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Florida Panthers stock up on young talent, resist big deal

Although no one officially keeps track of these sort of these things, it is thought that the NHL zipped through the second day of its draft on Saturday in record time.

It only took about 2 1/2 hours to get through six rounds at the Consol Center, as teams sent up pick after pick in rapid procession. The day would have gone by even a little faster had it not been for the Panthers.

Florida, which ended up taking four players on the second day, had to ask for more time during a selection. The Panthers called a timeout — drawing boos from the crowd and wise cracks from the media on Twitter — during the fourth round.

It wasn’t that Florida’s brain trust was indecisive. The player it wanted to take wasn’t in the NHL central registry. Once Alexander Delnov was inserted and deemed draft-eligible, the Panthers took him with the 114th overall pick.

“We had to make sure he was in the system, so there was some confusion there,” general manager Dale Tallon said. “We wanted to make sure we did everything legally correct.”

Florida, which had made major deals at the previous six drafts, wasn’t able to do much of anything here. The Panthers made one minor trade, swapping seventh round picks with Dallas. And that was it — although not for a lack of trying.

“I love the action,” Tallon said with a grin, “but there wasn’t any. Sometimes you’re hitting the drives and sometimes you’re the one being hit. This year was just one of those years. We have a lot of prospects. We made some good picks. We’re satisfied. We got some size, some speed and some grit.”

The Panthers didn’t have a second-round pick, as it was handed off to Tampa Bay (via Philadelphia) as part of last July’s trade for Kris Versteeg.

So Florida’s first pick of the day was center Steven Hodges of the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals at No. 84. Director of amateur scouting Scott Luce said Hodges is a mid-sized forward with some skill to his game.

“He’s a competitive guy who is going to score,” Luce said.

In total, Florida added five players — three forwards and two defensemen.

By drafting so low in each round (Florida had the 23rd pick in each of the four rounds it had selections in, not counting the Dallas pick) the Panthers became a little creative. Delnov is a player the Panthers knew from Russian scout Vadim Podrezov.

Florida expects Delnov to play in the Canadian junior leagues this coming season.

“That was a wild-card pick, but he was a top-5, top-10 forward at the under-18 tournament in April,” Luce said. “He plays for the club team who our Russian scout works. We know this kid inside and out. He wants to come to North America to play, and he was a player we valued. We sort of had an inside track.”

McCabe, who retired after not playing last season, helped Tallon during the trade deadline and was seen around the Panthers for a good part of the season. “He wants to learn the business,” Tallon said. “And I think it’s great.”

McCabe will help fellow former captain Brian Skrudland work with Florida’s young talent on both the junior and minor-league levels. McCabe basically replaces former teammate Cory Stillman, who recently left for Carolina.

“This is an opportunity to work with the kids,” McCabe said. “I’m still relevant a little bit in which the kids know who I am. They saw me play. I think I can help out and groom these kids.”

Said Skrudland: “I’m thrilled. We have a forward in development in myself and Bryan’s a defenseman, so we have things covered. He’s fresh out of the game just like Cory was. Bryan has the hands-on, where he just packed it in. He’s a great addition.”

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