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Mike Benning Leaves Denver, Begins Pro Career with Florida Panthers

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University of Denver defenseman Mike Benning is pictured during the first period of an NCAA hockey game against Cornell on March 23 in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)

The Florida Panthers added their second high-profile prospect in as many days Wednesday as they signed defenseman Mike Benning to his entry level contract.

By joining the Panthers now, Benning will burn a year of his three-year deal.

Benning, who was a fourth-round pick in 2020, was a standout at the University of Denver where he helped the Pioneers win the national title last season.

As a junior this year, Benning scored 13 goals with 34 points in 39 games as the Pioneers failed to make it back to the Frozen Four.

Mackie Samoskevich, Florida’s first-round pick in 2021, left the University of Michigan after two seasons to sign an amateur tryout deal with Florida’s AHL team in Charlotte on Tuesday.

By signing a tryout, Samoskevich will be eligible to play for the Charlotte Checkers immediately. It also leaves open the door for Florida to sign him to his official entry level contract in the coming weeks and bring him up for the playoffs.

Because Benning signed his ELC, however, he is ineligible to play for Charlotte.

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Benning was spotted working out with the Panthers off ice Wednesday and now has his own locker stall.

It is possible Benning makes his NHL debut with the Panthers on Thursday in the season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes although as of Wednesday, the Edmonton native did not have his U.S work visa.

Benning is an offensive defenseman with a good shot an a very strong first pass. He told FHN last spring that he has been paying attention to everything the Panthers do.

“My style of play is kind of what they are doing there and they have a great team,” Benning said from last year’s Frozen Four.

“That is the reason why they picked me, they drafted me because of my style of play and how it works in their system, so I am looking forward to it.

“Every guy there is really top-notch. There are no bad players there.”

Benning, 21, has been a fan of the Panthers for some time.

No wonder, since he is the son of original Panther Brian Benning who was part of the first two Florida seasons from 1993-95.

Brian Benning ended up playing 568 career NHL games for Florida, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Edmonton.

Mike Benning’s older brother Matthew plays for the San Jose Sharks and his uncle Jim is the former GM of the Vancouver Canucks.

PANTHERS ON DECK

CAROLINA HURRICANES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming-: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Florida won 3-0
  • This season (Series tied 1-1): Florida 3, Carolina 2 (Nov. 9); Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30)
  • All-time regular season series: Carolina leads 70-46-10, 11 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers — First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 1 (Time, Opponent TBD)

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