« September 4, 2013 | Main | September 6, 2013 »

5 posts from September 5, 2013

September 05, 2013

ONE GUDBRANSON, TWO GUDBRANSON: Panthers Invite Alex Gudbranson to Prospect Camp

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers had Gudbranson back on defense Thursday although it wasn't their young standout getting physical in the corners.

Instead of Erik Gudbranson throwing his body around at Thursday's prospect workout it was free agent invitee Alex Gudbranson.

The younger brother of the Panthers' Erik, Alex Gudbranson worked out at Detroit's development camp earlier this summer before getting an invite from the Panthers.

Alex Gudbranson will return to his junior team in Sault St. Marie in the coming weeks and hopes to impress some teams -- the Panthers included -- after not being selected at the June draft.

"Growing up with [Erik], you have to be tough after all the tussles we were in,'' said Alex, who celebrated his 19th birthday on Tuesday.

"We both want to win. If you come into my corner, I want the puck more than you do. He has more experience than I do, but I'm looking to learn. Hopefully I can stay here as long as I can and show my stuff. I want to be here in the future.''

Alex Gudbranson is wearing No. 88 during Florida's prospect tournament this weekend -- double the No. 44 Erik wears for the Panthers.

VINCENT TROCHECK: Confidence Isn't a Problem

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

There is little doubt Vincent Trocheck plays with extreme confidence.

After all, the 20-year-old rookie did something pretty special last year as he was the Ontario junior Hockey League's top player after leading the league in scoring by putting up 50 goals.

Will Trocheck's conviction in his own ability be enough to earn him a spot on the Panthers' roster in a few weeks?

No, but if he shows even a touch of the scoring prowess he did while in junior, a Florida team starving for goals may give Trocheck a serious look.

"We told them there is equal opportunity here,'' general manager Dale Tallon said before Florida's prospect camp opened on Thursday morning.

"We don't care about their age. I want them to feel like they have a fair opportunity to make our team, to make the big club. That starts now.''

Trocheck and the rest of the Panthers gathered in Coral Springs received the message sent from Tallon, yet it's too early to determine whether any of them will do anything about it.

Florida's main training camp hits the ice on Thursday.

"Vinny is a player, a hockey player who is a highly competitive guy,'' said Scott Luce, the Panthers' director of amateur scouting.

"He leads by example and doesn't take no for an answer when it comes to his production. He feels he can produce at any level. His drive combined with his high skill level bodes well for his future.''

The Panthers, despite publicly announcing the roster will trend younger this season, still have a number of locks and only a handful of openings.

Trocheck, a third-round pick in 2011, wants one of them.

Working throughout the offseason in his native Pittsburgh with other NHL players helped the 5-foot-11 forward put on some muscle and improved his core strength.

Whether that's enough to help him be on the ice when the Panthers open the season in Dallas -- or play in their home opener on Oct. 11 against his hometown Penguins -- remains to be seen.

"I'm coming here to make the team but I know it's going to be a battle. There are a lot of talented players here,'' Trocheck said. "It's going to be good competition and it's going to be fun.''

Peter Horachek is the coach of Florida's minor league affiliate in San Antonio and would likely benefit from having Trocheck in the American Hockey League this season.

The Panthers have been reticent to rush young players under Tallon and it's very likely Trocheck could start the season in Texas. Trocheck, however, should not be thinking that way.

"He lead the [OHL] in scoring, led the playoffs in scoring and is a very skilled guy,'' said Horachek, who spent the past decade as an assistant in Nashville.

"He's a very confident young man who wants to win. I think that will help him. He believes in his abilities, believes he can play in the NHL. That's what young guys need. It's a big step and a process. Whatever the timeframe is, he's going to play in the NHL.''

BONUS TROCHECK

-- On scoring 50 goals for the Plymouth Whalers last year:

"It was an honor to be able to say I scored 50 goals. I wasn't really focused on it during the year, but it was a bonus. I had a lot of guys around me to help. I have the puck and I'll definitely hold on to the 50th puck for a while.''

-- On the opportunity in Florida:

"They've had meetings with us and they've told us to come here and expect to make this team. What's a guy like me to do? I'm going to work as hard as I can to make it. If you do, great. If you don't, keep working until you do.''

-- The confidence in scoring:

"Being able to put up those kind of numbers, seeing my goals increase each year, definitely helps with my confidence. I know I can put up points. It's going to be more difficult at this level.''

PHOTO BY KELSEY HINDS/Special to On Frozen Pond

VINCENT TROCHECK: Confidence Isn't a Problem

NEWS, NOTES: Rookie Camp, Day 1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Fun day out in Coral Springs as a nice crowd was on hand to watch some of Florida's youngsters skate in the opening morning of prospect camp.

