The Florida Panthers will have an exciting young face in training camp for next season, as Grigori Denisenko has officially signed his three-year entry-level contract. The Russian star will not burn a year of it in 2019-20 as the deal starts in the 2021-22 season. Panthers GM Dale Tallon released a short statement on his newest prospect:
We are thrilled to officially sign Grigori to an entry-level deal for the upcoming 2020-21 season. He is a highly skilled and hard-working young player who has a bright future in our organization. Although he will be ineligible to play games for us during the 2020 postseason, we look forward to having him challenge for a position on the Panthers roster next season.
Selected 15th overall in 2018, Panthers fans have patiently waited for the day Denisenko would pull on a Florida sweater. The 20-year old forward has played the last two seasons in the KHL putting up modest offensive numbers, but excelled when facing age-appropriate competition at the World Juniors. Denisenko captained the Russian unit earlier this year that won silver, scoring nine points in seven games in the process.
While stepping directly into the NHL is difficult for any young player, there are a lot of aspects in Denisenko’s game that suggest he may find success. First and most obvious is his playmaking ability, carrying the puck through traffic to spot-and-dot teammates in the clear. He loves to draw in defenders before releasing the puck to a more dangerous option or beating them clean with his excellent puck skills. Still, it is his work ethic that may surprise some and earn himself a longer look at Panthers camp. Denisenko never gives up on a play and has shown a willingness to engage physically to retrieve pucks.
The Panthers have quite the impressive young forward group coming through the system, with names like Henrik Borgstrom and Owen Tippett leading the way. Denisenko should be considered a big part of that wave which could be an answer for the club moving forward. Florida has three key forwards scheduled for unrestricted free agency in the offseason: Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov and Erik Haula. With the salary cap ceiling not moving and other expensive contracts on the roster, young players like Denisenko could be an answer for Joel Quenneville next season.