The Florida Panthers are the fourth Altantic division team we are taking a closer look at heading into the 2014-15 season
Use the below Tabs to view Panthers info for this upcoming season, as well as some numbers from last year.
2013-14 record: 29-45-8, 66 points
Where they finished: 7th in the Atlantic; 15th in the East; 29th in the NHL
Player Salaries: $65,450,608 (24)
Cap Payroll: $63,498,708
Cap Space: $5,501,292
Forwards: $32,944,167 (14)
Defensemen: $20,471,208 (7)
2014-15 Team Outlook:
In: Al Montoya G, Blake Parlett D, Brett Olson C, Dave Bolland C, Derek MacKenzie C/LW, Gerard Gallant Head Coach, Greg Zanon D, Jussi Jokinen LW/C, Shawn Thornton RW, Shayne Taker D, Willie Mitchell D
Out: Jesse Winchester RW/LW, Jon Matsumoto C, Matt Gilroy D, Mattias Lindstrom LW, Peter Horachek Head Coach, Peter Mueller RW, Scott Clemmensen G, Tom Gilbert D
2014-15 Team Outlook:
As expected when the 2013-14 season began, Florida had a pretty miserable year last season as far as winning hockey games goes. With a roster that was mostly comprised of young draft picks from previous years, mixed with veteran players looking to boost their stock, the fact that Florida ended up picking 1st in the draft came as no real shock to anyone.
Although the Panthers have struggled over the years to turn their top picks into impact players and in turn make themselves a dominant team (think Chicago and Pittsburgh), the last few drafts have provided real hope and this year’s was no different.
After beating out the Buffalo Sabres for the top pick in the draft lottery, Florida selected defensemen Aaron Ekblad 1st overall. Getting a player of Ekblad’s ability was the silver-lining for an otherwise forgettable 2013-14 season.
As mentioned before, Florida has made an art out of signing veteran players to deals which grant them a heap of playing time, with those players usually being traded for draft picks later in the season. It is a way for Florida to not only meet the cap floor, but to basically buy draft picks and continue to stock up on young talent. Last year saw the likes of Mike Weaver, Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc, and Tim Thomas shipped away in such deals.
Florida spared no expense this offseason to acquire veteran help, showing maybe that the team finally views themselves as being able to compete, rather than acquiring those players for the purpose of later moving them to another team. Florida’s line-up is certainly interesting, with a healthy mix of youth and leadership, but it remains to be seen if they are truly ready to get out of the basement in the East.
The offensive unit is actually fairly deep, but it lacks a true star player of any form, as shown by the fact the leading scorer from last season was Nick Bjugstad with only 38 points. Highly-skilled, young forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau might yet develop into stars, but that remains to be seen. The first-line will likely see the likes of Barkov at centre, with Brad Boyes (likely to be trade bait at the trade deadline) and either Tomas Fleischmann or Jussi Jokinen on the wings. Rounding out the top-six will be a skill-line of Bjugstad in the middle with Huberdeau and one of Jokinen/Fleischmann/Scottie Upshall on the wings. The bottom-six is on paper actually pretty strong, with a third-line of Sean Bergenheim, former Maple Leaf Dave Bolland (signed a massive five-year, $27.5 million contract), and one of Jokinen/Fleischmann/Upshall; all of whom have proven to be quality third-liners in the past. The fourth-line should find either former Blue Jacket Derek MacKenzie or Brandon Pirri in the middle, with former Bruin tough-guy Shawn Thornton on one wing, and either MacKenzie, Pirri, Tomas Kopecky, or Jimmy Hayes on the other. Other players who will be trying to crack the roster are prospects Vincent Trochek, Drew Shore, Quinton Howden, Rocco Grimaldi, and Garrett Wilson, along with journeymen Bobby Butler and Joey Crabb. Should anyone go down with injury, Florida will surely have the offensive depth to replace them.
