|(9/23/17) Haapala skated on the Panthers' top power-play unit in Friday's practice, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.|
An old buddy of Panthers star Aleksander Barkov, Haapala signed an entry-level deal with the Panthers back in June and appears to be a promising candidate for the club's Opening Night roster. The 23-year-old broke out in Finland's pro ranks last season, ripping off an assist-heavy 60 points in 51 games, and while he's on the smaller side, he wouldn't be the first diminutive winger to find success in North American hockey. History has shown that smaller players tend to have a bit more of an adjustment period to the NHL level, so instant success may be asking too much, but Haapala clearly has great upside. He already has a preseason goal to his credit, too.