Former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma is among six front-runners the Florida Panthers will be sitting down with this week to discuss the vacant head coaching job, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The Panthers' braintrust is in New York City to interview Bylsma for the first time this week, while the other five candidates have all met or spoke to general manager Dale Tallon about the position. According to the paper, this week's interviews will also include team co-owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, as well as CEO and President Rory Babich.
As mentioned by TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger last week, the other leading candidates are believed to include Ron Wilson, Canadiens' assistant Gerard Gallant and Red Wings assistants Tom Renney and Bill Peters.
The Panthers fired interim coach Peter Horachek in April after Florida went 26-36-4 under him this past season. Horachek had no previous NHL coaching experience before replacing Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8.
The Sun Sentinel also reported on Tuesday the Panthers were leaning toward selecting OHL Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad with the first overall selection in the NHL Draft on June 27 because he's considered the most NHL-ready of the prospects.
"Ekblad is this year's player most likely ready to step in and play in the NHL,'' Scott Luce, the Panthers director of scouting, told the Sun Sentinel last week. "He's physically mature and has lots of mileage underneath him at the OHL level.''
The Panthers finished 29th in the standings and had an 18.8 per cent chance of winning the lottery, behind only Buffalo (21-51-10), which had a 25 per cent shot.
The draft will be held in Philadelphia on June 27-28.