SPRINGFIELD, MA – The Florida Panthers announced on Saturday they have assigned eight players to their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds. Forwards Chase Balisy, Graham Black, and Juho Lammikko; defensemen Josh Brown, Michael Downing and Linus Hultstrom along with goaltenders Sam Brittain, and Colin Stevens.
Four players were released from their tryout contracts and will head to Thunderbirds training camp and they are forwards Rihards Burkarts, Anthony Greco, Zac Lynch, along with defensemen Ed Wittchow.
Defensemen Jonathan Racine and Brent Regner along with goaltender Mike McKenna were placed on waivers and will report to Springfield once they clear waivers.
Black played with the Albany Devils in the AHL last season in 50 games and had nine points with seven goals, two assists and a total of 20 PIMs in the regular season. In the playoffs, Black collected four points with a pair of goals, assists and penalty minutes.
Greco played with Ohio State University last season in 36 games, collecting 23 points with 12 goals and 11 assists. He did play one AHL game in the playoffs with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Lynch played in 39 games last season for Robert Morris University of the American Hockey Association. In those 39 games, he scored 55 points with 23 goals and 30 assists. Lynch played seven games with the Portland Pirates last season collecting one assist and a pair of penalty minutes.
Lammikko is a 20-year-old out of Noormarkku, Finland. He comes to North America after he played in three different leagues last season. He played in one game for the Pirates collecting just two penalty minutes. He played for Assat Pori of the SM-liiga in five games, scoring a pair of goals. He would play in 59 games in the OHL for the Kingston Frontenacs collecting 55 points with 22 goals and 33 assists and 51 PIM. He would play in nine playoff games, collecting seven points with three goals and four assists.
Burkarts split last season with the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Portland Winterhawks of Western Hockey League. He played in 10 games for the Wheat Kings collecting nine points. He would play in 55 games for the Winterhawks, collecting 53 points with 26 goals and 27 assists, along with 24 PIM.
Chase Balisy played for the Portland Pirates last season in 69 games collecting 26 points with nine goals and 17 assists, along with 12 PIM. He would play in two playoff games for the Pirates, collecting an assist.
Defensemen Michael Downing played one game with the Portland Pirates last season. He spent last season playing with the University of Michigan registering 20 points with three goals and 17 assists.
Jonathan Racine and Brett Regner played with the Portland Pirates last season. Regner registered 23 points in 69 games with five goals and 18 assists. While Regner played a pair seasons with the Springfield Falcons in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Racine played 69 games with the Pirates last season scoring nine points and collecting and 89 PIM. He also played in four playoff games with the Pirates.
Hultstrom played 52 regular season games collecting 31 points with 12 goals and 19 assists and 16 PIM. He played in 8 playoff games collecting 12 points with three goals, nine assists, and just 12 PIM.
Josh Brown played 10 games with the Pirates last season collecting one assist. Brown also played in 54 games for the Manchester Monarchs in the ECHL collecting 12 points with a goal, 11 assists and a total of 80 PIM.
Finally, Ed Wittchow played in 32 games with the last season, collecting seven assists and 53 PIM.
Goaltenders Mike McKenna and Sam Brittain played with the Portland Pirates in the AHL last season. McKenna started in 57 games last season for the Pirates with a record of 33-17-5. His GAA was 2.45, he had a .921 save percentage with three shutouts. This will be McKenna’s second stint in Springfield as he was the goaltender for the Springfield Falcons back in the 2013-14 season. Brittain started in 25 games last season for the Pirates with a record of 8-10-3. His GAA was 2.79 and save percentage .906. Colin Stevens played with the Manchester Monarchs in the ECHL last season with a record of 15-9-2 with a 2.77 G.AA.
The Springfield Thunderbirds will host two preseason games at the MassMutual Center this Friday and Saturday night as they will host the Providence Bruins and their I-91 rival, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Both games will begin at 7:05.
They will kick off their inaugural season on October 15 when they will travel to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and their home opener on October 22nd when they play the St. John’s Ice Caps at 7:05 at the MassMutual Center.