With the Florida Panthers using first-round draft picks as trade capital the past few years, the team goes into this week’s NHL draft without a selection in the opening round.
In fact, the Panthers not only do not have a first-round pick, but do not have one in the second round, either.
In the history of the Panthers, the draft has been a crap shoot as it has for every other team in the league.
Only in Florida’s case, unless the team was picking very high, it has found few impactful players.
There have been exceptions.
In the past 20 years of drafting, the Panthers have hit on a number of draft picks.
The team’s core is based on Aaron Ekblad, Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau — players taken either first, second or third overall between 2011-14.
However, the Panthers have found some gems in the lower rounds.
Without a first round pick in the next three drafts (and only one second during that span), general manager Bill Zito and his scouting staff will need to hit on a lot more outside of the first round to keep the prospect cupboard full.
Easier said than done.
In the past 20 years, the Panthers have had more misses than hits outside of the first round but there have been some success stories.
Zito & Co. have only had two drafts to date, so it is tough to judge how they have done so far although the organization does seem fairly deep with prospects taken in those drafts.
We look at the top draft picks the Panthers have made outside the first round and the list starts with MacKenzie Weegar.
Weegar, now 28, almost went undrafted in 2013.
The Panthers did not have a seventh-round pick that year, but saw Weegar still on the board with only a few selections left and made a deal with Montreal to get back into the draft and take the defenseman from the Halifax Mooseheads.
The draft was wrapping up and the Prudential Center in Newark was nearly empty.
“We had been there four hours already,” Weegar told FHN a few years ago. “It was time to go. There were only five or six picks left. It just wasn’t going to happen.”
It was a minor move at the time but one which has paid off handsomely for both Weegar and the Panthers.
THE TOP DRAFT PICKS OF THE PANTHERS
(OUTSIDE OF THE FIRST ROUND, 2002-PRESENT)
2013 (Seventh Round, No. 206)
Weegar pulled himself through the Florida organization after being a seventh-round draft pick to being a top defenseman in the entire NHL.
With 306 games under his belt, Weegar has teamed with Ekblad — the top overall pick in 2014 — to become one of the better defensive pairings in the league.
With one year left on the three-year contract he signed with the Panthers in 2020, Weegar is likely going to find himself being one of the highest-paid defensemen in the NHL next year.
2011 (Third round, 64th overall)
Until being traded to Carolina at the 2020 deadline to try and jumpstart the Panthers, Trocheck was considered a key part of the Florida core.
After starting out in the minors, Trocheck became a full-time NHL player in his second professional season and scored 25 goals in his first full season with the Panthers in 2015-16. In 2017-18, he set a career-high with 31 goals.
2010 (Fourth round, 99th overall)
Although he never played for the Panthers, Donskoi remains a top Florida draft success story as he has played in 474 NHL games with San Jose, Colorado and Seattle. The Panthers relinquished his draft rights and he ended up scoring 11 goals in his rookie season with the Sharks in 2015-16.
2010 (Fifth round, 123rd overall)
Another find later in Dale Tallon’s first draft with the Panthers, Hyman also did not ever suit up for the Panthers. After blossoming in college at Michigan, Hyman all but held the Panthers hostage and ended up forcing a trade to Toronto by threatening to sign elsewhere as a free agent.
After a successful run with the Maple Leafs, Hyman scored a career-high 27 goals with Edmonton this past season.
2008 (Second round, 31st overall)
The Panthers’ former ‘Goalie of the Future,’ struggled a bit while with Florida as he bounced back between Sunrise and the AHL — before being sent to Vancouver in the Roberto Luongo trade in 2014. Markstrom has turned into one of the top goalies in the NHL and, now in Calgary, was a Vezina Trophy finalist this past season.
2007 (Third round, 71st overall)
Dadonov had two separate stints with the Panthers, being traded to Carolina in 2012 after the first. Dadonov ended up leaving the Hurricanes’ organization for the KHL where he spent five seasons before returning to the Panthers as a free agent in 2017 — a much different player than before.
In three seasons with Florida, Dadonov scored at least 25 goals and spent a lot of his time on the top line with Barkov and Huberdeau. He left for Ottawa as a free agent in 2021 and was traded to Vegas last season; this offseason, Dadonov was dealt to Montreal.
2004 (Second round, 53rd overall)
Booth established himself as a bonafide NHL scorer in his second season with the Panthers, scoring 22 goals in 2007-08. The next year, he set a career-high with 31.
Injuries slowed Booth’s career down and he was eventually traded to Vancouver in 2015 at the start of his sixth season with the team. In all, Booth played in 530 NHL games for five teams. His 16 goals in 53 games with the Canucks following the trade were the most goals he would score in the NHL before retirement in 2019 after a brief stint in the KHL.
2002 (Third round, 67th overall)
Although Campbell never reached superstar status or anything, he had a very solid NHL career and won the Stanley Cup in 2011 after being traded to Boston along with Nathan Horton.
Of all of Florida’s draft picks made after the first round in the last 20 years, Campbell has played the most NHL games of any of them — 803 with Florida, Boston and Columbus.
After retirement, Campbell joined the Blue Jackets as a developmental coach. He left Columbus and rejoined the Panthers where he is currently the team’s VP of player personnel and development.
2022 NHL DRAFT, MONTREAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS SELECTIONS
First Round: Traded to Buffalo (Sam Reinhart)
Second Round: Traded to Calgary (Sam Bennett) — Now belongs to Seattle
Third Round: No. 93
Fourth Round: No. 125
Fifth Round: No. 157
Sixth Round: No. 186 (From Columbus); No. 189
Seventh Round: No. 221