battles for loose pucks. He also has issues in containing bigger, stronger forwards around the cycle game. His positioning is generally pretty good, but like many youngsters can still use some refinement.

Outlook

Heponiemi can play both the wing and at centre but his future is likely on the wing. He will look to make the Panthers out of training camp. There is still room for further development and it would not be surprising to see him in the AHL for another year. He has shown that he can produce against men and will look to do that in the NHL. Expect him to be an injury call-up and challenge for an NHL role in 2022.

 

#5 Prospect: Mackie Samoskevich

The Panthers drafted Samoskevich with the 24th overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Prior to the draft, we took a look at Samoskevich. As there has not been a significant sample size of games played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.

 

#6 Prospect: Max Gildon

Defence — shoots Left
Born May 17th, 1999 — Plano, Texas
Height 6’3″ — Weight 192 lbs [191 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 3rd round, #66 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft.

After finishing his NCAA career with UNH, Gildon was very impressive in his first pro season. He put up two goals and 19 points in 32 games with Bakersfield in the AHL. He also added three assists in six playoff games.

Skating

Gildon’s start-up and stride look a bit awkward, however, it does not seem to slow him down at all. While he is not a speedster, he has decent top-end speed as well as good acceleration. Gildon skates well in both directions. He can join the rush, as well as pinch in at the blue line but must pick his spots to avoid getting caught. Gildon also has decent edgework and agility given his height. He needs to fill out a bit, and improve his lower body strength to be stronger on the puck, and win battles on the boards.

Offensive Game

Gildon has a good array of shots. His slap shot and one-timer are very heavy, and he can use them to be a real threat from the point. However, he could stand to improve its accuracy. His wrist shot and snapshots are also dangerous. They feature a quick release and are more accurate than his slap shot. He mainly uses wrist and snapshots when he is a trailer on the rush, or when he pinches in from the blue line. Gildon has good instincts on when to slide down looking for a pass.

Gildon is also a good passer. He can start plays with a strong first pass from his own end. He is also decent in controlling the puck at the blue line and finding open seams to get it to a teammate. Gildon is not the classic power-play quarterback, but can still make some plays from the line. He also has the stickhandling skill to skate the puck out of danger and start the transition game.

Defensive Game

Gildon has the size and skill to play a physical game in his own end. Forwards need to have their heads up when they head down his end of the ice. He is also good in the corners, throwing his weight around, and working to clear the front of the net. Gildon needs to add muscle to his frame, in order to play this style at the pro level. He also has to be more consistent in using that physicality. Gildon has good instincts and positioning. He uses his stick to break up passing and shooting lanes, as well as to poke the puck away from opponents. Once a turnover is created, he quickly transitions to offence.

Outlook

Gildon appears to be headed back to the AHL this fall. He should play a huge role in Charlotte and get plenty of ice time. He may need time before he is NHL ready but the Panthers should be excited about his development to date.

 

#7 Prospect: John Ludvig

Left Defence — shoots Left
Born August 2nd, 2000 — Liberec, Czech Republic
Height 6’1″ — Weight 201 lbs [185 cm/91 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 3rd round, #69 overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.

After finishing his junior career in 2020, Ludvig played his first pro season with Syracuse in the AHL. He put up two goals and eight points in 13 games with the Crunch.

Skating

Ludvig has improved his skating and this has helped to take his two-way game to the next level. His feet are a lot quicker which leads to better stops and starts and a good first few steps. This is true in both directions. While Ludvig is never going to be a speedster, he has good acceleration over short distances and his top-end speed is good enough to keep up with the play. He also has good agility and edgework. This allows him to move well laterally, which is useful for maintaining gap control in the defensive end and walking the line in the offensive zone. Ludvig is strong on his skates and wins battles on the boards but could be even better as he matures and gets stronger.

Offensive Game

Ludvig has really improved his offensive game over the last two years. He is not the type to lead the rush through the neutral zone, but he is much more active in joining as a trailer and pinching in at the line. Ludvig has a good arsenal of shots. His slap shot and one-timer are very powerful. He adjusts his feet to get them off even when the pass isn’t perfect. Ludvig can also sneak in from the point and let go his wrist shot at the top of the circles. His quick release gets in on goalies quickly. He also does a good job of moving laterally and creating shooting lanes to get the puck on the net.

Ludvig also has good vision and passing skills. He can make a good first pass out of the zone, hitting his man in stride and starting the transition game. He can also make a long breakaway pass if a teammate is able to sneak behind the defence. Ludvig’s passing skills also help him in the offensive zone. His quick hands and lateral mobility allow him to control the puck at the line and open up passing lanes. Once a teammate gets open, he is able to quarterback the play and set them up for a scoring chance.

