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3 Who Could Make NHL Debut with Florida Panthers in 2023-24



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Former Michigan forward Mackie Samoskevich made his pro debut with the Charlotte Checkers last spring and is a candidate to make his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers this coming season. Samoskevich, Florida’s first-round pick in 2021, left Michigan after his sophomore season. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Florida Panthers will have a number of new faces this season what with signing the likes of Evan Rodrigues, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Kevin Stenlund (among others) during free agency.

But there could be a number of other players who make their way up to the Panthers sometime during the season who, as of right now, are not exactly penciled onto the roster going into training camp.

The heat will be picking up in the coming days as Florida’s rookie showcase opens next Friday night in Estero.

For Florida, the spotlight will be on forward Mackie Samoskevich.

Samoskevich will not make the Panthers’ opening night roster based on what he does in the rookie showcase, but it has been known to be a nice jumping off point heading into training camp which opens Sept. 21.

Although Samoskevich may just start his first full professional season with the AHL Charlotte Checkers, chances are pretty good the former University of Michigan standout eventually makes his NHL debut with the Panthers at some point this season.

Here are three players — including Samoskevich — who could end up making their NHL debut with the Panthers during the 2023-24 season:


During development camp, Samoskevich said his goal was making the Panthers’ roster out of training camp. That may not be so far fetched, although based on numbers, it is going to be tough.

But not impossible.

“I don’t see why he couldn’t,” Bryan McCabe, Florida’s director of player personnel said during camp.

“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 going to play.”

Samoskevich is coming off a strong sophomore season at Michigan where he scored 20 goals with 43 points — which was second on the Wolverines behind 2023 third-overall pick Adam Fantilli of the Blue Jackets.

He opted to sign a professional tryout with Charlotte allowing him to participate in the Calder Cup playoffs and then joined the Panthers to be on the practice team during their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Samoskevich dominated Florida’s development camp and the expectation is he is going to put on a nice show at the rookie showcase. If he continue that in training camp and preseason, well, Florida may just give him the early chance.

Regardless of when it happens, expect Samoskevich to line up with the Panthers at some point this season.

“I’d love to play down here,” Samoskevich said at d-camp. “That’s the main goal.

“I don’t think it’s a far-fetched goal. I know I could do it. I think I can play up in the big leagues. I’ve worked so hard this summer. It’s going pretty well so far.”


The 27-year-old defenseman was brought in by the Panthers following a successful pro career in Europe.

Last year in the Czech Extraliga, he had 11 goals and 35 points in 50 games for the Liberec White Tigers — leading the league in goals by a defenseman and third in assists.

Balinskis spent the past three seasons in the Czech league after five seasons in the KHL. He also played for Latvia at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

Now, where does he fit in with the Panthers?

We shall see. Balinskis is a left-handed shot who is not big, but he plays on both ends of the ice and obviously has experience. The Panthers liked him enough to sign him although it is not as if the two are married. It is a one-year, two-way deal. 

That is low risk, high reward. 

The Panthers will go into camp minus both Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour due to injury meaning they will have spots to fill. While it appears Zito filled them through free agency, a lot of the guys signed are on the same one-year deals Balinskis is. 

If he adapts to the smaller ice quickly and impresses coaches, he just might make the jump. If not, he could start the year in. Charlotte and log some heavy AHL minutes.

Florida has flooded its depth chart with veteran defensemen this offseason. They are hoping some stick — Balinskis included.


A third-round pick in 2019, Ludvig now has three seasons at the AHL level starting when he made his pro debut in the 2021 Covid year with the Syracuse Crunch.

After playing in 13 games in 2021, Ludvig sustained a hip injury which cost him almost the entirety of the 2021-22 season with Charlotte — although he was able to come back for the final three games and the playoffs.

So, last season was his first real year of pro hockey — and he showed a very strong two-way ability in 54 games with the Checkers.

At 6-1, Ludvig is a left-handed shot — which puts him at a disadvantage as if there is one thing the Panthers have a lot of, it’s left-handed defensemen.

While we do not expect Ludvig to make the initial cut out of training camp, if he continues to show progression as a reliable defensive player, Florida may be calling at some point this season.

Regardless of that, this is a big year for the 23-year-old Ludvig. He was qualified by the Panthers in June and signed a two-year deal with the team the following month. He should be in the mix.

Florida Hockey Now’s Colby D. Guy contributed to this report


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Panthers have too many left shot, 6’0″ to 6’2″ defensemen who play a similar style. They shouldn’t have signed any in free agency if they thought any of their prospects had a chance of making the team, and they shouldn’t have resigned any of they thought they didn’t belong on the team. My hope, Carlsson and Kiersted make the team, sending Kulikov and Reilly to Charlotte and opening up a lil more than $450k in cap space, and when Ekblad and Montour return, make Mikkola and OEL expendable, opening another $2M by sending them to the minors. I get this… Read more »


You see it as a detriment, I see it as the exact opposite. It’s going to breed competition. The best guy will play, how can not be a bad thing?? There will be nightley healthy scratches, so guys that are currently in the lineup, understand, if they don’t bring it on a nightly basis, they will be sitting in the press box the following game. I’m fairly certain we’re just trying to hold down the Fort until ekblad and montour return. Besides, you know as well as I do, you can never have too many defensemans, injuries are inevitable.


Because you need a mix of styles to build a defense. Two_way. Shutdown defensive. Big, physical. Offensive juggernaut. If you get players who offer multiple qualities, they’re keepers. Part of why the Panthers lost in the Cup finals is they were overpowered by Vegas’ bigger forwards. It’s why the Vegas bench was overheard calling the Panthers “pretenders”. Loading up on 30+ year old defensemen who play a similar style to what you already have doesn’t breed competition. It hinders the development of younger players, because you play the older players to justify the contracts. Vegas exposed Florida’s weakness and Zito… Read more »


So I guess Florida exposed bostons weakness? They exposed Torontos and Carolinas as well????? Rubbish. They were beat up by the tine they made the finals, and Vegas was the better team. One thing’s for sure, they embarrassed your Bruins. Best team of all time taken out in the first round. I just love the fact that I know 20 years from now. And they talk about that Boston team be in the best regular team of all time, it will always be followed, but they got their a** handed to them in the first round. And now boston probably… Read more »


Sure bill zito is terrible at his job, yep, your right, one pkayoff appearance in 15 years before him, and playoffs every year since him, and they appear as though they’ll be competitive and playoff bound for the foreseeable future, oh yea, terrible…what…ever dude.

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