When Dale Tallon took over as general manager of the Panthers in 2010, he said he was going to rebuild the franchise through the draft.
Tallon’s first batch of draft picks continues to pay off.
Not only have all three of Florida’s first-round picks in that draft (Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden) played in the NHL, but second-round pick Alex Petrovic has as well.
Connor Brickley, the sixth player taken by Tallon that year, might be the next 2010 draftee to make it to the NHL.
“He has a chance,” Tallon said. “He had a really good rookie season, and I like what he brings to the table. He is physical and scored goals last year. He’s the kind of player we want in our organization.”
Brickley, 23, was one of three second-round picks by Tallon at the 2010 draft in Los Angeles.
Forward John McFarland was Florida’s first second-round pick of that draft at 33rd overall, followed by Petrovic (36th) and Brickley (50th).
All three have been teammates for Florida’s AHL team in San Antonio, with Brickley scoring 22 goals with 25 assists for the Rampage last season.
In four seasons at Vermont, Brickley scored a total of 21 goals.
“It was definitely fun,” Brickley said of his first professional season with San Antonio last year. “We had a great team, and I got to play with some great teammates. I worked hard and was fortunate to put some some stats. It was a good gateway coming into this season. It got me noticed.”
With the Panthers going younger this season, Brickley appears to be in a good position to grab a roster spot.
Rocco Grimaldi, Howden and Brickley are among those fighting for positions with the Panthers once training camp opens later this week.
“We have guys auditioning,” Tallon said.
At this week’s prospect tournament at Germain Arena in Estero, Brickley has been taking advantage of his early chances.
“It’s nice to have three games before training camp starts,” Brickley said Sunday. “Summer hockey is over, so it’s good to get the bumps and bruises out of the way, know what it’s like to play 60 minutes again. I’m just trying to keep things simple and play with plenty of energy, lead by example.”
In Florida’s 2-1 shootout win Saturday, Brickley tied the score at 1 late in the third period.
Brickley scored Florida’s first goal in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Nashville.
“He really came up big for us, scored the big goals for us in San Antonio,” said Tom Rowe, Florida’s coach in Estero who coached Brickley in San Antonio last season. “It’s good to see him carrying it over. He can cause a lot of havoc with his physical play and also put the puck in the back of the net.
“Rookie camp is important because these kids are trying to make it and grab Dale’s attention and the attention of [coach Gerard] Gallant. I thought Connor did a great job of doing that. These guys know it’s important and it may give them a leg up on guys who haven’t started camp yet.’’
▪ The Panthers got into early penalty trouble in Sunday’s prospect tournament game against the Predators and watched Nashville score five times in the final 40 minutes in a 5-2 victory at Germain Arena.
Florida, now 1-1 in the tournament, practiced here Monday and will play host to Tampa Bay in its tournament finale Tuesday at 2 p.m.
The Panthers were down 3-0 after the Preds scored three in the second before Brickley scored early in the third. Nashville then tagged on a pair of power play goals midway through the third to open things up.
“Nashville had a lot of skill and it showed,” Rowe said. “We had a tough time of shutting down their skill players.”