For years, the NHL has predicated itself on size. Skilled prospects often see their draft stock rise or fall based on that intangible, as first-round talents find themselves sliding down the board, waiting for their names to be called.
Historically, however, the Florida Panthers have aimed to buck that trend. And on Saturday—the second day of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft—the Cats followed suit, selecting Canadian forward Adam Mascherin with the 38th overall pick.
Hard Work Breeds Success
A native of Toronto, Ontario, Mascherin clocks in a shade under 6 foot. His game, though, is anything but small. Standing at 5 feet 10 inches, the diminutive skater is built like a bowling ball—he weighs a stocky 206 pounds, and plays a “fast, heavy game” according to Elite Prospects’ Curtis Joe. Mascherin’s style of play also predicates itself on speed and skill, two facets that heavily appeal to newly minted general Manager Tom Rowe. But, in spite of his hard-nosed, grinding approach to the game, Mascherin plays cleanly, as evidenced by a paltry 34 penalty minutes accumulated through 127 career OHL appearances.
His exceptional work ethic dovetails with the culture that Panthers’ owners Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu hope to instill into their charges. His offensive skill is what set him apart from the rest of the pack.
“A Lightning Rod Kind of Player”
Blessed with a gifted pair of mitts, Mascherin possesses an explosive shot. While cutting his teeth with the Kitchener Rangers, he ripped 35 goals through 65 games this past season, good for second on the team and 18th in the OHL. Additionally, he led the Rangers in assists (46) and tied for the team lead in total points (81). What’s more: Mascherin, capable of lining up at either center or left wing, brings an element of versatility to the forward corps.
The 18-year-old Mascherin’s size and skillset compare favorably to another prospect in the Panthers’ pipeline. Selected 32nd overall in the 2014 draft, Jayce Hawryluk packs a gritty game into a 5-foot-10 package. Unafraid to mix it up, the right-shooting forward paired a 106-point campaign—good for fourth in the WHL—with 101 PIMs. Both prospects tend to play larger than their height would suggest, and are not afraid to put in work in the dirty spots on the ice.
Where Does He Fit?
The Panthers’ prospect pool has long been the envy of the NHL: the product of numerous basement finishes and former general manager Dale Tallon’s knack for drafting, the pipeline has produced NHLers such as Alex Petrovic and Vincent Trocheck. However, the years have taken a toll on a once-strong farm system—Hockey’s Future ranks the Cats’ prospects 19th in the league in depth, fairly barren relative to how stocked the cupboard used to be. That shallowness can be traced directly to an underwhelming corps of wingers. Save for 2015 first-rounder Lawson Crouse and bottom-six skaters Logan Shaw and Connor Brickley, the wing has become an organizational weakness, and the Panthers’ need for a future scoring presence to flank Nick Bjugstad is one that can’t simply be solved in the interim.
Enter Adam Mascherin.
Bringing the former Kitchener Ranger into the fold instantaneously bolsters a group of left wingers that features a draft bust in John McFarland and two Russians (Yaroslav Kosov and Alexander Delnov) currently plying their trade in the KHL. Other than late-blooming prospect Dryden Hunt, Mascherin is the only out-and-out sniper among the current group. Couple that with his well-renowned work ethic, and he has the makings of a prospect that could develop into the ownership’s darling.
If the Panthers opt to slot him on his off-wing, Mascherin would become the club’s premier right-wing prospect. The positional group boasts next to no depth, let alone scoring—excluding Shaw, only two skaters populate the depth chart: USNTDP grinder Joe Wegwerth and inconsistent collegiate skater Chris Wilkie. A high-motor player like Mascherin would be a welcomed addition to a regiment in desperate need of reinforcement.
The Panthers have never been a club to shy away from drafting smaller players. Current prospects such as Hawryluk, Kyle Rau, Denis Malgin and MacKenzie Weegar evidence that fact. More concerned with skill, management has made it clear that they want players with offensive flair.
They lucked out.
If all goes according to plan, Mascherin will be their guy.
A rower-turned-writer at the University of Florida and an incoming MA in Journalism student at DePaul University, I have: Worked as a staff writer for the Independent Florida Alligator; covered the Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers; reported on international tournaments for Hooked On Hockey Magazine; and functioned as an entertainment correspondent with the Gainesville Sun. If you’re interested, you can also follow me on Twitter @ajlb95.