The Florida Panthers used their first-round pick Friday to take a swing on one of the most skilled offensive players in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Now they’ll have five more chances to bolster their pipeline Saturday.
The Panthers have five picks on the second and final day of the 2021 Entry Draft and Bill Zito said Thursday he would prioritize “best player available, with a theme of organizational need in tandem with the best player available.” This will be the day to fill some of those organizational holes and Zito said he’d also like to potentially acquire some more picks Saturday.
On Friday, it led Florida to an upside play with Mackie Samoskevich. The 5-foot-11, 191 right wing from Newtown, Connecticut, was the No. 26 North American skater in the Draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, but the Panthers believe he can develop into one of the best offensive talents in the Draft while he plays for the Michigan Wolverines. Florida will retain his rights for the duration of his college hockey career.
After a strong debut season as the Panthers’ general manager, Zito gets the benefit of the doubt in ESPN’s analysis of the Samoskevich pick.
“He has the kind of skating and offensive chops to lead a rush and send the defense scrambling back into its own zone,” Greg Wyshynski wrote on ESPN.com. “His stature will no doubt grow as part of a Michigan team with designs on a national championship. There weren’t many mocks that had him in the first round, but GM Bill Zito clearly felt there was no point in trading down.”
His offensive ability also drew plaudits from Sports Illustrated’s The Hockey News.
“Need speed? He has it,” Ryan Kennedy and Steven Ellis wrote for SI’s hockey vertical. “Love his shot, but he’s a tremendous playmaker, too. Drives the play a lot. Another key member of the hotshot Chicago Steel of the USHL.”
He could eventually form a dynamic offensive tandem with Anton Lundell, NHL.com prognosticated.
“Samoskevich eventually skating on a line with center Anton Lundell, the No. 12 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, should have Panthers fans excited,” Adam Kimmelman wrote for the league’s official site.
Rounds 2-7 of the Draft are underway on NHL Network and Florida will pick in every round but the third.
The Panthers pick in the back end of most rounds after finishing with the fourth most points in the NHL last season and reaching the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs. They have their own picks in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, and the Winnipeg Jets’ in the seventh.
Follow along for quick updates on each player the Panthers’ Draft as it happens. A full recap with more detailed analysis will follow later in the day, as will a full rundown of Florida’s picks from the 2021 Draft.
Round 2: Evan Nause, D, QMJHL Quebec
After swinging big on offensive talent on the first day of the Draft, the Panthers landed a falling defenseman in the second round.
Evan Nause, an 18-year-old defenseman from the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in Canada, was the No. 22 North American skater in the Draft and the No. 25 overall prospect, according to EliteProspects.com, and Florida was able to land him with the No. 56 overall pick — No. 24 in the second round.
The 6-2, 186-pound scored four goals and had 18 assists in 32 games for QMJHL Quebec last season.
“His skill as a skater lends itself exceptionally well to the breakout,” EliteProspects’ scouting report said. “Nause creates advantages for himself on every defensive zone puck retrieval, shoulder checking for options, using the environment to obstruct forecheckers, adapting his speed to the situation, and using the middle of the ice to create controlled exits.”
Round 4: Vladislav Lukashevich, D, Russsia
The Panthers doubled on defensemen to start the second and final day of the Draft, grabbing Russian defenseman Vlasislav Lukashevich with the No. 120 overall pick — No. 24 in the fourth round.
It has been a busy day for Florida, which traded a future first-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for forward Sam Reinhart and didn’t pick in the third round because of a previous trade with the Sabres, and it seems to be filling needs in the back half of the Draft. The Panthers have a wealth of young forwards, but need defensemen to complement them and Lukashevich, who was the No. 31 European skater in the Draft, has the potential to help.
The 6-2, 167-pound 18-year-old scored three goals and had 16 assists in 36 games last season in Russia’s Junior Hockey League (MHL) for Loko Yaroslavl.
“His puck moving is perhaps the best part of his game,” EliteProspects’ scouting report said. “He shows deception, an unusual patience with the puck, a desire to beat forecheckers 1-on-1 and make plays through them, and the passing ability that supports these kinds of plays.”
Round 5: Kirill Gerasimyuk, G, Russia
The Panthers traded away goaltender prospect Devon Levi as part of their trade for Reinhart, so they used the 24th pick in the fifth round to restock the position, taking Kirill Gerasimyuk with the No. 152 overall selection.
Gerasimyuk is a 17-year-old goaltender, who posted a 2.59 goals against average with a .931 save percentage in 27 games for SKA Varyagi last season in the MHL. The 6-2, 188-pound goalie was the No. 96 overall prospect in the Draft, according to EliteProspects.
Round 6: Jakub Kos, RW, Czech Republic
Five rounds after spending its first-round pick on a forward, Florida goes back to the wing in the penultimate round, grabbing Czech right wing Jakub Kos with the 24th pick in the sixth round — No. 184 overall.
Kos, 18, scored five goals and had 13 assists in 32 games last season for Ilves’ U20 team in Finland’s U20 SM-sarja. The 6-2, 187-pound forward also played for the Czech Republic in the 2021 IIHF World U18 Championships, and had a goal and an assist in five games.
Round 7: Braden Hache, D, OHL Kingston
The Panthers finished out their 2021 Draft by grabbing another defenseman. Florida took Braden Hache with the 18th pick in the seventh round — No. 210 overall — to give the Panthers a third defenseman their 2021 class. The 18-year-old plays for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, and had five assists in 29 games in the 2019-20 season. The league canceled its 2020-21 season because of COVID-19 concerns.
The 6-3, 201-pound prospect is originally from Manchester, New Hampshire, and is the son of former NHL referee Conrad Hache.