I’m telling you right now the Florida Panthers are a team on the rise. They’ll join the likes of the Buffalo Sabres and the Edmonton Oilers as NHL powerhouses in the next few years no doubt. Will they do it with this group of players, I’m not so sure about that. The veterans they do have at the moment are exactly the ones you’d want to have on a burgeoning team like this. Jaromir Jagr, Brian Campbell, Willie Mitchell and Roberto Luongo are the perfect mentors for the young Panthers. I can only imagine where the Oilers would be if they had those players on their team. Funny thing is I’m pretty sure each one of those veterans have been linked to Edmonton at one point or another in their careers.
Key Addition: F Reilly Smith, F Corban Knight, F Greg McKegg, D Cameron Gaunce, G Mike McKenna
Key Departures: F Brad Boyes, F Jimmy Hayes, D Shane O’Brien, D Jesse Blacker, G Dan Ellis
Roster Contenders: F Lawson Crouse, F Rocco Grimaldi, F Quinton Howden, D Alex Petrovic, D Mike Matheson
Last season the Florida Panthers jumped 25 points in the standings from the 66 points to 91!! That’s what you call progress. Maybe that is something we can optimistically expect out of the Oilers this year… Anyways, the roster didn’t go through a lot of turnover that I would call “Earth Shattering”. The team is more or less the same as last year and that is including the coaching staff as well. The difference this season? Everyone’s a year older and hungrier than ever after coming within a few wins of a playoff spot last year.
I think we’ll see Jonathan Huberdeau continue his rise alongside Jaromir Jagr and Sasha Barkov. Nick Bjugstad is also trending upwards and turning into one of the league’s best two-way centermen. And how can we get through this preview without mentioning the man-child Aaron Ekblad? Is it embarrassing to other NHLers that come playoff time Ekblad, who is 19 years old, has had a better beard than them since he was probably 14 years old? Bloody Awesome it is… And not awesome like, “Hey, the new NHL game is awesome!” I mean it inspires Awe like, “How the hell does that even happen?”
Huberdeau – Barkov – Jagr
Jokinen – Bjugstad – Smith
Pirri – Bolland – Trocheck
Howden – MacKenzie – Grimaldi
Campebell – Ekblad
Kulikov – Gudbranson
Mitchell – Petrovic
Florida was only 8 points off a playoff spot last season and I reckon the biggest threats to their playoff chances are the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. If either of those teams fail to recreate last year’s performances I think we could see the Panthers sneak in there sort of how the Sens snuck in last year but with less luck in the net as Luongo is still a great NHL goalie.
Keep an eye on Lawson Crouse as he’ll be looking to crack the team as an 18 yr old. He’s already known for his two-way game and he’s got a man’s body already. Let’s hope he’s a bit closer to Eric Lindros than Ben Eager though.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’re enjoying our Season Primers series because we’re having a blast bringing them to you! Let us know in the comments below if you agree with our assessments.
I’ve heard you can wear shorts and sandals all year long in Miami even in the winter, so why not head on over to the Beer League Heroes Merch Shop and pick up a nice t-shirt or tank top with a 16-bit Jaromir Jagr or Aaron Ekblad on it?
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