On defense the Panthers look mildly improved from the beginning of last season, with a top pairing of Brian Campbell and either Erik Gudbranson or Dmitry Kulikov, alongside a few changes to the other four defensemen. The second-pairing is likely to consist of Kulikov and Gudbranson and 2013-14 Stanley Cup Champion Willie Mitchell, who the Panthers singed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal. The third defense pair is a little bit less obvious, with four inexperienced, large defenders in Colby Robak, Dylan Olsen, Alex Petrovic, and Ekblad all fighting for the two open spots. If healthy, Ekblad is almost sure to make the team, leaving the remaining spot for the other three to battle for. Having that kind of competition within the team should bode well for Florida. Veteran defenseman Greg Zanon is another player who will be fighting for a roster spot. The former mainstay on the Minnesota Wild’s blue-line spent all of last season in the AHL.
After bringing back Roberto Luongo in a trade with Vancouver late last season (another sign that the team thinks they are ready to compete) the Panthers once again have a true number one goalie in net, something they had been lacking since the departure of Tomas Vokoun after the 2010-11 season. Backing up Luongo is the newly signed former 6th overall pick Al Montoya, who has proven to be nothing more than a capable back-up throughout his career. As added insurance the Panthers also have 34-year old Dan Ellis, the once full-time back-up with the Nashville Predators, who will likely start the season in the AHL splitting games with prospect Michael Houser.
After an offseason that saw the Panthers shell out some serious dollars, the team still doesn’t look all that intimidating on paper. The depth that it possesses is a definite positive, but the fact that they lack a true top-end forward hurts their overall outlook. Florida is in a similar situation to the Buffalo Sabres, where should everything go right for them, they might actually make some noise this season. However, it is far more likely that the Panthers will be more of a threat in the 2015-16 season than they will be next year. Expect the Panthers to once again trade away some of their vets and free up space for some of the younger players to get a real look in the NHL. Florida has the pieces to acquire a top-end forward via trade, so that might be something to watch for during the later stages of this coming season and into next offseason. It is most likely that Florida will once again join Buffalo at the bottom of the standings, paving their way to get one of Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid.
Written by Greg Stamper, who can be found on twitter @g_stamp91.
The depth chart listed below was taken from NHL.com’s 30-in-30.
Jussi Jokinen – Aleksander Barkov – Brad Boyes
Jonathan Huberdeau – Nick Bjugstad -Scottie Upshall
Tomas Fleischmann – Dave Bolland – Sean Bergenheim
Tomas Kopecky – Brandon Pirri – Jimmy Hayes
Derek MacKenzie – Shawn Thornton
Brian Campbell – Dmitry Kulikov
Willie Mitchell – Erik Gudbranson
Dylan Olsen – Aaron Ekblad
|Aleksander Barkov||C||6′ 3″||213||2-Sep-95||TAMPERE, FIN|
