By Harvey Fialkov
10:01 PM EDT, May 29, 2013
Tallon tells NHL.com he wants second pick to play right away
Panthers GM Dale Tallon is in Toronto at the NHL Scouting Combine where he is checking out potential draft picks in the upcoming Entry Draft on June 30 at the Prudential Center in Newark.
The Panthers have four of the first 97 picks, including the second overall pick after finishing 30th in the league last season. They lost the first pick to Colorado in the draft lottery but that could be a good thing as the general consensus has defenseman Popeye Jones and forward Nathan MacKinnon as the top two prospects.
Being the Avs are in desperate need of blue-liners and the Panthers are always desperate for scoring it follows that MacKinnon, the MVP of the Memorial Cup, will fall into Florida’s lap.
Of course, Tallon would never divulge his favorites, but he did tell NHL.com today that whoever he selects he wants to step into the lineup right away and contribute this season.
“We’re going to be a young team,’’ Tallon told NHL.com. “It’s going to be a necessary part of our puzzle moving forward. I would hope the guy we select can play for us next year.’’
Panthers director of scouting Scott Luce told me last month that of the top prospects that MacKinnon was the most NHL-ready. MacKinnon had 75 points in 44 games this season and then 13 points, including seven goals, in four games to lead the Halifax Mooseheads to their first Memorial Cup title. It was the most points during the prestigious tournament since 1997.
Although this seems to be contradictory to the Panthers oft-repeated philosphy of not rushing prospects anymore, Tallon and assistant GM Mike Santos might’ve changed their thinking after watching several Panthers rookies pay immediate dividends, albeit in a reduced 48-game losing season.
For example, 19-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau is a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy to be announced before the second game of the Stanley Cup finals. Fellow rookies such as Drew Shore and Alex Petrovic also showed they belonged, as did young players like second-year defenseman Erik Gudbranson and midseason pickup defenseman T.J. Brennan.
Promising rookie forwards Quinton Howden and Nick Bjugstad showed flashes of their potential but are most likely destined for a season in San Antonio.
Rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom did have three seasons in the AHL and he too appears ready to finally assume his long projected status as the franchise’s cornerstone netminder. That said, Markstrom also was inconsistent at times.
Tallon, who has been known to wheel and deal didn’t rule out a draft-day trade, but it probably won’t include the second pick.
“We have four picks in the top 97, so we feel we’re going to get four really good players and really fix our depth chart,’’ Tallon told NHL.com.
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