The Florida Panthers are done chasing Lord Stanley for this season. While the remaining 16 teams play for the Cup in the most unique season of all-time, the Panthers must wait. The NHL Draft is the next goal, with a chance to add a prospect or two who can make an impact for years to come.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the prospects already in the Panthers’ system. Understanding what the future looks like will give us a better idea of who the Panthers might select with the 13th overall pick. It will also give us a good idea of who we may see in the lineup as soon as next season.
This series will cover the best prospects currently in the Panthers’ system. We will look at who they are, how they got here, and what potential impact they might have in South Beach in the future. The first name we will be covering is Owen Tippett, the 10th selection of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Making His Name
Tippett put himself on the map with his performance during the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. In six games, he posted five goals and eight points on the way to leading Canada White to the gold medal. His impressive showing earned him a spot on the tournament All-Star team.
After that, and an appearance for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, Tippett exploded in his second full season in the OHL. He scored 15 goals and 20 points in his freshman season which jumped to 44 goals and 75 points in 60 games in his sophomore effort.
This was enough to earn him a near-consensus Top-10 ranking at the 2017 NHL Draft. The only outlier was a #22 overall ranking by TSN’s Craig Button.
2017 NHL Draft
There was a debate over who would go first overall: Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads or Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Ahead of Tippett, who was chosen 10th overall by the Panthers, were a few notable names. Defensemen Miro Heiskanen and Cale Makar, who looks ready to capture the 2020 Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, have been high-impact players for the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche, respectively.
There was speculation that Tippett could be selected between 6th and 8th. His name was frequently tied to the Vegas Golden Knights (who took Cody Glass) and the Buffalo Sabres (who selected Casey Mittelstadt).
Scouting Report: Skating
Though Tippett is average size, at 6-foot-1, he is an excellent skater, possessing great acceleration and speed. Being able to change speeds is what allows him to stand out, driving to the net where he has shown the consistent ability to finish in close spaces.
He has a surprising amount of moves thanks to his edge work and some quick cuts that make him difficult for defenders to handle. His lower body strength is what really stands out. He has the frame of a power forward who can fight through defensemen and make his way to the net.
Scouting Report: Scoring
Even if defenders back off, Tippett has a solid shot no matter how he unleashes it. He has a surprisingly quick release that can put a goaltender on his heels or catch him completely off guard. His shot is so dangerous that it was rated the best of the 2017 NHL Draft class.
He is also versatile and can get into the nitty-gritty areas. His hand-eye coordination is excellent, and he has shown the ability to routinely tip shots that come in from the point. He uses his size well to get to the front of the net and set up shop.
His playmaking skills are a little light and he is more likely to put the puck on net than find an open teammate. Tippett’s puck protection is good already but could be a little stronger so as to create space and opportunities for his teammates.
Scouting Report: Defense
This is where Tippett needed the most work. He has a natural nose for the net, but his defensive game continues to be a work in progress. He has shown improvement and appears to be committed to supporting defenders. That said, his reads aren’t quite there and his hockey sense, at least on the defensive end, need to improve.
It isn’t uncommon for young prospects to struggle with their defensive game. However, Tippett continues to show improvement in his development, but there is work to be done.
What He’s Been Doing Since the Draft
We’ll jump around a bit, but let’s start with his recent call-up to the Panthers’ Phase 3 training camp, though he didn’t crack the preliminary roster.
Going back a bit, Tippett had another solid season and a half for the Mississauga Steelheads before he was traded to the Saginaw Spirit. In 74 games with Mississauga, he scored 55 goals and 108 points. In just 31 games with Saginaw, he posted 14 goals and 41 points.
Not quite ready to make the leap to the NHL full-time, Tippett spent the 2019-20 season with Springfield of the AHL. In his rookie professional season, he did not disappoint. With 19 goals and 40 points in 46 games, he made the AHL All-Star team as a 21-year-old.
Tippett’s 40 points were enough to lead the Thunderbirds in scoring while his 19 goals were second to Danick Martel who led the team with 20. Sixteen of Tippett’s goals came during his time with Syracuse.
What’s Next for Tippett?
Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season so, there could be a need for someone like Tippett in the Panthers’ top-six. Even if both of them stick around, there are holes to be filled.
Tippett has shown at a young age that he can be a consistent offensive threat as he continues to refine his defensive game, especially in the AHL. With comparisons to power forwards Bill Guerin and Owen Nolan, a top-six role should be his to lose in the NHL when next season begins, and he has the talent to make an instant impact. He is the clear-cut top prospect in the Panthers’ system and will look to graduate from the prospect ranks in 2020-21.
A long-time (and long-suffering) Buffalo sports fan. Sometimes optimistic, always weary. I write other stuff for a lot of other people.