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‘Sky’s The Limit’ for Mackie Samoskevich with the Florida Panthers

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Florida Panthers Mackie Samoskevich
Mackie Samoskevich drives in on his backhand against goaltender Spencer Knight during development camp at Florida Panthers Ice Den in Coral Springs. // Photo @ColbyDGuy

CORAL SPRINGS — When development camp opened on Monday, Mackie Samoskevich set a lofty goal for himself this summer: Make the Opening Night roster with the Florida Panthers.

Cracking an NHL roster is a tough task for a first-year pro, especially on a team coming off of a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

But Samoskevich’s list of doubters is shrinking by the day after a dominant display amongst his peers at development camp.

“I don’t see why he couldn’t,” longtime NHLer and Florida’s director of player personnel Bryan McCabe said when asked if Samoskevich could crack the Panthers’ roster.

“He is a very strong skater, he’s got a fabulous shot, he plays the game the right way, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and he is physically mature which a lot of guys aren’t when they are first turning pro.

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“The sky’s the limit for that kid. Whether it’s October of this year or January, this kid’s gonna play.”

Samoskevich improved across the board in his sophomore season at the University of Michigan, scoring the second-most goals (20) and points (43) on the team behind 2023 third-overall pick Adam Fantilli.

That improvement was apparent during the prospect scrimmage.

His speed and his ability to hold onto the puck proved to be a matchup nightmare as his team hounded its opponent in its own zone every time he was on the ice.

It was something his peers watched carefully and learned from as he drove into the offensive zone each time.

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”He is an incredible player,” said Jack Devine, who beat Samoskevich’s Wolverines in the 2022 national title game while with Denver.

“He has tons of high-quality attributes from his skating to his shot. Just watching him today, I try to look at his game from his skating and the way he possesses the puck and try to learn from him because he is a tremendous player and I am really excited to see him develop here.”

Samoskevich has embraced that leadership role as a veteran of Florida’s development camp program and has become someone a lot of the younger players trust.

”He is a mature pro and a leader,” McCabe said.

”He is one of those guys who brings the group together. He is a really outgoing kid, very focused and very mature.

“This will be his first real year pro, but he comes off like a seasoned veteran. He has that unique swagger about him that guys gravitate towards him, so he was one of the guys that led the way all week.”

Samoskevich has grown a lot through osmosis as he has watched countless talented players come through the Michigan program and become bonafide stars at the NHL level.

The Wolverines had three players get selected with Top 3 picks in each of the last three drafts, with 2022 second-overall pick Matty Beniers taking home the Calder Trophy this past season.

At a program that produces quality players at such a high rate, Samoskevich was challenged in practice every day and had to make sure he was conditioned well enough to keep up.

“All of those players are such good skaters,” Samoskevich said. “Even better than me.

“I’ve been watching these guys who are really good skaters and really good shooters early in my career and I took some things from them and I think it definitely helped me for sure.”

Even after signing his pro contract following a 2022 Frozen Four appearance and being on hand for both the Panthers and Charlotte Checkers’ playoff runs, Samoskevich is far from done before NHL training camp begins.

He is set to work out with 2021 first-overall pick Owen Power after retuning home from South Florida before continuing his push to crack the Panthers’ roster.

“It was a long year,” Samoskevich said.

“I started in mid-July last year and I finished four weeks ago. I took a week off but I have a big summer coming up so I didn’t want to take too much time off.

“It’s nice to take a little beak, but when you love what you do, you kind of get an edge when you’re sitting around. I enjoyed a little bit of time off but it’s time to get to work for sure.”

The 20-year-old forward is doing everything he can to put himself in the best position to make the team.

He is set to return to South Florida a few weeks before training camp begins to train with and get acclimated with the NHL guys.

It will give him a taste of what is next for him before the front office and the coaching staff gets a look at whether he has what it takes to make it to the big squad.

“Playing with those guys, the pace is definitely higher,” Samoskevich said.

“I think being around them in the summer and coming into camp will help me come in with the ball rolling and try to help me have a good camp.”

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