Defensive Game

Prior to his offensive breakout in 2019-20, Ludvig was known for his defensive prowess. He is very effective in his end of the ice. He loves to play physically, hitting attackers who try to take the rush down his side of the ice. Ludvig is also very strong in board battles and in clearing the front of the net. He plays on the edge and can sometimes even cross the line into being a bit undisciplined in his end. Ludvig is also willing to block shots. He uses his long stick to cut down passing lanes. When turnovers are created, Ludvig is quick to move the puck up the ice and start the transition game.

Outlook

Ludvig is likely to start the season with the Charlotte Checkers where he will try to continue to develop his game. His offensive game has really exploded over the last two years and it would be nice to see that continue. He should also continue to get physically stronger in order to play his style of game at the NHL level. Expect Ludvig to be a year or two away from making an impact in the NHL.

 

#8 Prospect: Ty Smilanic

Left Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born January 20th, 2002 — Denver, Colorado
Height 6’01” — Weight 177 lbs [185 cm / 80 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 3rd Round, #74 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.

In his freshman season at Quinnipiac University, Smilanic put up 14 goals and 21 points in 29 games. He helped Quinnipiac win the ECAC regular-season title and was named to the conference’s All-Rookie Team.

Skating

Smilanic is an excellent skater. He has very good top-end speed and excellent acceleration. Combined with a good first step, he is able to win a lot of races to loose pucks, or to change speeds on the rush, using this variance to fool defenders. He also has very good edgework and agility. This also allows him to get by defenders with and without the puck as well as to play well in checking the other team’s best players. He is also strong in moving backwards, which also helps him to play a 200-foot game. Smilanic is strong on his skates and tough to knock off the puck when he played against juniors. However, he could get pushed around a bit against the college-level competition. Strengthening his lower body and improving his balance will be important going forward.

Offensive Game

Smilanic combines his strong skating with good puckhandling skills. He can challenge defenders and take them wide and get to the net. When they back off to respect his speed, he can use the space created to shoot the puck on the net or make a quick pass through an open lane to set up a teammate. He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. It is powerful and accurate and his quick hands can change the angle just before shooting, fooling goaltenders. His snapshot, slap shot, and one-timer are also effective. Smilanic needs to do a bit more to get open when he doesn’t have the puck though. This will give his teammates more of an opportunity to set him up.

Smilanic also has some playmaking skills. He has good vision and can find a teammate for a scoring chance. Most of his assists come as a result of his hard work. He is strong in the cycle game, protecting the puck well and maintaining possession down low. He also works hard along the boards to win battles and retrieve pucks. Smilanic uses his speed to get in quickly on the forecheck and create turnovers and scoring chances.

Defensive Game

Smilanic is willing to work hard in his own end. He provides effective backpressure, supporting the defence against the rush. He also works hard down low, helping them in the cycle game. Smilanic is good positionally. He reads the play and anticipates what opponents will do, knocking the puck away with a quick stick. When a turnover is created, he is able to transition up the ice and to the attack. His feet are always moving and he’s not afraid to battle along the boards. He can be even more effective if he gets strong.

Outlook

Smilanic will return to Quinnipiac for his sophomore season. If he can turn the offensive tools into more production, it is easy to see a future top-six forward with plenty of energy and the responsible two-way game that coaches will love. He’s a pretty safe prospect though though, as even if the offence never explodes he should be able to play a third or fourth line role going forward. The college route is a smart move for Smilanic who needs to put muscle on his lanky frame.

 

#9 Prospect: Justin Sourdif

Right Wing — shoots Right
Born March 24th, 2002 — Surrey, British Columbia
Height 5’11” — Weight 173 lbs [180 cm/78 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 3rd Round, #87 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.

Sourdif had another strong WHL season, despite the delays in getting it started. He scored 11 goals and 34 points in 22 games with the Vancouver Giants.

Skating

Sourdif is an outstanding skater. He has excellent top-end speed. His skating is explosive, as he can accelerate and reach that top speed quickly. He also has an excellent first step. Sourdif can use his ability to change speeds as a weapon, speeding up or slowing down to create space from a defender. He pairs this with excellent agility and edgework. His ability to change directions on a dime also helps to make him dangerous in one-on-one situations. Sourdif’s stride is powerful and a low centre of gravity allows him to fight through checks and makes him tough to knock off the puck. This also helps him to win battles on the boards and in front of the net. This is an area of Sourdif’s game will get even better as he matures.

Offensive Game

Sourdif pairs his strong skating with soft hands. He can make plays with the puck even while moving at top speed. This helps him to create space off the rush or working off the boards in the cycle. He is dangerous when facing defenders in one-on-one situations. If he catches them flat-footed, he can get around them and take the puck to the net. Sourdif is willing to take the puck into the dirty areas of the ice in order to make plays. Sourdif protects the puck well down low, extending plays and waiting for teammates to get open. When they do, he can make tape-to-tape passes through tight areas. Sourdif has good vision and anticipates the movements of his teammates. He is especially strong on his skates for his size.

