Grading the Florida Panthers’ 2021 Draft Class

The Florida Panthers selected with all six of their draft picks in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, not trading any position. They did, however, make a big trade during the draft, acquiring Sam Reinhart from the Buffalo Sabres. While that trade overshadows who they selected at the draft, they did a very good job finding value in the draft’s later rounds.

Here are my grades and analysis of each of the players the Panthers selected in the draft this year.

First Round (24th Overall): C Mackie Samoskevich (Chicago Steel)

Standing at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Samoskevich is a speedy winger with a lot of hockey IQ, He uses creative dangles and fake passes to deceive defenders and create space. He is constantly scanning the ice, taking note of the spaces his teammates, as well as his opponents, take up. He is always one or two steps ahead of the competition and knows where to find his teammates when making plays.

Matthew Samoskevich Chicago Steel
Matthew Samoskevich, Chicago Steel (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

While the pick meant passing on higher-ranked players, such as Aatu Raty (picked 52nd) and Logan Stankoven (picked 47th), Samoskevich proved his worth in the United States Hockey League (USHL) last season. He scored 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points in 36 games, adding one goal and nine assists for 10 points in eight playoff games. He proves to add a dynamic touch of playmaking to the Panthers roster when he makes the cut, but for next season, he seems to be heading to the University of Michigan.

Pick Grade: A-

Second Round (56th Overall): D Evan Nause (Quebec Remparts)

Nause has both the size and the mobility to be the perfect addition to the Panthers’ collection of defensive prospects. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound blueliner is exceptional at creating breakout opportunities, scanning the environment to look for the perfect option. He’s a skillful skater, winning the battles to the loose pucks while being able to use his frame to shield off forecheckers before starting the breakout.

Evan Nause Remparts de Quebec
Evan Nause, Remparts de Quebec (Photo credit: Jonathan Roy)

Nause also flashed an impeccable playmaking ability this past season, tallying 18 assists in 32 games, adding four goals on top of that. He is a very intelligent defenseman in both zones of the ice, being able to recognize where his teammates will be and take away space from the opposition. He has the potential to be a fixture on the Panthers’ top-four for years to come, potentially being a steal for general manager Bill Zito.

Pick Grade: A+

Round Four (120th Overall): D Vladislav Lukashevich (Loko Yaroslavl)

Lukashevich is an offensive beast, being able to use his patience to deceive defenders while making masterful plays. He is a great puck mover, carrying the puck through the neutral zone with excellence and making the right passes to find his teammates. He uses his powerful skating ability to get around defenders and make things happen for his team.

The one issue that stands out most with Lukashevich is his weight. He was recorded at 6-foot-2, 167 pounds, which is especially concerning for a defenseman. He needs to build muscle to keep himself from getting beat by stronger players when he plays in the professional ranks. As of right now, we’ve only seen him play against competition that is his age in the Maritime Junior Hockey League, so time will only tell if he can hold up defensively against older talent.

Pick Grade: B

Fifth Round (152nd Overall): G Kirill Gerasimyuk (SKA- Karyagi Morozova)

With the Panthers trading away a goaltending prospect in the Reinhart trade, they add another one back with this pick. At the age of 17, Gerasimyuk absolutely shined in the MHL, going 14-13-0 with a .931 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.59 goals-against average (GAA.) He did get lit up in the U18 World Junior Championship for Russia, playing just one game and boasting a .714 SV% and an 11.19 GAA.

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Despite the bad outing, he does have all of the fundamentals you would like to see in a goaltender. He is very composed, he controls his rebounds very well, and he is pretty much unbeatable on his glove side. He is also very quick to get down in the butterfly, swiftly moving across the crease. With Spencer Knight in the picture, he won’t be expected to be the star goaltender in Florida, but he is a decent pick to add goaltending depth to the organization.

Pick Grade: B-

Sixth Round (184th Overall): LW Jakub Kos (Ilves U20)

Kos is a big, physical forward, standing at 6-foot-3, 187 pounds, who can play well in his defensive zone. His numbers might not jump off of the paper, as he scored just five goals and 18 points in 32 games this season, but the physicality and defensive ability he brings to the lineup is what makes him a good sell in the sixth round. Whether he ever cracks the NHL lineup or not remains to be seen, but Zito might know something a lot of analysts don’t, as he was unranked by most outlets.

Pick Grade: B

Seventh Round (210th Overall): D Braden Hache (Kingston Frontenacs)

Hache is an interesting player to take a flier on, especially since the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) canceled its season, meaning he did not play a single game in 2020-21. He only played 29 games the prior year, registering just five career assists at the OHL level. He does have one thing you can’t teach: size. Standing at 6-foot-3, 201 pounds, he is the ideal size for a defender, giving him both mobility and physicality on the back end. It remains to be seen if this pick pans out for the Panthers, but Hache just turned 18 this May, giving him a lot of time to continue developing with the Frontenacs.

Pick Grade: B-

With the Panthers making a move today that shows that they want to be a contender, it was important for them to select players that can join them a few years down the line. With a large chunk of their core under 30 years old, these players could potentially grow to become the supporting cast, or even co-stars, of a potential championship team. Only time will tell if they make it, but from my grades, it seems like the Panthers made out like gangbusters at this year’s draft.

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