Last season Richard Panik thrived in his role of being a cheap, depth winger who could move up and down the lineup as required. This season that role is a bit more competitive as that seems to be the only type of player the Leafs have acquired over the past three months.
As a player that arrived on the Leafs doorstep via waivers last season, it’s likely that Panik understands the importance of putting together a strong showing in training camp, and while he’s unlikely to be anything other than a Leaf when the season starts, I’m sure he’d prefer not begin they year on the fourth line or in the press box.
Like many players before him, Richard Panik arrived at a pro career via strong World Junior performances. The native of Slovakia had strong numbers in the Slovak U18 and Czech U20 Leagues before struggling in a depth role on Trinec of the Czech Elite League. Given the need for more exposure to perspective NHL teams, Panik took his talents to the OHL, where he was never a point per game player, with the exception of the World Junior tournament. Panik put up 15 goals in 19 games averaging 1.16 ppg.
That accompanied by the fact that he was now a 2nd round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning made Panik seem to be a top prospect, though his offense struggled to translate from the AHL to the NHL. Given the strength of the Lightning’s roster last season, Panik became expendable and he was waived and claimed by Toronto.
A strong start to last season made Panik worth bringing back and at $925k he’s a low risk as you can possibly get.
Through 151 NHL games, Panik has .26 ppg, but averaging just under 12 minutes a night. Despite having career high totals, Panik saw his ppg drop to .14, though in games where he played more than 12 minutes a night, he was around .30 ppg.
Looking at Panik’s 5 game rolling average of CF% significant improvement was shown, albeit it was someone in line with what was experienced by most of the roster under Peter Horachek. Relative to his teammates Panik was at 1.4%, with ZSRel of 2.9%.
Panik began the year quite sheltered, but after the departure of Winnik and Santorelli, Richard proved his was up to the task of some harder minutes and although he didn’t excel, he at least established himself as a worthwhile option on what was and appears to be again, very bad hockey team.
As a 24 year old, turning 25 in February, this is probably around the level we can expect Panik to be at for his peak years, meaning pretty replaceable depth. Though as affordable, young depth Panik definitely has his place on a roster for now.
What to Expect in 2015-16
What can reasonably be expected is something along the lines of what Panik gave the Leafs last season, but probably with fewer goals and a few more assists given his rather high shooting percentage to start the year last season.
Panik’s role is probably going to be determined by what becomes of the pro try out players and ultimately where Michael Grabner lands in the lineup as well. As it sits there’s little reason to believe that Panik will be in the top six and fighting for a third line role seems like an uphill battle for him. Reality is when times are good for Panik, he’ll be a ten minute a night fourth liner that you don’t mind playing more if there’s been an in game injury or ejection. He’s someone who can be moved up in the lineup if there’s an injury, so you’re not recalling a Marlie and putting them in an unsheltered situation.
If the season goes rocky for Panik, you don’t worry about rotating him through the press box, but given what Panik was able to accomplish with the 2014-15 Leafs, it’s reasonable to assume it will rarely come to that or worse.
A good season out of Panik means the Leafs either have a cheap, moveable asset at the deadline or a young-ish winger who can develop with the Leafs. A bad season out of Panik means the Marlies either have a solid AHL scorer, or Panik leaves the Leafs the same way he arrived. When it comes to the Leafs line up there are few players I worry less about from an asset management standpoint than Panik.
- Represented Slovakia at the U-18s
- Represented Slovakia at the World Juniors
- Represented Slovakia at the World Hockey Championships
- Represented Slovakia at the Olympics
- Won the 2012 Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals
- Voted most likely to be the roommate of Martin Marincin on road trips