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And Then It Was Done: NHL Draft Finally Finished

Draftdone LOS ANGELES – The Panthers have been through rebuilding processes before, but aside from the franchise's early days when it was built into a winner, none have brought much success.

Dale Tallon hopes he's the one to help change that. He would like to think he'll someday look back at this past week as the start of a new era for hockey in South Florida.

Time, of course, will tell.

“We have to look at the future and what we're going to do down the road,'' Tallon said. “That's more important than standing still today.''

Tallon took away from the present Panthers in the past few days, but feels he didn't do too much damage. The Panthers plan on rebuilding while still being competitive.

On Tuesday, Tallon traded top offensive threat Nathan Horton to Boston for a defenseman and a high draft pick; Friday, he sent defenseman Keith Ballard to Vancouver for another high pick and exciting winger Michael Grabner as well as Steve Bernier.

Saturday, Tallon added 10 young players to the organizational depth chart in the second and final day of the NHL Draft.

“This was a very good couple of days,'' Tallon said near the end of the proceedings at Staples Center. “We have a good array of players to rebuild our foundation.''

All told, the Panthers had three picks in Friday's opening round and four more in the second and third on Saturday. Florida's 13 overall picks were tied for second most in franchise history, one fewer than the team's inaugural draft class of 1993.

The haul included eight forwards, four defensemen and a goalie.

“We have a lot of fire,'' Tallon said. “I watched a lot of Panthers games when I was in Florida on television and it was an easy game. We don't want to give anyone an easy game. People have to come in and earn their stripes. We don't want a bunch of idiots, we want a real solid team with players who care and are passionate and pay the price to win.''

In the second round, Tallon's first pick was left winger John McFarland, a talented scorer who thought he should have been picked much, much higher. McFarland was considered the 10th best North American skater not too long ago, but his stock had slipped.

McFarland says he's eager to prove he should have been taken in the first round. He wants to begin doing that when the Panthers hold rookie camp at the end of the summer.

“I'm glad it fell into place with Florida,'' said McFarland, who scored 50 points off 20 goals with Sudbury, Ontario, of the Canadian junior leagues last year. “Things happen, it's happened to many people before me who expected to go earlier than they did. It's disappointing, but today's a new day. There's a little more motivation than there was before.''

Tallon says he loves McFarland's grit and determination, saying he hopes he comes to camp with a little chip on his shoulder. “He's got a little nastiness to him,'' Tallon said.

Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting, says the McFarland is probably a year away from competing for a roster spot with the Panthers, Tallon indicated all who come to training camp have a chance to make the Panthers in the fall.

If you play, Tallon said, the sky is the limit.

“I don't care how old you are or where you're from,'' Tallon said. “Everyone is going to get an equal opportunity to play for the Florida Panthers next year. If your 18 and make our team? Great. If not, go back to junior and be successful in the future.''

One of those players who will have a chance to make the team in the coming years is defenseman Alexander Petrovic. The Panthers took the 6-foot-4 bruiser from Red Deer, Alberta, just three selections after McFarland.

Petrovic is another player who came to the L.A. arena on Friday night expecting to go home with a team's jersey – only to leave disappointed and being forced to wait until the draft's second day. His wait on Saturday wasn't long at all.

“You get a little mad because you are competitive and want to go in the first round,'' Petrovic said. “I woke up with a smile on my face knowing I was going to be drafted. The pressure is off my shoulders. But it's huge motivation to prove some of those teams wrong.''