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After Strong Freshman Season, Ryan McAllister Gets Shot with Florida Panthers

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Ryan McAllister, one of the top scorers in college hockey at Western Michigan last season, looks for the puck in development camp with the Florida Panthers last week. // Photo courtesy @turbuL3NT2

CORAL SPRINGS — With high draft picks in short supply, the Florida Panthers have been working on finding top talent through other channels.

One of those avenues is signing high-profile college players who may have been overlooked when they were draft eligible.

They hope Ryan McAllister is one of them.

McAllister, 21, spent just one season as Western Michigan University but it was a memorable one.

He was part of a top line which was one of the best in the country, as all three players — McAllister, Jason Polin and Max Sasson — signed NHL deals following the Broncos’ season.

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McAllister, after finishing his season ranked No. 6 in the country with 49 points, signed with the Panthers in April.

He is the latest top undrafted free agent to sign with Florida as over the past three seasons, the Panthers have landed defenseman Matt Kiersted from North Dakota and junior goalie Mack Guzda.

McAllister, who spent last week with the Panthers at development camp, said plans on showing up in September and showing Florida what he can do.

“I am using development camp to work on my conditioning and other little things,” he told FHN after practice last week in Coral Springs. “I think my offensive game is almost there. I have to get better at the battle side of things and I have a couple of months to get ready. We’re all excited for the rookie tournament.”

McAllister and his linemates were one of the most prolific scoring lines in NCAA history as all three ended the college season ranked in the top 16 in points.

Upon their season ending with a loss to Boston University in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, the three players went their separate ways.

Polin, who was a Hobey Baker finalist, signed with Colorado; Sasson signed with Vancouver.

“It was pretty neat, something the three of us started talking about midway through the season,” said McAllister, who had previously attended development camps with Vegas and Toronto. “I tried to get those two guys to join me here, but they ended up in good spots.”

McAllister said he ended up having a Zoom meeting with GM Bill Zito where he was sold on South Florida and the Panthers.

“The weather is great obviously. Who wouldn’t want to be here?” McAllister said. “It is a great opportunity here for me and I am just trying to take advantage of it. Bill really sold me on it. And this was before that awesome playoff run which was really fun to watch. I am excited to be a part of that right now.’’

Prior to playing for Western Michigan, McAllister — who is from London, Ontario — scored 57 goals in 60 games in his final season of junior hockey.

At WMU, he produced 49 points on 13 goals — including four on the power play — as the line combined for 138 points.

He ended up having one of the most dominant freshman seasons in program history as he was, at one point midway through the season, leading college hockey in scoring.

McAllister’s 49 points were the most by a WMU player since the 2004-05 season and most by a freshman since 2000-01.

He ended up being named to the NCHC All-Rookie team and earned Honorable Mention All-NCHC honors.

After leaving Kalamazoo, McAllister joined the Charlotte Checkers and ended up playing seven games — including three in the playoffs — scoring two goals with seven points.

Getting a taste of pro hockey could help him when camp opens up in September.

He even roomed with Mackie Samoskevich while in Charlotte, two of Florida’s top prospects getting a chance to know one another.

“It was great, I finished off a pretty good college season and headed down to Charlotte,” he said. “I got my feet wet a little bit with the pro game. I think I did pretty well in the seven games there. It was great. I am definitely more comfortable coming into d-camp and whatever happens next year, I think I will be more at ease.”

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