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Michigan's Michael Downing Signs with Florida Panthers

Matt Christians

The Florida Panthers have signed Michigan junior defenseman Michael Downing to a three-year entry level contract.

Downing was selected by the Panthers in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft, 97th overall.

It was an eventful three years for Downing in Ann Arbor. Downing showed an intriguing combination of size--listed at 6'2" 205 lbs.--and offensive ability, tallying 20+ points in each of his final two years. His defensive play will need to improve at the next level, however. He often struggled with decision-making on defense, oftentimes opting to be overly aggressive in looking for the big hit rather than staying responsible defensively.

With his size, Downing can be a physical presence on the blue line, but developed a reputation over the course of his career for dangerous hits to the head. As a junior, he was forced to sit a game after receiving three game misconducts over the course of the year, and this season, he earned a two-game suspension and a one-game suspension in the playoffs, for hits to the head.

But under the right system, and with the right coaching, Downing has the raw physical skills to succeed as an NHL defenseman.

Downing's contract will begin next season. He will finish this year on an ATO with the Portland Pirates.