2022-23 Top 10 Florida Panthers Prospects
Hockey is growing in Florida. The Tampa Bay Lightning are working on a Dynasty run of Championships and the Florida Panthers have become contenders for the Stanley Cup by building through the draft.
The Panthers have a solid young core in place with foundation pieces in Matthew Tkachuk, Alexander Barkov, Anton Lundell, Aaron Ekblad, and Spencer Knight, who are all 26 years old or younger and in the primes of their career.
The Panthers have not been shy to trade prospects away and have moved out Devon Levi and Owen Tippett, as well as their first and second-round picks from the 2022 draft. Despite the moves and prospect graduations, the Panthers prospect pool is still relatively strong and has some potential that should play their way onto the roster in the near future.
1. Mackie Samoskevich, RW – University of Michigan (NCAA)
Drafted: 2021 round one 24th overall by Florida Panthers
As a sophomore with the Wolverines, Samoskevich is having a breakout season with top 2023 draft prospect Adam Fantilli. The duo has been paired going back to their time in the USHL on the Chicago Steel where they won the Clark Cup as USHL Champions.
Samoskevich has played on some All-Star teams on the Chicago Steel and now in Michigan. Playing with elite players is not always easy but Samoskevich has proven capable of more than keeping pace with the elite of his peers. He is a highly skilled offensive player and Florida will no doubt try to sign him after his current season.
2. Justin Sourdif, RW/C – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2020 round three 87th overall by Florida Panthers
Sourdif finished off a brilliant WHL career with a Championship with the Edmonton Oil Kings and a run in the Memorial Cup. Sourdif is now in his rookie season in the AHL and is adjusting to the bigger players, higher skill, and faster pace. His point production has taken a dip, but he is a versatile player and can impact the game more than just by scoring.
Despite not being a physically imposing player, he is strong and plays a physical game. Sourdif has always projected to be an NHL middle- to bottom-six forward that brings energy and has some offensive upside. That is still the path he is tracking on. Look for Sourdif to play the full campaign in the AHL and start getting NHL looks in his sophomore season.
3. Michael Benning, RD – University of Denver (NCAA)
Drafted: 2020 round four 95th overall by Florida Panthers
Benning enjoyed a breakout year as a sophomore with the Pioneers scoring 15 goals and 38 points in 41 games. His offensive game has been evident since his time in the AJHL where he scored 136 points in 114 career games.
The concern with Benning has been his size and his defensive game. While he can not do much about his height, he has added strength and improved his in-zone play with a plus -32 last year.
As a junior this should be his final run in the NCAA where he will try to become a two-time NCAA Champion before he joins the AHL. His upside is as top-six, offensive and puck-moving defender and power play quarterback.
4. Evan Nause, LD – Quebec Ramparts (QMJHL)
Drafted: 2021 round two 56th overall by Florida Panthers
When Canadian born players play in the USHL, their plan is usually to play in the NCAA, but Nause elected to play in the CHL and in the QMJHL. Much of his game translates to the NHL.
He has the size at 6-2, is an above-average skater, has offensive upside and can move the puck in transition and can lock it down in his own end. He can keep up with the pace at the junior level. He has top-four NHL upside and is trending in the right direction.
5. Aleksi Heponiemi, C/W – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round two 40th overall by Florida Panthers
The dynamic offensive Finnish forward has been slowly developing since his draft in 2017. He has since won a WJC Gold with Finland, a WHL Championship with Swift Current and is now in his fourth season as a professional.
While his offensive production has been evident in the AHL, he has hit a wall in terms of his production. He has played in 24 NHL games and still has some potential of becoming an NHL regular but needs to find another level in his offensive production as he lacks another dynamic element to his game.
6. Grigori Denisenko, LW – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round one 15th overall by Florida Panthers
The Russian winger has elite skill and has been ranked among the Panthers top prospects since his draft back in 2018. Since then, he has come to North America and expectations have been high given his skill and skating abilities.
He has yet to emerge as a consistent offensive threat in the AHL with 37 points in three seasons and 68 games. After the first 20+ games of the 2022-23 season, his production is trending in the wrong direction.
The question with Denisenko is not a matter of skill, but whether he can think and play the game with the pace of the AHL level, let alone the NHL level. It is starting to look like the answer is no and as a result, he is falling down the rankings.
7. John Ludvig, LD – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round three 69th overall by Florida Panthers
Ludvig had a breakout D+1 season as the Captain of the Portland Winterhawks in his final junior year scoring 17 goals and 62 points in 60 games. As his stock as a prospect was rocketing up, he turned pro and three years later he has only played in 24 AHL games due to injury.
Hip surgery erased all but three games in 2021-22 and he started the current season on the IR. He has since returned and has three points through his first eight games, but at this point, it is difficult to project how he rebound from the time off and what long-term impact the injury will have.
8. Serron Noel, RW – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round two 34th overall by Florida Panthers
The massive winger has had a slow transition to the AHL. To make matters worse he has yet to play this season due to injury. Bigger players often take longer to develop as the physical advantage he enjoyed in junior is less relevant at the professional level. At still only 22 years old, Noel has time to evolve into a bottom-six NHL power winger with some offensive upside.
9. Mack Guzda, G – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: Free agent signed by Florida Panthers in 2022
Guzda went undrafted in his OHL career playing in Owen Sound, but after a trade to Barrie in his over-age season as a 20-year-old, he was signed as a free agent by Florida. Guzda finished the year with a 20-9-2 record during the regular season and Barrie bowed out in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Guzda is in his rookie year as a professional and has started strong in the AHL with a 2.86 GAA and 5-3-2 record after 11 games. Florida has a logjam in goal with Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight, so Guzda can take all the time he needs as the starter in the AHL.
10. Logan Hutsko, RW – Charlotte Checkers (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round three 89th overall by Florida Panthers
A Boston College alumnus where he was a three-time Hockey East Champion, Hutsko now is in his second year in the AHL and has continued to develop toward the NHL.
As an undersized player, he needs to contribute on the score sheet to play in the NHL. H he plays with high tempo and is proving to be able to play at the pace the AHL has to offer. If his offensive production continues to improve in his second year in the AHL he will continue to trend up and toward the NHL.
Anton Levtchi: Overaged for a prospect, but the Liiga leading scorer from 2021-22 signed as a free agent and is showing well at the AHL level.
Nathan Staios: Another free agent signing after an OHL Championship, Staios is cutting his teeth in the ECHL. Undersized and not exceptional in any aspect of the game, yet he continues to make an impact in a variety of ways. He is a sleeper.
Max Gildon: Gildon is trending hard in the wrong direction and was loaned to Bakersfield to make room for other prospects passing him by.
Carter Berger: Used the NCAA transfer portal to escape U. Conn and is having a breakout senior year at Western Michigan. He could be a target in free agency if Florida fails to sign the offensive defenseman.