Barring any trades, the Florida Panthers will have six draft picks in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Their first pick will come at 24th overall, which is effectively 23rd because the 11th overall pick has been forfeited due to sanctions enforced on the Arizona Coyotes.
Related: THW’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide
The Panthers will have one selection from each round, excluding the third round, as they traded that pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Brandon Montour. With the team looking to find players who can supplement stars Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau in the coming years, Florida will be one of the most intriguing teams to watch at the draft this year.
First Round – 24th Overall: Logan Stankoven (C, Kamloops Blazers)
Stankoven fills the role of a gritty two-way forward that would fit into the Panthers’ system seamlessly. Despite standing at just 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, Stankoven has an unrelenting motor that gives him a physical presence on the ice larger than his size. He looks to translate to be a Jean-Gabriel Pageau-type player, who can score goals while playing a crucial role on the penalty kill.
Seeing just six games of action this past season, Stankoven lit up the WHL, scoring 7 goals and 10 points. He added four goals and four assists for eight points in seven games while representing Team Canada at the U18 World Championship. Looking past his short stature and lack of sample size due to the shortened 2020-21 WHL season, he has all of the intangibles a GM would want out of a player. He’s smart with the puck, he’s dangerous in the dirty areas, he possesses an accurate shot, and he plays a responsible two-way game.
Second Round – 56th Overall: Samu Salminen (C/LW, Jokerit U20)
Standing at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Salminen is an all-around threat that brings both size and skill to the lineup. He is a dynamic skater who can make plays. He also has the size to screen the goaltender and put some pucks in from the dirty areas. He has the potential to add a dynamic edge to the lineup, being able to play both center and wing and being able to make plays happen from areas where other players aren’t able to.
Wearing the “C” for Team Finland at the U18 World Championship, Salminen scored seven goals and nine points in seven games. He added 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in 17 games with Jokerit’s U20 team as an assistant captain. He’s a player who can score goals, make plays for his team, and he plays with a lot of intelligence.
Fourth Round – 120th Overall: Jimi Suomi (D, Jokerit U20)
Jimi Suomi is a smooth skating defenseman who can give the Panthers production both offensively and defensively. He has his mechanics down pat, being able to stop forecheckers in stride and he is sneaky in the transition game, being able to control the puck and make plays.
In 15 games with Jokerit U20, Suomi had one goal and 10 assists for 11 points in 15 games. He added for more assists in seven games while representing Finland in the U18 World Junior Championship. If he continues that type of offensive production throughout his career on top of his stable defensive ability, he could be one of the biggest steals of this year’s draft. He is one of the most underrated prospects in this draft as well, being ranked as low as 201st by some scouts, but he is worth the pick at #120 because of what he brings to the table.
Fifth Round – 152nd Overall: Isaac Belliveau (D, Gattineau Olympiques)
Belliveau possesses elite stickhandling ability, being a powerful force in the offensive zone as a defenseman. He can easily break through the opposition like he’s a forward, undressing them en route to beautiful goals. He is very agile and uses that mobility to deceive defenders and make plays on his own end. He has great vision and IQ and is able to avoid pressure when forecheckers apply it to him.
At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Belliveau has the size that teams look for in a two-way defenseman. He is big enough to get physical yet still has the mobility to keep up with forwards and get creative in the offensive zone. While he did have a down year in 2020-21, his numbers from the prior season really speak to how good of a player he is. In 62 games, he had 11 goals and 42 assists for 53 total points from the blue line.
Sixth Round – 184th Overall: Deni Goure (C, Owen Sound Attack)
Goure is a swift-staking center who can make plays and is smart with the puck. His defensive ability has been improving year after year, and with the effort he plays with, he is a player who is worth taking a flier on in the sixth round. He does stand at just 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, so he needs to put on a little bit more muscle to become a force in the defensive zone, but he has the intangibles to be worth taking as a project player.
Seventh Round – 210th Overall: Matthew Argentina (C, Waterloo Black Hawks)
Argentina is a physical centerman who could loom into a bottom-six player if he develops correctly. While he does have an issue staying on the ice, taking 162 minutes of penalties despite only having four fighting majors the whole season, he knows how to throw his body around despite standing at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds. He’s a mobile player who has the potential on the defensive end to be a physical two-way forward.
Potential for Trades
With as unique of a scouting year as it has been, there could be a lot of potential trades made to either secure multiple talented prospects who fell further than expected or to trade out of the pick entirely. With the Panthers looking to win now, it is entirely a possibility.
General manager Bill Zito very well could trade the 24th overall pick in a package to get a player like Vladimir Tarasenko, or he could trade down and get two second-round picks to fill out the farm system even more.
Colby Guy is a writer for the Florida Panthers department here at THW. He’s a senior at Florida Atlantic University and currently serves as a football contributor, social media contributor and photographer for FAU Owls Nest.
Previously, Colby has written for FanSided as a New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators writer. He also served as Editor-In-Chief for FAU’s University Press. You can find him on Twitter at @ColbyDGuy.