CHICAGO A few minutes after the Panthers selected right wing Owen Tippett with the 10th pick in the NHL Draft on Friday night, Tippett talked about the moment general manager Dale Tallon said his name at the United Center podium.
“I’ve dreamed of being in the National Hockey League since I was a little kid,” said Tippett, 18, who hails from Peterborough, Ontario. “It’s a dream come true.”
Tippett, who said he was joined by his mom, sister, grandparents and close family friends, said that he had seen Tallon earlier in the evening and sensed good things were coming.
“He said he saw me a while ago and knew that I was his guy,” Tippett said. “To hear that from someone like him, there are no words to describe that.”
Tippett tallied 44 goals and had 75 points in 60 regular-season games for the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League and then added 19 points in the playoffs.
“We have targeted this player for a while,” Tallon said. “He is what we needed in our depth chart. A shooter because we have a lot of passers and playmakers. I’m glad we were able to get him.”
Tallon announced Tippett’s pick at the United Center after receiving a resounding cheer from the Chicago crowd, paying tribute to the man who was a player and broadcaster for the Blackhawks before moving into the team’s front office, where he laid the foundation of the group that won three Stanley Cups between 2010 and 2015.
“Right back at you,” Tallon responded.
“That was pretty special,” Tallon said afterward.
He then took a breath and added, “I really enjoyed that.”
As for what he sees in his draft choice, Tallon labeled Tippett as a “smart player,” one of many offensive attributes.
“He has good skills in tight. He has got an inate ability to find open holes; he is a shooter. So that is what we need,” Tallon said. “He has that ability to no look and still shoot it and surprise goaltenders. That is something we haven’t had for a while. We have a lot of passers who will get him the puck.”
Tallon did not rule out Tippett making the Panthers roster next season.
“We’re building a team that is going to be around for a long time, and we will give him every opportunity to play this year,” Tallon said.
Tippett, at 6-2, 203 pounds, noted he has been working on developing his body on and off the ice.
“I wanted to be ready to play against those stronger guys,” he said.
Tippett said he has never been to Florida before but is eager to make that first trip.
“You hear multiple things from people that go down there, so I’m excited to see it all for myself,” he said.
That day will come next week when he reports for prospect camp.
Tippett seemed to express relief that the process was over and now the “real work,” as described to him by his cousin, Mitchell Stephens, who plays in the Tampa Bay organization, is about to begin.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Tippett said of the days leading up to the draft. “It is something you go through only once, but I am happy that I know where I am now. The anxiousness is gone, but I am excited to get to Florida and get things started with the organization.”
CATS HIRE CAPUANO AS ASSOCIATE COACH
Just over a year removed from knocking the Panthers out of the playoffs, Jack Capuano is headed south. The former coach of the New York Islanders officially joined Bob Boughner’s staff as an associate coach.
“My familiarity with the Panthers has grown a lot throughout the past few years,” Capuano said in a statement, “and I’m eager to work with such a young, talented group of players.”
In an odd twist, both Capuano and Gerard Gallant were fired last season after getting their teams to the playoffs. Capuano was also a finalist for the Vegas Golden Knights coaching job which went to Gallant last month.
Capuano, 50, will work with Florida’s defensemen and penalty kill.
In 1995, Capuano started his coaching career in Tallahassee with the Tiger Sharks of the ECHL. Capuano took over as head coach of the Islanders in 2010.
“It is going to give us a great coaching staff with depth throughout,” Tallon said. “[Capuano] has head coaching experience with a winning record, and he and [Boughner] are hitting it off together. It is going to be a great team, and I am really excited about working with them.”
In parts of seven seasons, Capuano went 227-192-64 and advanced to the playoffs three times. The Islanders’ win over the Panthers was New York’s first playoff series victory since 1993.