The Florida Panthers have inked one of the top undrafted college free agents, signing Matt Kiersted to a two-year entry-level contract. Kiersted has spent the last four years at the University of North Dakota, becoming one of the most effective two-way defensemen in the country. Panthers GM Bill Zito released this statement on his newest player:
Matt is an exciting defenseman who plays the game with great speed and vision. His steady progression and development from an undrafted player to one of the NCAA’s top defensemen is a display of his resiliency and motivation to succeed. We are pleased to have agreed to a contract with Matt and look forward to his future with our organization.
Still just 22, Kiersted is joining the Panthers organization after recording 22 points in 29 games as a senior for UND. He wore an “A” as an alternate captain and was named to the NCHC First All-Star Team at the end of the year. Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked Kiersted as the best undrafted free agent available from the college ranks, noting his very high hockey IQ and projecting him as a third-pairing defenseman in the NHL.
Like with any college free agent, there are warts in Kiersted’s game, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a valuable addition to the Panthers. Bringing in an NHL-ready defenseman for nothing more than an entry-level contract is always a win. Now it’s up to the young defenseman to prove he’s more than just that depth option and continue his development in an organization where everything is suddenly going right.
Nice pickup. Zito has done some great work since taking over.