Samoskevich without rushing developed with Panthers

Samoskevich without rushing developed with Panthers

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Mackie Samoskevich fit right in as a freshman on the star-studded University of Michigan team last season, but the prospect of Florida Panthers looking for a bigger role on his way to the NHL.

Samoskevich was the eighth leading scorer with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 40 games for Michigan, which advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four before losing 3-2 in overtime to the eventual champion, the University of Denver .

Selection No. 24 by Florida in the 2021 NHL Draft, Samoskevich was one of five Michigan players selected in the first round that year, the other four being defensemen John Power (No. 1, Buffalo Sabres), on Matty Beniers (No. 2, Seattle Kraken), defender Luke Hughes (No. 4, New Jersey Devils) and on Kent Johnson (No. 5, Columbus Blue Jackets).

Samoskevich and Hughes are the only two of the five who have yet to sign an entry-level NHL contract, allowing them to be leaders and key players for Michigan this season.

“I’m excited,” Samoskevich said. “I got it [take on a bigger role] a little bit with the boys leaving for the Olympics (2022 Beijing) last year (Power and Johnson played for Canada; Beniers and forward Brendan Brisson played for the United States), so we got a little taste of that for sure. And then I think it will be a very good team as well. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for sure.”

It remains to be seen how long Samosskevich will stay in Michigan before turning pro, but he likes the Panthers’ trajectory.

“He’s going to be a special player, in my opinion,” said Gregory Campbell, the Panthers vice president of player personnel and development. “And I’m not alone in that thought. He was sheltered a little bit this year because they had such a strong team in Michigan, so I think this year, he will excel even more.

“We’re happy that he went through that and now he’s going to have a chance to be the leader of his team coming up this season. I think he’s a guy who’s not too far away from playing in the NHL.”

While Campbell mentioned it was important for the Panthers not to rush Samoskevich, he praised his skating and said his shot is already at the NHL level.

Samoskevich (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) said he feels his skating is the best part of his game.

“I think as I move my feet and play with forward speed, [I’m] hard to play against,” he said. “I think he’s definitely ready (for the NHL). And one thing I could do better [at] probably playing by touch. There’s a lot of big guys in the NHL, so if you can play through that and be comfortable with that, I think that’s a huge thing to adapt to and improve on for sure.”

Samoskevich, who turns 20 on Nov. 15, came to Michigan after playing three seasons with Chicago of the United States Hockey League.

He said he was unable to watch the Panthers live last season when they played against the Red Wings in Detroit, although he caught several of their games on television. The Panthers had the best regular season in their history (58-18-6, 122 points), and won the Presidents Trophy for the best record in the NHL.

“It’s such a fun team to watch,” Samosskevich said. “So it kind of makes you want to be out there with them even more. And hopefully one day it will happen.”

As for when that day will come, Samoskevich wasn’t ready to predict that.

“Yes, I hope so, whenever I’m ready,” he said. “When I get to the League, I want to make an impact [player] Now. So, whenever I’m ready to do that, I think that’s what I’ll do. If that’s next year, whatever it is, that’s it, I’ll do it.”

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