Mack to the Future: Florida Panthers Sign QMJHL Star Mackenzie Weegar

On Thursday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced that they have signed defenseman Mackenzie Weegar to an entry-level contract. Weegar, 20, was selected in the 7th round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey.

From an OHL afterthought, to a Memorial Cup Champion, to signing his first NHL deal; Weegar’s dream of becoming an NHL defenseman is closer than ever.

After an impressive 2013-14 season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, tallying 59 points in 61 regular season games, along with 22 points in 16 playoff games, Weegar began turning heads among the CHL faithful.

Mackenzie Weegar (Natalie Shaver)

Mackenzie Weegar (Natalie Shaver)

But Weegar was turning heads in Florida long before then. Paul Gallagher, the Panthers’ Eastern Canadian scout, told Metro News after last year’s draft, “He’s got something that intrigues you as a scout. It’s also about his willingness to get better, to work at his game.” This could explain why the Panthers traded their 2014 7th round pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2013 7th round pick, which they used to select Weegar 206th overall.

Luckily for Panthers’ fans, they’ve already gotten a little taste of what Weegar could bring to the Cats blue-line after witnessing an incredible showing at the 2013 developmental rookie camp. Weegar became one of two defensemen from rookie camp (Joshua Brown was the other) to earn a shot at last year’s NHL pre-season action, earning an assist in a 3-2 victory against the Nashville Predators.

This is yet another big step in the right direction for the Panthers organization. Within the next few years, Florida could be looking at a blue-line made up of Weegar, Mike Matheson, Ian McCoshen, Joshua Brown, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, Dylan Olsen and/or possibly Aaron Ekblad, pending on this seasons draft.


We welcome your comments and feedback!

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Cincinnati Cyclones Headed To Kelly Cup Finals

Last night, the Florida Panthers/Nashville Predators ECHL affiliate, Cincinnati Cyclones were crowned the Eastern Conference Champions and are bound for the Kelly Cup Finals. In a thrilling overtime finish, which included the series clinching goal scored by Panthers prospect, Jonathan Hazen, the Cyclones were able to wrap the series up against the Greenville Road Warriors (New York Rangers affiliate) in six games. Hazen’s game winner was his sixth of the postseason and his second of the contest, earning him first star honors. Hazen has 14 points (6-8-14) in 18 games.

Panther prospect, Josh McFadden finished with 6 shots on goal and an assist on Hazen’s first goal of the night. Cyclones goaltender, Rob Madore, a darling of the 2013-14 Panthers Training Camp starred for Cincinnati stopping 28 of 30 shots on the night and finishing as the game’s second star.

Aside from the Panthers prospects in this game, there was a little more South Florida flavor involved with Rangers prospect and Coral Springs, FL native Andrew Yogan playing as the opposition. Yogan was the game’s third star and recorded a goal and an assist and finished the postseason leading his team in points with 18 points (7-11-18) in 17 games.

The Cyclones will face  the Alaska Aces (Calgary Flames) for the Kelly Cup.

Florida Panthers Coaching List Getting Slimmer

With the 2014 NHL draft less than 30 days from now, the list of candidates for the head coaching position for the Florida Panthers has grown slimmer. When this writer posted this article on April 30th, the list of potential candidates was fairly long, and the choices seemed fairly reasonable. Since that article was posted there were 13 candidates, and that list is now down to 9. And I’m not so sure that I like 50% of the names.

Barry Trotz was just hired by the Washington Capitals, with rumors that Claude Noel (never really a candidate) will come on board as an assistant. Peter Laviolette was hired earlier this month by the Nashville Predators, in hopes to revive their offensive game. Randy Carlyle was thankfully extended by the Toronto Maple Leafs. (We appreciate that very much!). Larry Robinson was named director of player development in San Jose, so he’s not going anywhere either. And finally, Ken Hitchcock was given an extension in St. Louis, which is a good thing since there aren’t nearly enough Shake Shacks in South Florida to keep him happy.

