ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Rocco Grimaldi came to the Xcel Energy Center on Friday hoping to hear his name called as the first round of the NHL draft was held.
When it wasn't, he said he was OK with things. “It wasn't too bad,'' Grimaldi said. “The tough part was going through it, it was just so overwhelming. When it was over and I wasn't picked, I just started looking forward to [Saturday].''
Grimaldi didn't have to wait long on Saturday as the Panthers claimed him with the third pick of the second round, calling his name minutes into the second day of the draft. Grimaldi, who will play at the University of North Dakota next season, looks like he may have been a steal by the Panthers. Grimaldi may not be tall – he's listed as 5-foot-6 and that appears to be generous – but he definitely has skill.
“In every tournament we saw him play in, he was just great. He was dominant,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. “He was as good as anyone in those tournament. You don't always look at size. You can find a lot of great players in the NHL at 5-6 or 5-7. This guy was so dynamic against guys ranked higher than he was. He didn't look out of place.''
Grimaldi was one of 10 amateur players taken by the Panthers this weekend. Florida took center Jonathan Huberdeau with the third overall pick on Friday. Grimaldi, who scored 34 goals with 28 assists in 50 games for the U.S. National Under-18 team.
“I knew it was a new day,'' Grimaldi said. “I knew wherever I was drafted was where the Lord was going to put me. I'm happy to be with the Panthers. I'm ready to play for them wherever it is and make an impact.''
The Panthers tried to select a variety of players. Florida added skill players like Grimaldi, Vincent Trocheck and Logan Shaw while also grabbing defensive-minded players such as Rasmus Bengtsson, Jonathan Racine and Yaroslav Kosov.
“It was a good blend,'' amateur scouting director Scott Luce said. “We knew it was a deep draft and we had to manage it accordingly. .-.-. We think our draft plan was executed well.''
Florida will get a good look at these players next month when the team holds a development camp at its training facility in Coral Springs.
New coach Kevin Dineen confirmed Saturday that assistant coach Gord Murphy would return in 2011-12 as would goalie coach Robb Tallas. Dineen says he will hire at least one more assistant coach as the Panthers are considering going with three assistant coaches next season. Dineen would like to have everything set by the development camp in Coral Springs next month.
“Gord is a real quality individual,'' Dineen said. “I don't need to put my fingerprints on everything. A little continuity will be good. I'm looking forward to working with Gord.''
-- Colin Suellentrop, a native of Plantation who grew up playing in Coral Springs, is believed to be the first true product of the Broward County system to be selected in the draft. Suellentrop attended St. Gregory School in Plantation through his eighth grade year before moving to Detroit to play junior hockey.
Suellentrop, who started playing for the Florida Junior Panthers at the age of 9, was taken by the Flyers in the fourth round (116th overall).
Suellentrop is currently playing for the Oshawa Generals – partly owned by Pete DeBoer -- of the Ontario Hockey League. Last year, the Rangers took Boca's Andrew Yogan with the 100th overall pick.
-- The Panthers offered qualifying offers to a number of their restricted free agents including Kenndal McArdle, Mike Santorelli and Shawn Matthias. Florida surprisingly cut ties with winger Nicklas Bergfors, acquired at the deadline from Atlanta in the Radek Dvorak deal. Byron Bitz and Steve Bernier won't be back as expected.
“[Bergfors] just doesn't seem to be the right fit for us with the direction we're taking,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said. “The money he's going to command just didn't make sense to us.''
-- The Panthers should have a finalized plan for an American League Hockey affiliate early this week, Santos said. It's been long known that Florida wouldn't return to Rochester, N.Y. On Friday, the Buffalo Sabres bought the Rochester Americans and will be returning there in 2011-12.