Sourdif can also play the role of a sniper. He has a very quick release on his wrist shot and snapshot. His quick hands allow him to change the angle on the shot before letting it go, testing goaltenders. The shots are also very accurate and powerful. Sourdif has a knack for getting open without the puck and getting into scoring areas. His quick hands help him to bang in rebounds or get deflections close to the net. Sourdif is a hard worker, who never quits even when he is faced with a bigger and stronger opponent. He chases down loose pucks, battles along the boards and is effective on the forecheck.

Defensive Game

Sourdif also plays well in his own end of the ice. He brings his relentless energy to the backcheck, supporting the defence down low, and effectively applying backpressure in transition. A quick stick knocks the puck away from opponents and can intercept passes. His positioning is solid and he reads the play well. He shows signs of being extremely coachable as his defensive game continues to improve. Trusted by Giants coaches, Sourdif is one of the team’s key penalty killers and is also used extensively when protecting the lead in a close game.

Outlook

Sourdif returns to Vancouver to finish up his last season in the WHL. If he continues to develop he could become a solid two-way winger in the NHL, playable in all situations. He will be the type of player who coaches love and give big minutes to. There are some questions about how high-end his offensive skills are.  He’s looked good at the WHL level but may project as more of a 2nd or 3rd line winger than an elite top-line player.  Expect him to need some time in the AHL as well.

 

#10 Prospect: Evan Nause

The Panthers drafted Nause with the 56th overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Prior to the draft, we took a look at Nause. As there has not been a significant sample size of games played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.

 

Sleeper Prospect: Michael Benning

Defence — shoots Right
Born January 5th, 2002 — St. Albert, Alberta
Height 5’10” — Weight 177 lbs [178 cm/80 kg]
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 4th Round, #95 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft

Benning played his freshman campaign with the University of Denver last season. He put up three goals and 11 points in 21 games for the Pioneers.

Skating

Benning is a very good skater. While he isn’t an absolute speedster, he still has good speed in both directions. He is more quick than fast though. Benning has an explosive first step. He also has very good acceleration in both directions. As hockey is a game that is more about short races, rather than long 200-foot ones, this quickness serves him well at both ends of the ice. Benning also has quick feet, giving him good lateral agility. He has excellent edgework and pivots. Benning makes quick turns. He can transition smoothly from offence to defence. He is also strong on his skates for his size, fighting through checks and winning battles along the boards and in front of the net.

Offensive Game

Benning is a strong puck-handler. He can avoid forecheckers and get the puck up the ice in transition quickly. Benning is able to make a smart pass up the ice to get things going and can also hit a long breakaway pass if a forward gets behind the defence. Benning is also able to lead the rush, carrying it through the neutral zone. By combining his slick hands and his skating he finds the moves to make effective zone entries. Benning can also quarterback the play from the point. His lateral movement and dangles open up passing lanes. He sees the ice well and can set up teammates for a scoring chance. Benning also makes good decisions about when to pinch at the blue line to create more offence.

Benning could stand to work on his shot from the point. His slap shot has a tendency to be high and a bit wild. He is more effective when he sneaks down from the point and uses a wrist shot or a snapshot at the top of the circles. These feature quick releases and are more accurate. Benning can keep them low and give teammates the chance to get tips or rebounds. His lateral agility allows him to open shooting lanes and get the puck past defenders. His wrist shot is also effective when he joins the rush as a trailer.

Defensive Game

Benning’s defensive game is based on his strong skating and his smarts. He maintains good gap control and forces attackers to the outside, away from prime shooting areas. His lateral agility also allows him to stay between his man and the net. With solid positioning away from the puck, he also cuts down passing lanes. He anticipates plays well and seems to be in the right position often. He also is willing to battle on the boards and in front of the net, but his lack of size can be an issue here. Benning will need to bulk up and get stronger to play this game at the pro level. His ability to retrieve loose pucks and start the transition game quickly is an asset as it helps his team maintain possession as well as limiting the opponent’s zone time.

Outlook

Benning might be a little undersized, but he overcomes that through his skating and his smarts. He could develop into a top-four defenceman who can quarterback a power play. The questions will remain due to his lack of size. Benning will head back to the University of Denver for his second season, looking to make an even bigger offensive impact. This will also give Benning the opportunity to add muscle to his frame due to the less intense college schedule.

 

Other 2021 Florida Panthers Prospects

The Panthers have only recently become a contender. As a result, they have years of building a deep prospect system, and there are a number of intriguing players beyond their top ten. Forward prospects to watch include Serron Noel, Cole Schwindt, Logan Hutsko, Henry Bowlby, Aleksi Saarela, and Owen Lindmark. They are particularly deep on the blue line with Matt Kiersted, Noah Juulsen, Chase Priskie, Zach Uens, Lucas Carlsson, Carter Berger,  Kasper Puutio and Santtu Kinnunen. One goalie prospect to watch is Samuel Montembault.

 

 

2021 Florida Panthers Prospects Main Photo:

TAMPA, FLORIDA – MAY 26: Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers looks on during Game Six of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on May 26, 2021, in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)


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