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Floridas draft recap Written by George Richards - August 20th, 2023

The Florida 2023 draft class

 

GM Walker entered the 2023 draft class the seven picks in the first two rounds including four second rounders. This doesn’t include the two fourth round selection. Walker was definitely excited for what he could do while holding picks

9/12/15.   Entering the draft there was sim rumblings in south Florida that one of the picks was possibly on the move but that didn’t come to fruition until a surprise on the draft floor.

The Florida 2023 draft class

 

GM Walker entered the 2023 draft class the seven picks in the first two rounds including four second rounders. This doesn’t include the two fourth round selection. Walker was definitely excited for what he could do while holding picks

9/12/15.   Entering the draft there was sim rumblings in south Florida that one of the picks was possibly on the move but that didn’t come to fruition until a surprise on the draft floor.

 

First pick, this is where the surprise occurred. 

Walker was certain that the initial draft target would be selected prior to pick nine and he wasn’t wrong (although he won’t confirm who the target was) but there was a small surprise at pick four with Matvei Michkov being selected over centre Will Smith. With the previous talks in place Walker was able to move quickly and secure the number seven selection for number nine and thirty six.   That abundance of second rounders has paid off and the panthers were able to select Will Smith adding to a very well stocked centre prospect lineup with previous selection from 2021, Kent Johnson.

 

No longer holding number nine the next selection was at twelve and the Panthers, with a  solid stable of young D-Men were looking to add to the prospect pool of forwards and selected 6’4” 194lb Samuel Honzek of the Vancouver Giants. 

 

samuelhonzektn.jpg

Rare is a shift where Honzek’s ability to protect the puck doesn’t appear. The 6-foot-4 winger gets and keeps defenders on his backcheck, using body positioning to create offence. But instead of just brute-forcing plays, he plays with a ton of finesse. He fakes cutbacks in one direction before going the other, turns to wait for pressure to arrive before accelerating, and combines the edges with in-motion handling to slip around defenders

 

This scouting report is is exactly the type of player Walker was looking for and leads perfectly right into the next selection at fifteen 

 

At fifteen the Panthers were happy to select Matthew Wood of the University of Connecticut.

Also standing tall like Honzek, Wood stands 6’4” and 196lb. 

 

matthewwoodtn.jpg

His wrist shot looks much better than at the start of the season. He keeps distance between his feet and his hands in front, really pulling that top arm back and moving it across his body to shoot through opponents. Can shoot off either foot and even in motion (off the inside leg). In moments, he shows chaining ability, whether that was receiving a pass, fighting off pressure, and passing for an assist or toe-dragging around a stick inside the pass reception before cutting inside for the shot.

 

This closes out the first round for Walker and the Panthers.

 

The second round saw some see saw selections going across the board and Walker confirmed the original second round draft board was obsolete by the time his second and third selections in this round occurred.  At this point Walker decided to get frisky and not holding any third round selections decided to select his top two round three draft board prospects.

 

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Aydar Suniev is a crafty playmaking-type forward. A manipulator when he grabs retrievals, it’s not uncommon to see Suniev create deception with his feet, sending players flying. He opens his hips, to make lateral pushes to the inside or slip pressure, and his puck protection ability, particularly how he shields the puck and keeps his balance, makes him a monster along the boards.

 

And 

 

yegorsidorov.jpeg

 

Endlessly creative, Sidorov evades pressure with flashy moves off either side of his blade, usually with one intention: Cutting inside for a scoring chance. A sudden release with deception build-in and a powerful one-timer adapted to the pass make him a threat to score from anywhere in the offensive zone.

 

Also drafted with the first selection was goalie Adam Gajan 

 

adamgajan.jpeg

 

Boasting a 6-foot-3 frame, Gajan complements it nicely with the strength and quickness of his pushes. Gajan’s flexibility is great and he loves to show it off. You will often see him bust into the full splits on one-timers, moving side-to-side. 

 

 

 

Walker also held two selections in the fourth round but chose to trade both to boost a derth of picks over the next couple years by adding a third in 2024 and a fifth in 2025.   

 

Overall I’d say this was a very good year for walker if simply because three selections in the top fifteen should always yield (but doesn’t guarantee) nhl talent. 

 

I’d give his draft selection overall an A- if only because Walker was reaching hard in the tail end of the second round.

 

George Richards 

The Athletic

 

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