Those who stuck around got to watch about two dozen of the veteran players take to the ice for a spirited workout. Even Kris Versteeg was out there -- read about it a few posts down.

The rest of the week's schedule will be listed below.

Brian Skrudland and Bryan McCabe were part of the on-ice staff with the youngsters with San Antonio coaches Peter Horachek and Chuck Weber.

"There's a lot of bodies - big bodies - and this is about assessing them,'' Horachek said.

"They're going to play against some of the top prospects from the other teams. But until they make the transition to the next camp, the main camp, that's when you really tell. But it's good to see them playing. They played at a really good pace. It's good to see.''

-- Aleksander Barkov participated in drills and looked good out there. Barkov, who had shoulder surgery in the spring, will not play in the three rookie games against the Bruins, Lightning and Preds.

Word from Alain Poupart from NHL.com is that Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin WILL be participating in those games at the Iceplex.

-- Jacob Markstrom was on the ice with the Panthers and has retaken the No. 25 he made his NHL debut in.

Markstrom had been wearing No. 35 after Jerred Smithson took the other number.

Right now, rookie Michael Houser, 20, is officially Florida's third-string goalie.

Dov Grumet-Morris is here and will be in training camp -- but he has an AHL contract at the moment.

-- Shawn Matthias is now occupying the locker stall which once belonged to Stephen Weiss.

-- Florida's locker room is packed tight, with Eric Selleck taking up residence in the middle of the room. His stall is basically a fold up chair.

-- Kevin Dineen joined most of the Florida front office and scouting staff in watching Thursday's rookie workout.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF KELSEY HINDS

PANTHERS PROSPECT CAMP/TOURNAMENT

Admission to tournament games are free.

All on-ice activities are held at the Saveology.com Iceplex at 3299 Sportsplex Drive in Coral Springs.

Admission to games requires a ticket -- which is free upon registration at floridapanthers.com/trainingcamp

Games will be held on the middle sheet of ice at the Iceplex. The stadium ice sheet is under construction.

Veteran practices are open and do not require a registration.

Friday

Informal veteran practice, 11 a.m.

Prospect tournament: Tampa Bay vs. Boston, 2 p.m.; Nashville vs. Florida, 6

Saturday

Prospect tournament: Nashville vs. Tampa Bay, noon; Boston vs. Florida, 4

Sunday

Prospect tournament: Boston vs. Nashville, noon; Tampa Bay vs. Florida, 4

Monday

Informal veteran practice: 8:45 a.m.

Tuesday

Informal veteran practice

Wednesday

No public activity; players report to training camp

Thursday

Florida Panthers practice, 9 a.m.


NEWS, NOTES: Rookie Camp, Day 1

NEWS, NOTES: Rookie Camp, Day 1

NEWS, NOTES: Rookie Camp, Day 1

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

For those wondering what is the quickest way to get your Panthers fix during rookie camp, training camp and the rest of the season, well, it's probably a quick follow on Twitter.

It's just easier for me to tap out some quick news or musings on my phone than it is to file a post here.

Now, there will be plenty of posts here and they will, I hope, be more detailed and have more details than the tweets I send out.

But if you need to know and you need to know now, give me a follow @GeorgeRichards

Here's a sample of what was on my twitter feed today for the opening of the rookie camp.


FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

KRIS VERSTEEG: Working for Opening Night

For quick news, notes and photos updated throughout the day during training camp and the season, please follow me on TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Kris Versteeg was on the ice with the rest of the veteran throng in Coral Springs on Thursday as he works his way back from having major surgery on his right knee last year.

Versteeg told us last spring that he didn't expect to be ready until November; since he's been skating for the past month, it appears the timeline has been moved up a notch.

"It's a long process but my goal is to be ready for the start of the season,'' Versteeg said.

"I guess we'll see how training camp goes. I don't want to go into a regular season game without knowing what training camp is like. I think I'll be there for most of it. That's my goal.''

As for him saying November...

"That was about three weeks after surgery,'' Versteeg said. "I had no idea on timelines or what exactly the progression of the ligament is. That was an annoying time for me mentally because you put in so much work and don't see anything happening.

"Then around months four and five, you see it all coming together. The past three months have been very positive for me. That's why I think things have changed.''

That would be huge for the Panthers. Dale Tallon told us yesterday that everyone is ahead of schedule on the rehab scale. We'll see how things progress when physicals are taken next week.

Ed Jovanovski was out there today as well.

PHOTO/JOE RIMKUS JR., Miami Herald Staff


KRIS VERSTEEG: Working for Opening Night