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Florida Panthers Back on Ice Tonight at Estero Rookie Showcase

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Justin Sourdif, who will be battling for a spot on the Florida Panthers roster in a few weeks, takes a shot for the Charlotte Checkers last season. // Photo courtesy @CheckersHockey

It has been just over three months since the Florida Panthers saw their magical run to the Stanley Cup Final end with a Game 5 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Their season was suddenly over.

It starts again today — in a way.

The Panthers are playing host to the annual southeast Rookie Showcase, only the four-team event will be held 90 minutes northwest of the team’s Sunrise arena in Estero.

The Florida Everblades, the Panthers’ ECHL affiliate, will hold the event at Hertz Arena.

Each of the four teams — Florida, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Nashville — will play each other once for a total of three games starting today.

Games will be also be held on Saturday and Monday and will be streamed at floridapanthers.com.

Admission to Hertz Arena is free.

“It is exciting just to be playing hockey again,” Florida general manager Bill Zito said. “There is no question, this starts to satiate a little bit of a void after losing in the Finals. I want to get back out there and I am sure the players feel the same way. From a management and a team standpoint, you want it to start and you don’t want to wait. You want to keep it going.

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“While it is a completely different plane, it is exciting to see the young guys and the rookie tournaments are always great. They try so hard and give it their all. It is competitive and you can learn a lot.”

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Unlike development camp, which was held in Coral Springs in July, the rookie showcase will lead into training camp which starts Thursday.

Those who will be playing college hockey this coming season will not participate due to NCAA rules.

Junior and European players, however, are allowed to be part of the showcase and, the start of training camp.

Since the Panthers do not have many collegiate prospects, that means most of their top young players will be on display this weekend.

That includes Mackie Samoskevich and Mike Benning who left college following this past season.

Gracyn Sawchyn, Florida’s top draft pick in June, is a junior player and will also be part of the showcase and is expected to play in one of Florida’s preseason games against the Predators on Sept. 25.

There are only a handful of players who are thought to be contending for a roster spot with the Panthers this season — Samoskevich and Justin Sourdif, among them — and the showcase gives them a leg up heading into camp.

Getting some action at game speed could lead to a strong start when camp opens next week.

“Guys are able to gain that individual confidence which is just so helpful,” Zito said. “How much of what we do in anything, the quality of it, is determined by our confidence and our confidence in ourselves. You do well here and you bring that with you into camp.

“This is a grind. Three games in four nights and you are meeting new people and making friends, learning a lot and interacting with a lot of new people. There are so many positives and benefits to this.”

2023 Southeast Rookie Showcase

At Hertz Arena, Estero 

Friday: Nashville Predators vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 4; Florida Panthers vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7  

Saturday: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 3; Florida Panthers vs. Nashville Predators, 6  

Sunday: Practice day  

Monday:  Nashville Predators vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 10 a.m.; Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers, 1 p.m.

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