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Panthers Headed to the Draft: Florida Set to Pick Third

MurrayPanthers general manager Randy Sexton said he took a lucky trinket with him to the NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto.

Because it didn't work, he wouldn't divulge what it was.

But hey, it wasn't unlucky either. The Panthers started and ended the lottery in third place and didn't drop.

Of the 14 teams jockeying for position Tuesday, no team moved up or down. The first 14 picks in the draft – barring trades – will mirror the NHL standings from the 2009-10 season.

Edmonton will become the first Canadian team to pick first overall since Ottawa did so in 1996 – a few months after firing Sexton as its general manager. Boston, which acquired Toronto's first round pick this past offseason for 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel, will pick second.

“It would have been fabulous to move up,'' said Sexton, “but it would have been demoralizing to move down emotionally. It could have been better, but we are happy where we are with the third pick.''

The Panthers have picked third overall in past seasons. In both 2002 and 2003, the Panthers won the lottery and had the top pick. Both times the team traded down. In 2002, Florida picked Jay Bouwmeester with the third pick. The following year, Nathan Horton was taken with No. 3.

Florida hasn't had such a high pick since. In 2005, the team took Rostislav Olesz with the seventh selection.

Sexton said the Panthers would have kept the top pick this time around if they had won the lottery, but he is leaving his options open with No. 3. With forwards Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin almost assuredly going 1-2, the Panthers are in a rare position to control what happens in the draft after that.

The Panthers could possibly move up to second (Edmonton says it's keeping the top pick) in a trade with the Bruins. Sexton already traded for an additional pair of second round picks by trading Dennis Seidenberg and Jordan Leopold at the deadline. One of the second round picks Florida has came from the Bruins.

Sexton could also trade down in the draft and pick up even more picks for later on depending on how deep the Panthers figure the pool to be.

“We have a number of options available to us,'' said Sexton. “We are in a real good position to be in.''

-- Sexton said the Panthers cannot begin their negotiations with goalie Jacob Markstrom – Florida's first pick of the second round in 2008 – until after the upcoming World Championship tournament in Germany. Markstrom is currently a candidate to represent Sweden at the Worlds, and if he was left off the roster, Florida could begin negotiations then.

Markstrom is considered the Panthers goalie of the future – although he is expected to start next season in the minors as he adjusts to the North American style of play.

-- Team president Michael Yormark said Tuesday that the confetti celebration at the end of Sunday's season finale was not meant in any way to honor the way the Panthers finished the year. The Panthers ended up finishing last in their division for the first time in franchise history and missed the postseason for an NHL record-tying ninth straight season.

Yormark said the confetti and streamers were meant to reward those fans who have stuck with the team during some pretty lean years.

“Our fans are unbelievable,'' Yormark said. “We all know it was a disappointing season.''

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