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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Howden fighting for NHL job

Has outside shot at cracking Panthers' lineup

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CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- For Panthers highly touted prospect Quinton Howden, it was literally painful to sit out this week's development camp because of a boil in a sensitive area.

Howden realizes that he and more definitively, last year's third overall draft pick, forward Jonathan Huberdeau, are the two front-running prospects for roster spots on the offensively challenged Panthers when training camp breaks in late September.

Howden, 20, also knows that there is so much competition for those precious openings and not being able to make favorable impressions on General Manager Dale Tallon and the coaching staff this week means he has some catching up to do.

"You come here, you want to play, right?" Howden asked rhetorically Friday after the final scrimmage of the four-day camp. "Obviously, I have the confidence and want to be here, but I'm not going to set a timetable. I'd like to be able to motivate myself that I want to be here as soon as possible."

Most of the prospects will be going home to train before returning either to juniors, college, the AHL or Europe to continue their hockey education.

"We're getting deeper and deeper. Every year it gets better and better; the competition level is fierce and it's an exciting time for our franchise," Tallon said.

Howden, the 25th overall pick in 2010, sat out most of last summer's training camp and exhibition games when a neck injury evolved into a concussion. Another mild concussion sustained while practising for Team Canada at the world juniors in mid-December delayed his progress, but he finished strong with 30 goals and 35 assists in 52 games for Moose Jaw of the OHL.

He then joined the San Antonio Rampage, Florida's AHL affiliate, during their abbreviated playoff run where he finished with a minus-1 and no points in four games.

"I really needed to get my feet wet," said Howden, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder from Oakbank. "These guys can really toss you around and everything happens so much quicker. I learned a lot."

Howden is probably destined to start in San Antonio, however, Panthers director of scouting Scott Luce believes that he has the intangibles to start earning some of his $900,000 per season entry-level booty.

"His skating ability gives him a chance right off the bat," Luce said. "It's a matter of how quick he adjusts to the pace of the game at the NHL level.

"His speed creates offense and separation on the puck. He's strong on the forecheck and he's dangerous in transition. That's his one asset that will get him there sooner rather than later."

-- Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2012 C2

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