1. Michael Frolik, C, 19
Acquired: Entry Draft 1st round, 10th overall, 2006
The current crown jewel of the Panthers system, Frolik had a late start to the 2006-07 season because of chronic shoulder trouble. Once he did get on the ice, however, he answered those who doubted him in his draft year. In total, he put up 31 goals and 42 assists in 52 games for Rimouski Oceanic and made the Quebec league’s All-Rookie Team. He also represented the Czech Republic in the World Junior Championships and garnered four goals and six points in six games. Rimouski failed to make the playoffs, but with a healthy Frolik in the fold this year, that may not be repeated.
The young Czech, who can play any position up front, gained nine pounds during the year and now comes in at 6’1 194 pounds. There is little doubt that he has the wheels to play the pro game along with the offensive skill. He will, like all young players, have to learn more how to play without the puck and fill out in order to see a career in the NHL.
2. (1) Noah Welch, D, 24
Acquired: Trade with Pittsburgh 2007 (2nd round, 54th overall, 2001)
Welch, acquired in the Gary Roberts deal, should step into a permanent role on the Panthers blueline this fall. After a 22-game stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins prior to the trade, he was demoted to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the rest of his time with the Pens. There he put up totals of five goals and 21 points in 27 games while going +8. Once he entered the Florida organization, he played 11 games with their AHL affiliate in Rochester garnering two goals, four assists and was +4. He was promoted for the last two games of the NHL season during which he tallied one goal, went +3 and played 35 total minutes.
Welch is a prototypical two-way defenseman. At 6’4 and 218 pounds, he can hit, shoot, pass, cover and skate. The only thing that works against him is his age as he will be 25 by the time the season starts.
3. (NR) Keaton Ellerby, D, 18
Acquired: Entry Draft 1st round, 10th overall, 2007
Florida’s first pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, Ellerby counted two goals and 25 points on the season checking in with a –2 plus/minus. This was up from eight points the previous year. The Okotoks, Alberta native also had 120 penalty minutes, with more than a few of those being of the fisticuff variety as he has never been shy about dropping the gloves.
Currently 6’4 and 186 pounds, Ellerby projects to be a rough and tumble stay-at-home blueliner. He has the skating and hitting and is developing his passing and shooting though it is unlikely he will ever have high offensive statistics at the pro level. But while all the tools are there, he needs to think the game better if he is to progress to the NHL.
4. (3) Kenndal McArdle, LW, 20
Acquired: Entry Draft 1st round, 20th overall, 2005
The left winger got off to a decent start with Moose Jaw with 20 points in 26 games but a mid-season trade that saw him go to a much deeper Vancouver team came with a drop in numbers as he only counted 22 points in the remaining 37 games. The subsequent total of 44 points in 59 games was down from his two previous years in which he was at or very near a point a game. McArdle also saw minimal ice time during the WJC’s and that also didn’t help his cause. However, the WHL playoffs were a different story. Here the point-a-game McArdle of old finally showed up and the winger tallied 11 goals and 20 points in 22 games with a +14 plus/minus to go with it. The Memorial Cup saw him add two goals and two assists in five games.
At 5’11 195-pound McArdle will likely be a third line disturber in the Darcy Tucker mold. It remains to be seen as to whether he will score as much as Tucker has at the pro level.
5. (NR) Michal Repik, RW, 18
Acquired: Entry Draft 2nd round, 40th overall, 2007
Repik, like McArdle a winger for the Memorial Cup winning Vancouver Giants, was nearly a point a game in his draft year putting up 55 in 56 matches, a significant improvement over the year before when he totaled 52 in 69. However, like McArdle it was the playoffs and Memorial Cup where Repik shone the most. During the club’s run through the WHL playoffs, the Czech tallied 26 points in 22 games leading all WHL players in scoring, along with a +14 in plus/minus. The only black mark on his year was the WJC’s where he was held pointless with limited ice time in six games.
Standing 5’11 and weighing 184 pounds, Repik has drawn comparisons to Milan Hejduk in terms of style. Although he is off to a promising start, putting up pro totals like the Avalanche winger is a story yet to be told.