That leaves us with Guy Boucher, John Stephens, Dan Bylsma (pending new GM’s decision), Terry Murray, Ron Wilson, Marc Crawford, Jeff Blashill and Mike Keenan. Keenan just won a championship in his first season behind the bench in Russia, and he’s likely not leaving, so don’t get nervous, fans. Two other names who weren’t on that list who became available are John Tortorella, who was relieved of his duties after just one season with the Vancouver Canucks, and Kirk Muller, who was just hired by the St Louis Blues as an assistant coach.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said earlier that he’d like to hire an experienced and offensive minded coach. That almost rules out Guy Boucher, who isn’t necessarily all that experienced, and is a touch defensive minded. However he brings a no-nonsense attitude, which is something I believe this organEYEzation needs.  Hab fans were clamoring for Boucher to take over for Jacques Martin and with good reason.  Boucher does have many good qualities, and deserves another chance after a short-lived run in Tampa Bay with the Lightning.

The Panthers decision on the next coach is more important than what they do with the upcoming first round pick. Rumors are that Tallon is listening to offers, and he should, as long as it gets the team a proven NHL ready player. That said, the next coach should be the coach that is expected to take the team to the next level and not be a bridge till the youngsters grow up.

Tallon has also indicated he’d like to have John Madden stick around as an assistant, and will hopefully be able to influence the coach that he hires to do so. However, that may or may not be a condition of hiring, you’d have to think that a coach is going to want to name his own assistants.  But it’s not entirely out of the question.

The Panthers as we know need help with special teams, as last year’s roster failed miserably in both power play scoring, and penalty killing efficiency. The defense when playing 5 on 5 was below average, and the team struggled to score goals, and was consistently taking the first 20 to 25 minutes of each game to find their legs. All that said, this choice, and the person(s) who comes in will have their work cut out for them. The staff will have to be detailed, be able to motivate, and prepare a youthful roster that is expected to mix in some veteran leadership, and get this team to play a full 60 minutes.

The two names I keep hearing the most are Ron Wilson and Marc Crawford. They are both experienced, tough, and offensive minded. Although in the dressing room, Wilson can be a bit more “offensive” than Crawford, if you get my drift.

For my money, I wouldn’t mind seeing Crawford get the job with John Madden as one of the assistants. If Madden is able to stay on, I think that makes an interesting combination. Crawford has won before, and would be a respected coach. Madden is well liked, intelligent, and can help instill the work ethic needed to build a winning culture.

The answer to whom gets the job should be coming soon, and while it might be a waiting game to see what happens in Pittsburgh with Bylsma, it would be nice to know the fate of the Panthers sooner rather than later. You want your input from your coaching staff on the draft, and how you want to build your roster, and which free agents to go after that fit the coaching style.

There hasn’t been an offseason with this many important decisions that need to be made in quite some time.  Making the right one’s and not the popular one’s will move this team forward.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankRekas

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Drew Shore Dazzles Hockey World in Belarus


Drew Shore thought it was a bit odd when he received the above fortune cookie at Belarus’ lone Chinese dining establishment last night, but that didn’t stop him from fulfilling said prophecy.

Warning: The goal you are about to watch may cause heavy breathing, loss of consciousness and in the case of German defender Constnatin Braun: death.


Need a minute? Need to sit down? Need to reflect upon your existence? Go ahead, I have time.

Drew Shore ladies and gentlemen.

Despite a thrilling Stanley Cup Playoffs and obtaining the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft it’s been a long off-season for Panthers fans so let’s talk about this goal in frame by frame detail.

  • Shore bears down on Braun from the leftwing looking to the right side with his stick elongated in an attempt to lure the defender to play the pass.
  • Braun bites as he has no chance as Shore dips his shoulder and brings the puck between his legs, past a helpless Braun, to his backhand. (note how Braun doesn’t even have time to get his stick in position. He tries to interrupt Shore’s deke with an outstretched knee)
  • Shore then drives the net as German goalie Danny aus den Birken prepares for a poke check.
  • Shore reads it all the way by switching to his forehand, evading the pokecheck, and sliding the puck 5 hole.
  • Shore scores a really, really, really nice goal.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I look forward to Shore performing feats like that in Sunrise.

