By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The future of Riley’s Stillman’s hockey career looks bright, and perhaps a little familiar to him.
After being drafted by the Florida Panthers in the fourth round of the NHL Draft, Stillman will be returning to a place where he spent a few of his young hockey years, watching his father dawn the Panthers’ uniform.
In a nearly 20-year career in the NHL, Corey, Riley’s father, played stints with Florida, St. Louis, Ottawa and Carolina, a team he retired from in 2011 and where he remains as a member of its development staff.
Now, hearing his name called in Buffalo, the younger Stillman took to Twitter to share his excitement.
“There are no words to describe how happy and honoured I am to be drafted by the @FlaPanthers. It’s a dream come true,” he wrote.
Scooped up at 114th overall, the six-foot-one, 185-pound defenseman was the lone General to be drafted.
“I think Riley has emerged as a leader on our team. Florida is getting a very solid player who is both sound defensively and offensively,” states Roger Hunt, the Gens’ vice-president and general manager, in a news release.
It was only two short years ago that Stillman was drafted 63rd overall by the Oshawa Generals in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection.
As a member of the 2015 Memorial Cup winning team, Stillman played a small role, lacing up for nine games during that season. After the club saw a large exodus of players to the NHL, AHL or overage status, Stillman seized his opportunity to grow as a driving force on the Generals’ bench.
Being named an alternate captain this season, Stillman played 62 games, scoring six goals and 15 assists. He also finished the season with 69 penalty minutes.
Another player with links to the Generals also heard his named called in Buffalo, although it may not be a familiar one for Generals fans.
Goaltender Joseph Woll, picked up by Oshawa in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, has spent the last few years playing junior hockey south of the border. The netminder was picked up by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third round, 62nd overall.
The Leafs were also the owners of the first overall pick, thanks to the NHL Draft Lottery earlier this year. Nobody in the hockey world was surprised when Mark Hunter, the team’s director of player personell, announced the team would be selecting Auston Matthews, one of the top junior players in North America. Finnish star Patrik Laine was picked up second overall by the Winnipeg Jets.
While Stillman will get his first taste of the Panthers organization this summer at the rookie development camp from July 10 to 15, Oshawa fans can expect to see him back in the Gens’ uniform this upcoming season.