Panthers GM Bill Zito has settled into role with the 2021 NHL draft on deck

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Ahead of the 2021 NHL draft this weekend, Panthers general manager Bill Zito is planning to take the “best player available with the theme of organizational need in tandem.”

Zito added that the team most likely would not select a goaltender. With Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight being the Panthers’ goalie duo for the upcoming season, along with Sam Montembeault in the AHL, the need for a new goaltender is not a priority for the Panthers.

For the second year in a row, the NHL draft will be virtual. The Covid-19 pandemic also has caused other challenges in relation to the draft.

“Some of the leagues didn’t even play this year, so it could have a dramatic impact on some of the players who may not have been seen at all,” Zito said in a video conference call on Thursday.

Zito was named the general manager of the Panthers on Sept. 2. The 2020 draft was held Oct. 6-7, giving Zito little time to get adjusted. This time around, Zito is more prepared and comfortable.

“Last year was a crazy time,” Zito said. “I didn’t know most of the people and we were trying to cobble together a list and meet everybody and get situated. It’s a well-oiled machine at this point. I feel confident that the process now is where we need it to be for us to do the best job that we can.”

After a strong 2020-21 campaign, finishing second in the Central Division with a 37-14-5 record, Zito is on his way to having the team he wants.

“We are getting closer to the point where each player who is here wants to be here,” Zito said. “That’s an important part of the recipe that we’re trying to make. We want buy-in, we want people who want to be here, who want to be Panthers, who are proud to be Panthers, and I think you might have seen that manifest itself in the way that the team came together in the playoffs. Truly, the only way to win as a team, and generally team members want to be on that team, and we’re getting closer and closer every day.”

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