Credit to @myregularface for the GIF

Nick Bjugstad Finishes Rookie Season With Top Marks on The Ice And in The Classroom

As several of his teammates head east to Minsk, Belarus, and this year’s IIHF World Championships, Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad will instead travel west to his home state of Minnesota.

Originally thought to be a shoe-in for Team USA’s World Championships roster, Bjugstad’s suspicious snub actually makes sense when you realize that the competition conflicts with possibly an even greater event in his life – his college graduation.

Unbeknownst to many, Bjugstad spent the second half of the 2013-14 season not only being graded on his face-off percentage and point total, but also his work in the classroom as he pushed to earn the final credits he needed to obtain a degree in Business Marketing from the University of Minnesota.

“All done,” Bjugstad said after practice on April 2 with his final course completed – a five-week economics class. “I should be able to walk in May with my class, so that’ll be kinda cool. I was pretty excited to get that done.”

Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Bjugstad (Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

A first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Bjugstad played for three years at the University of Minnesota before forgoing his senior season and making his NHL debut for the Panthers on April 6, 2013.

However, at just 21 years old and only just beginning his promising young career in the NHL, Bjugstad admits that he hasn’t fully moved on from his college lifestyle.

“I still kinda live like a college kid anyways,” Bjugstad said. “Taking the classes and still talking to all my college buddies. I moved on a little bit from school since you obviously don’t have to go to class, but online work, you have to have some self motivation to do that.”

[Read more...]

Panther Parkway Radio: Coaching Situation, NHL Draft, Prospects, Free Agency!

Tune in to tonight’s show where we discuss the biggest NHL and Florida Panthers news of the week!

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests: Dave Lasseter, Jameson Cooper, and Mike Lewis (no relation to Paige Lewis)


  • Randy Carlyle given 2-year extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Phew!
  • Coaching options for the Panthers
  • Upset about Peter Laviolette going to the Preds?
  • Rocco Grimaldi signed!
  • Shayne Taker too!
  • Draft day scenarios
  • Free Agency!

New Episode Here

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway


Rocco Grimaldi Agrees To Entry-Level Contract With Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers smallest prospect took a big leap on Wednesday as Florida Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced that the club has agreed to an entry-level contract with 5-foot-6 F Rocco Grimaldi.

“We are very pleased to have reached a contract agreement with Rocco,” said Tallon in the team’s official press release. “He is a hard working forward who possesses speed along with great vision on the ice. We look forward to his continued growth and development within our organization.”

Rocco Grimaldi (Natalie Shaver)

Rocco Grimaldi (Natalie Shaver)

Selected in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Grimaldi, 21, caught the eyes of Panthers scouts with his blazing end-to-end speed and ability to play beyond his size. After two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team, Grimaldi committed to the University of North Dakota and competed as a freshman for UND during the 2012–13 season.

In the midst of his freshman season, Grimaldi and fellow Panther prospect Vincent Trocheck were selected to represent the United States at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. Although Grimaldi started off the tournament shaky and never even saw the ice during USA’s game vs. Slovakia, he was able to progress and get better every game as the tournament went on.

Grimaldi’s speed was on full display in the later rounds of the tournament as he was able to break into the offensive zone with powerful bursts. Throughout the tournament Grimaldi compiled 4 points (2-2-4) and had a key assist on Jake McCabe’s game winning goal over Canada. Grimaldi’s shining moment came in the gold medal game when he took home MVP honors after scoring two goals in USA’s 3-1 win over Sweden.

Upon his return from Russia, Grimaldi would finish his freshman season at UND third in team scoring with 36 (13-23-36) points. For his efforts, Grimaldi was selected to the ALL-WCHA Rookie Team.

[Read more...]


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