Time To Panik?
At the very least, Panik fills an immediate void for the blue and white. The team is quite short on right wing at the moment, and could get even shorter if they lose confidence in Brandon Kozun or, more likely, Matt Frattin. David Booth is still weeks from returning, and the Leafs could use a player who will make the fourth “suddenly able to play hockey” line a bit more capable of eating minutes.
The Martin, Slovakia native was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round of the 2009 Entry Draft, and as such, is 23 years old. At 6’2, 212 pounds, Panik has a relatively imposing frame that is attached to solid speed and offensive skill.
Last year was his second in the National Hockey League, and you could definitely consider it a slump year. After scoring nine points in 25 games (at a rate of 1.63 5v5 points per 60 minutes), Panik only contributed thirteen in fifty with heightened responsibility. Panik also went from one of Tampa’s best relative possession forwards (7th of 18) to one of their worst (16th of 20). Confusingly, this all happened with him receiving more beneficial zone starts this year (52.4 vs 38.9), though the fact that his line shot at just 5.56% with him on the ice this year didn’t help things.
Panik spent his rookie year with a cocktail of many different Tampa Bay forwards, but primarily with Alex Killorn and Tommy Pyatt. Last year, he played with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.
Beyond the NHL, Panik has scored 44 goals and 50 assists in 133 AHL games split with Tampa Bay Affiliates Norfolk and Springfield. He’s also represented Slovakia twice at the Under 18s (2007, 2008), three times at the World Juniors (2009, 2010, 2011), twice at the World Championships (2010, 2014), and at the Sochi Olympic Games (no points in 4 GP).
The Leafs are likely banking on a sophomore slump being the cause of his issues last season. Beyond that, it’s a free wallet, and he can easily be re-waived or traded if it doesn’t work out.
In Other News
Troy Bodie and Josh Leivo have been assigned to the Toronto Marlies, both to make room for Panik, and to shore up their AHL affiliate in time for their opening weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Bodie had previously cleared waivers before the assignment, and Leivo didn’t require it.
Neither of these moves are entirely surprising. Bodie was a player I expected them to keep as a thirteenth forward, but they had already initiated the process. Leivo looked very unimpressive after his first preseason game, and lost the spot he had gift-wrapped to him when Kozun broke out towards the end of camp.