The Panthers’ Roster Situation
Most of the moves by the Florida Panthers this offseason have revolved around freeing up forward depth spots on the team’s roster. Scottie Upshall and Thomas Kopecky were not re-signed and allowed to leave as Unrestricted Free Agents. Meanwhile, the team bought out the contract of Brad Boyes. While other teams took a more active approach to bolstering their roster via free agency, Panthers GM Dale Tallon clearly stated his reasoning for the Cats’ posturing.
We think we have a very good, young team and with adding some of our own players, I think we will be a better team. We’ll be quicker and more skilled . . . We just felt it was blocking out young guys’ opportunity to play . . . We wanted to make room for Grimaldi and Trocheck and those types of players – Tallon told Floridapanthers.com.
Panthers fans have had ample opportunity to acquaint themselves with Vincent Trocheck. During the 2014-15 season, he accumulated 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 50 games with an average ice time of 14:00. Analysts have also drawn attention to his strong possession play. But what about Rocco Grimaldi, who by contrast appeared in only seven contests and registered 18 shots and won 42.9% of faceoffs for the Panthers before spending the majority of his season with their AHL affiliate in San Antonio?
What Grimaldi can bring to Sunrise
There has been considerable consensus around Grimaldi’s potential. When he was drafted 33rd overall in 2011, some hailed him as “the most skilled forward in the draft” with “lightning fast foot speed, a deadly quick release, dazzling agility, and a MENSA level hockey IQ.” More recently, Grimaldi’s coach, Tom Rowe, told Nhl.com that he “loved the fact that he’s quick, . . . moved the puck well and could beat guys one-on-one.”
Many of these attributes were on full display when Grimaldi scored his first career NHL goal and sparked a late third-period comeback against the Nashville Predators on November 22 last year.
At 5’6″ and 180lbs, Grimaldi’s height is often mentioned as a latent concern. For instance, hockeysfuture.com articulated that “due to his size, [Grimaldi] has been viewed as a proverbial ‘boom-or-bust prospect’ at every level.” However, his ability to transcend the challenge presented by his smaller frame is even more apparent. Speaking of their time as teammates at the University of North Dakota, Corban Knight told San Antonio Express News that Rocco “catches a lot of guys off guard when he gets low” and that “When he gets low . . . you are not going to knock him off the puck.” Grimaldi’s ability to turn his height to his advantage is further reflected in his numbers for the Rampage last season, where he tallied 42 points in 64 games.
Beyond the stats and quantifiable attributes, there is also a certain kind of panache to Grimaldi’s game.
Among all the talk of his offensive ability, his heart and drive get lost when you read scouting reports . . . If [he] were asked what the most valuable thing he could bring to the team that drafts him would be, he would tell you it’s his drive to be the best , and be a great leader. – Patrick Kearns, The Hockey Writers, 2011
In a recent interview with FloridaPanthers.com, Grimaldi claimed to have amped up his training for the upcoming season. “I worked physically, getting myself in the best shape ever and worked on my skills on the ice,” he said and also added that he “feel[s] mentally prepared.”
Given Tallon’s stated desire to utilize the franchise’s youth, Grimaldi’s brand of hockey – and its many upsides – make for a valuable addition to the Panthers’ depth this season.
A graduate student at the University of Victoria and Editor in Chief of The Graduate History Review, Noah E. Miller has covered the Florida Panthers as a Contributor for The Hockey Writers since 2015.