With the Florida Panthers set to take part in the Prospect Showcase Tournament in Wesley Chapel, Florida, from Sept. 18-21, there will be a few players on hand who could make their NHL debuts with the Panthers in the upcoming 2021-22 season. With Florida having a deep prospect pool, fans will have many reasons to watch the upcoming tournament, but they could see some contributors to next season’s roster in this very tournament.
Anton Lundell – Center
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way quickly, there’s about a 99.9% chance that Anton Lundell takes the ice for the Panthers at some point during the 2021-22 season, if not on opening night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After scoring 16 goals and 25 points in 26 games in Finland’s top level of competition, it’s extremely clear that he is ready to make the jump to the NHL game.
On the international stage, Lundell had six goals and 10 points in seven games during the IIHF World Junior Championship, serving as Team Finland’s captain. Over the summer, he played in the IIHF World Championship, scoring four goals and seven points in 10 games while facing off against some current NHLers.
His elite hockey IQ and his unique ability to find the right position to shoot from at all times make him a possible deadly weapon at the NHL level. He doesn’t need a whole lot of time to release his wicked wrister, so once he finds the right spot to fire from, he can easily put the puck in the back of the net.
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The Panthers’ 2020 first-round pick has been the talk of the town since inking his entry-level deal in June, and for good reason. He has the potential to be yet another star player on an already loaded Panthers team. With his dynamic offensive talent, there is truly a reason to believe that he will get it done.
John Ludvig – Defense
With a weak left side of the defense, there is a roster spot wide open for a young player to take over. John Ludvig is one of those candidates. Having scored two goals and eight points in 13 American Hockey League (AHL) games last season, Ludvig proved himself as a worthy candidate to compete for an NHL roster spot in 2021-22.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound defender had a breakout season for the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Portland Winterhawks in 2019-20, scoring 17 goals and 62 points in 60 games. He served as the team’s captain that season and boasted a plus/minus of plus-46.
Ludvig, who was selected with the 69th-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, is a dynamic playmaker who can make the right reads and possesses a sneaky, good shot to go with it. If he can prove he can provide consistency at the defensive end of the ice as well, he could earn himself a roster spot for the upcoming season.
Max Gildon – Defense
Max Gildon is set to be another competitor in the battle for a spot on the left side of the Panthers’ blue line, and for good reason. While on loan with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound defenseman had two goals and 17 points in 32 games. In the previous season, he scored at nearly a point-per-game clip with the University of New Hampshire, scoring seven goals and 29 points in 32 games.
The 2017 66th-overall pick is consistent on both sides of the ice, providing a physical presence from the back end with his large stature. On top of that, he is a swift skater who can handle the puck and make plays, possessing the hockey IQ to make the correct decisions when moving the puck up the ice. The 22-year-old looked impressive during the practice portion of the Panthers’ development camp and could be on the ice for them on Oct. 14 to open the 2021-22 season if he continues on the trajectory he is on now.
With the Panthers having such a deep roster going into this season, it will be an uphill battle for these young guns to make the roster (except Lundell, maybe) but they are players that fans should continue to watch going into this season. Even if their number isn’t called on opening night, there’s a very good possibility they make their NHL debut sometime in 2021-22.