There isn’t much immediate help available to an NHL team on the second day of the draft. But the Panthers might have found one way, swapping picks and NHL defensemen with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday morning at First Niagara Center.
Florida acquired puck-moving defenseman Mark Pysyk and two picks from Buffalo in exchange for Dmitry Kulikov and the 33rd overall selection. Pysyk, 24, played 55 games for the Sabres last season and projects as a potential top-four defenseman, general manager Tom Rowe said.
“It’s not an easy decision when you’re trading a guy like ‘Kuli’ away,” Rowe said. “Part of it was cap management going into next year. And then we really wanted to get a right-shot defenseman, and Mark Pysyk was a guy we targeted a long time ago. We watched him quite a bit through the last couple of seasons.
“We just felt that we picked up [Keith] Yandle on the left side with a left shot, so we wanted to find a guy who had potential to be a top-four ‘D.’ He might not be a top-four ‘D’ this year, but we think he can be in a couple years. And the fact that he’s a right shot, he’s a very composed player, very smart player, we thought he was a real good fit for the guys we have on the back end.”
Pysyk is viewed favorably by advanced stats but never seem to mesh with Buffalo’s management. Pysyk led the Sabres in relative Corsi percentage last season, meaning the team averaged a better ratio of shot attempts for than shot attempts against with him on the ice than any other player. Florida also received Buffalo’s 38th and 94th overall sections in the deal.
The Panthers drafted three forwards and three defensemen Saturday in Rounds 2 through 7 of the draft:
▪ 38th: Left wing Adam Mascherin, Kitchner Rangers (OHL);
▪ 89th: Defenseman Linus Nassen, Sweden;
▪ 94th: Center Jonathan Ang, Peterborough Petes (OHL);
▪ 114th: Defenseman Riley Stillman, Oshawa Generals (OHL);
▪ 175th: Winger Maxim Mamin, CSKA Moscow (KHL);
▪ 195th: Defenseman Benjamin Finkelstein, Kimball Union Academy (U.S. Prep)
“We felt the way [coach] Gerard [Gallant] likes to play — an up-tempo game and get the puck up ice — we felt we needed to get a little more speed, a little more skill [on defense],” Rowe said. “Center, same thing, we wanted to get a couple shooters. That’s why we got the Mascherin kid. We were very, very excited that we got him. He’s a pure shooter. In development camp, a lot of people will see how good he shoots the puck.”
Mascherin scored 35 goals and had 46 assists in the Ontario Hockey League last season. NHL Central Scouting rated him 42nd among North American skaters.
“I think my offensive instincts are strong,” Mascherin said. “I like to score goals. That’s my big thing. I also have a playmaking side to me, and I’m a hard worker.”
Ang was born in Markham, Ontario, but his parents emigrated from Malaysia. He could become the first NHL player of Malaysian heritage.
“I’m not the biggest guy out there, so I use my speed to my advantage, and I’m a playmaker,” Ang said.
Stillman played for the Jr. Panthers growing up and is the son of Cory Stillman, who played for the Panthers until 2011.
Also Saturday, Parkland’s Andrew Peeke went 34th overall to Columbus, making him the second-highest South Florida native drafted. Boca Raton’s Jakob Chychrun went 16th to Arizona on Friday.
After sending next year’s seventh-round pick to Boston to acquire No. 195, Florida has five draft picks remaining for the 2017 draft: Their own picks in Rounds 1 through 3, their own fifth and a conditional sixth-rounder from Anaheim that could become a fourth.