The Florida Panthers announced that they have signed defenseman Thomas Schemitsch to an entry-level contract. The 19-year-old blue liner has been assigned to the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL, and gives the Panthers some depth and upside at the minor league level. The deal carries a $717.5K cap hit, with bonuses bringing the annual value to the $925K maximum for entry-level contracts and is for the maximum three years as well.
A 2015 third-round pick, Schemitsch is a physical player at 6’4″ and over 200 pounds, but also brings a layer of finesse to his game. While his size is key, Schemitsch is actually a very capable offensive defenseman. With above average skating ability, vision, and play-making ability for a player of his stature, Schemitsch has flown up the Panthers prospect depth chart. After putting up 49 points for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack in his draft year, he had another 31 points in 2o15-16. With size, strength, and raw talent, Florida’s decision to bring him to the pro level early is one that will enable him to work with the Panther’s coaches in Springfield to further develop Schemitch’s defensive awareness and checking ability.
After trading defenseman Jonathan Racine today as well, Florida essentially replaces him with a similar-sized, but younger and much more well-rounded prospect in Schemitsch. While the top of the defensive depth chart in Florida is very strong, the bottom is hardly set in stone for the entirety of 2016-17 and beyond. Schemitsch joins a growing list of capable defensemen in Springfield, such as Jakub Kindl and Ian McCoshen, who will keep the pressure on the likes of Mark Pysyk and Steven Kampfer for a big-league role this year.