Hockey Notebook: Jacksonville Inks First Goaltender; NHL’s Panthers Observing Anniversary

By Mike Bonts, Florida Sports Wire

JACKSONVILLE  – The Jacksonville Icemen, ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and the AHL’s Rochester Americans announced that the team has agreed to terms with goaltender Matt Vernon for the 2023-24 season. Earlier this month the Icemen agreed to terms with defensemen Connor Russell and Victor Hadfield.

Vernon, 25, joins the Icemen after beginning his professional career this past spring with the Reading Royals (ECHL). The 5-11, 175-pound netminder went 0-1-1 with a 2.40 goals-against average and a 0.904 save percentage in his two outings with the Royals.

Prior to Reading, Vernon played at Colorado College where he totaled 19 wins, with five shutouts, a 3.02 goals-against average and 0.901 save percentage. The Calgary, Alberta resident also played two seasons with the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings where he compiled 57 wins, including a 40-win season with seven shutouts during the 2018-19 year.

Vernon is the son of longtime NHL goaltender Mike Vernon who won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, while also being named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player of the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Russell, 27, returns to the Icemen where he logged an assist in 16 games last season. In addition, Russell also made eight appearances with the South Carolina Stingrays and spent time with the SPHL’s Huntsville Havoc. The 6-2, 200-pound blue liner has totaled six points in 63 career ECHL contests split between the Icemen, Stingrays, Iowa Heartlanders and Greenville Swamp Rabbits from 2021-2023. The Guelph, Ontario resident totaled 11 points in three collegiate seasons at the University of Ottawa and Brock University (OUAA).

Hadfield, 22, returns for a third season in Jacksonville after posting 14 points (7g, 7a) in 44 appearances split between playing defense and forward. The versatile 6-0, 179-pound defenseman has totaled 24 points (9g, 15a) in his first two professional seasons in stints with the Icemen and South Carolina (ECHL).

During the 2020-21 season, Hadfield made four AHL appearances with the Manitoba Moose. The Oakville, Ontario resident registered 26 points (8g, 18a) in 46 games during his final season with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Barrie Colts in 2019-20. Hadfield is the grandson of former NHL standout Vic Hadfield, who amassed 712 career points in 1002 NHL games split between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Russell and Hadfield join fellow defensemen Julian Kislin and Jacob Panetta along with forwards Matheson Iacopelli, Chris Grando, Brendan Harris and Derek Lodermeier and Vernon as players who have agreed to terms.

Around the ECHL

The Greenville Swamp Rabbits have re-signed defenseman LA Grissom to an ECHL contract for the 2023-24 season. Grissom, 27, returns to the Swamp Rabbits for a second season after being acquired by Greenville on January 10, 2023 in a trade with the Allen Americans. Following the trade the left-shot defenseman made 20 appearances and posted a goal and an assist for the Navy and Orange. Prior to joining Greenville, Grissom spent 28 games with the Americans, posting two (2) goals and an assist.

The club also signed forward Jake Smith. Smith, 26, joins the Swamp Rabbits after spending a majority of the 2022-23 season with the Florida Everblades, where the winger appeared in 45 games for Greenville’s rival, amassing 32 points (18g, 14a) over that span. Before his time with the Everblades, Smith spent 14 games with the Iowa Heartlanders (5) and the Norfolk Admirals (9), totaling nine points (4g, 5a) between the two teams.

The Ontario Reign, American Hockey League affiliate of the Swamp Rabbits have re-signed defensemen Tyler Inamoto and forward Nikita Pavlychev to one-year, two-way contracts. Inamoto, 24, returns to the Reign after spending 36 games with the Swamp Rabbits during the 2022-23 season. During his stint in Greenville, the former seventh-round pick by the Florida Panthers recorded eight (8) points (3g, 5a) in his rookie campaign. Along with his time in Greenville, the Barrington, Illinois native made seven (7) appearances for the Reign, recording his first career point , an assist, against the Abbotsford Canucks on April 8.

Pavlychev, 26, spent a majority of last season in Greenville, racking up 45 points (25g, 20a) in just 36 games with the team. In two seasons with the Navy and Orange, The Yaroslavl, Russia native appeared in 74 games and totaled 78 points (39g, 39a). Despite his 36 appearances in during the 2022-23 season, Pavlychev finished fourth on the Swamp Rabbits in total scoring and second in goals.

The Atlanta Gladiators have acquired and signed forward Mitchell Fossier from the Maine Mariners in exchange for the rights to forward Gabe Guertler and future considerations. Fossier, 26, played 47 games with the Mariners this past year, posting 57 points (21g-36a) during the regular season, while also amassing six points (3g-3a) in six Kelly Cup Playoff games. The rookie forward was second on the Mariners in scoring last season, finishing in the top ten in points among all first-year players.

The club also signed forwards Ryan Cranford and Evan Dougherty, Cranford, 25, played with Queen’s University (USports) for the past three seasons, accumulating 37 points (22g-15a) in 72 games played Prior to joining the Gaels, Cranford spent four years in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) with the Kingston Frontenacs. During his tenure with Kingston, Cranford recorded 109 total points (56g-53a) in 267 games, and served as the team’s captain for the 2018-19 season. Dougherty, 24, played with Bowling Green State University (Division 1) for the better part of five seasons. The Kalamazoo, Michigan native skated in 123 games with the Falcons, accruing 26 points (17g-9a).

The Orlando Solar Bears agreed to terms with forward Patrick Newell. Newell, 27, enters his sixth professional season and first in the ECHL. The Thousand Oaks, California native has previously appeared in 87 games over three American Hockey League (AHL) seasons with the Hartford Wolf Pack from 2019-2021, scoring 27 points (11g-16a) Newell has played the last two seasons of his career overseas, scoring 51 points (21g-30a) in 42 games with Stjernen Hockey (Norway) during the 2021-22 season and 21 points (7g-17a) split between Södertälje SK (HockeyAllswenskan) and Fehérvár AV19 (ICEHL) this past season. Forward Chris Harpur also agreed to terms. Harpur, 26, was one of two Solar Bears players to appear in all 72 regular season games during the 2022-23 season, scoring 11 points (2g-9a) in his first full professional campaign.

The South Carolina Stingrays have agreed to terms with forward Patrick Harper. Harper, 24, returns to the United States after having played 70 games in Europe over the past two seasons. Before his professional career, Harper spent four years with the Boston University Terriers, amassing 115 points (41 goals, 74 assists) in 128 career games. In Harper’s senior season at BU, he led the team in plus-minus (+11) and registered 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 32 games. The New York City native most recently played for Kristianstads IK in HockeyAllsvenskan, the second-highest league in the Swedish ice hockey system. This will be Harper’s second stint in the ECHL. In 2020-21, Harper tallied 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in 5 games with the Florida Everblades. Harper has also played 24 games in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals. The Stingrays also re-signed  forward Jackson Leppard and defenseman Chase Stewart.

Florida Panthers Unveil 30th Anniversary Logo

The Florida Panthers announced celebrations for their 30th Anniversary season including the unveiling of the club’s 30th Anniversary logo. The font used for the 30th logo is reminiscent of the team’s current lettering while nodding to the franchise’s original typeface. The shape of the anniversary mark forms an elongated shield to reflect the team’s current primary logo which draws inspiration from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

The anniversary logo has three ‘red bands’ on the broken stick. These symbolize three decades of Panthers hockey as well as the franchise’s three retired numbers: 1:Roberto Luongo, 37:Wayne Huizenga, and 93:Bill Torrey.

The Panthers will celebrate thirty years of Panthers hockey with a theme night honoring each decade. On Jan. 11 as the Panthers host the LA Kings, fans can hark back to the birth of the franchise in the 1990’s. On March 7 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers, the 2000’s will be in the spotlight and on March 28 vs. the New York Islanders, game presentation and in-game themes will highlight the 2010s into the current era. Stay tuned for more information on these decade nights.

Fans can browse and learn about the history of the Florida Panthers through the Baptist Health Virtual Vault by visiting

Tampa By Lightning Sign Free Agent Forward Tanner Jeannot

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed restricted free agent forward Tanner Jeannot to a two-year contract worth an average annual value of $2.665 million, vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois announced today.

The Lightning acquired Jeannot from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenseman Cal Foote, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in the 2025 NHL Entry Draft, its second-round selection in 2024, as well as third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks in 2023 on February 26, 2023. In 20 regular season games with the Lightning, Jeannot scored a goal and posted four points while blocking 11 shots and dishing out 77 hits — most on the Bolts over the final 23 games of the season. In the playoffs, Jeannot got in a fight, delivered 16 hits and blocked two shots in three contests during a First Round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Prior to joining the Lightning, the 26-year-old Jeannot played two seasons in Nashville where he tallied 34 goals and 62 points in 152 contests. He had his best season statistically in 2021-22 with the Predators when he scored 24 goals, including five game-winners, and added 17 assists over 81 games.

The undrafted Oxbow, Saskatchewan native was signed originally to a three-year, entry-level contract by Nashville on April 2, 2018 and was extended by the Predators for another two seasons on July 30, 2021.

(SportsDay’s Mike Bonts covers the NHL and ECHL for the Florida Sports Wire.)

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