|Sean Bergenheim||L||5′ 10″||201||8-Feb-84||HELSINKI, FIN|
|Nick Bjugstad||C||6′ 6″||218||17-Jul-92||MINNEAPOLIS, MN, USA|
|Dave Bolland||C||6′ 0″||184||5-Jun-86||MIMICO, ON, CAN|
|Brad Boyes||R||6′ 0″||195||17-Apr-82||MISSISSAUGA, ON, CAN|
|Tomas Fleischmann||L||6′ 1″||192||16-May-84||KOPRIVNICE, CZE|
|Jimmy Hayes||R||6′ 6″||221||21-Nov-89||BOSTON, MA, USA|
|Jonathan Huberdeau||L||6′ 1″||188||4-Jun-93||SAINT-JEROME, QC, CAN|
|Jussi Jokinen||L||5′ 11″||198||1-Apr-83||KALAJOKI, FIN|
|Tomas Kopecky||R||6′ 3″||210||5-Feb-82||ILAVA, SVK|
|Derek Mackenzie||C||5′ 11″||181||11-Jun-81||SUDBURY, ON, CAN|
|Brandon Pirri||C||6′ 0″||183||10-Apr-91||TORONTO, ON, CAN|
|Drew Shore||C||6′ 3″||205||29-Jan-91||DENVER, CO, USA|
|Shawn Thornton||L||6′ 2″||217||23-Jul-77||OSHAWA, ON, CAN|
|Scottie Upshall||L||6′ 0″||200||7-Oct-83||FORT MCMURRAY, AB, CAN|
|Brian Campbell||5′ 10″||192||35||23-May-79||STRATHROY, ON, CAN|
|Erik Gudbranson||6′ 5″||216||22||7-Jan-92||OTTAWA, ON, CAN|
|Dmitry Kulikov||6′ 1″||204||23||29-Oct-90||LIPETSK, RUS|
|Willie Mitchell||6′ 3″||210||37||23-Apr-77||PORT MCNEILL, BC, CAN|
|Dylan Olsen||6′ 2″||223||23||3-Jan-91||SALT LAKE CITY, UT, USA|
|Alex Petrovic||6′ 4″||206||22||3-Mar-92||EDMONTON, AB, CAN|
|Colby Robak||6′ 3″||194||24||24-Apr-90||DAUPHIN, MB, CAN|
|Dan Ellis||6′ 1″||195||34||19-Jun-80||SASKATOON, SK, CAN|
|Roberto Luongo||6′ 3″||217||35||4-Apr-79||MONTREAL, QC, CAN|
|Al Montoya||6′ 2″||203||29||13-Feb-85||CHICAGO, IL, USA|
A look at the Florida Panthers top prospects heading into this season. Each source may use different classifications as to if a player is deemed a prospect or has graduated on from a prospect.
|Dobber Prospects||The Hockey News|
|1||Aaron Ekblad||Aaron Ekblad||Aaron Ekblad||Aaron Ekblad|
|2||Michael Matheson||Vincent Trocheck||Michael Matheson||Michael Matheson|
|3||Vincent Trocheck||Mike Matheson||Vincent Trocheck||Ian McCoshen|
|4||Rocco Grimaldi||Rocco Grimaldi||Rocco Grimaldi||Alex Petrovic|
|5||Ian McCoshen||Ian McCoshen||Kyle Rau||Vincent Trocheck|
|6||Jonathan Racine||Jayce Hawryluk||Alex Petrovic||Rocco Grimaldi|
|7||Jayce Hawryluk||Quinton Howden||Ian McCoshen||Quinton Howden|
|8||MacKenzie Weegar||Alex Petrovic||Christopher Clapperton||Colby Robak|
|9||Yaroslav Kosov||Kyle Rau||Sam Brittain||Sam Brittain|
|10||Sam Brittain||Yaroslav Kosov||Quinton Howden||Michael Downing|
* Dobber Prospects – Prospects based on relevance in a fantasy-hockey keeper league, not actual talent on the ice.
Florida Panthers Draft History from the past five years
|1||1||Aaron Ekblad||D||Barrie (OHL)||6′ 3″||216|
|2||32||Jayce Hawryluk||C||Brandon (WHL)||5’10”||190|
|3||65||Juho Lammikko||LW||Assat (FIN)||6′ 1″||170|
|4||92||Joe Wegwerth||RW||USA U-18||6′ 3″||230|
|5||143||Miguel Fidler||LW||Edina High HS (MN)||5′ 11″||186|
|7||182||Hugo Fagerblom||G||Frolunda U18 (SWE)||6′ 6″||202|
|1||2||Aleksander Barkov||C||Tappara (FIN)||6′ 2″||209|
|2||31||Ian McCoshen||D||Waterloo (USHL)||6′ 3″||205|
|4||92||Evan Cowley||G||Wichita Falls (NAHL)||6′ 4″||185|
|4||97||Michael Downing||D||Dubuque (USHL)||6′ 3″||185|
|4||98||Matt Buckles||C||St. Michaels (OJHL)||6′ 1″||205|
|5||122||Christopher Clapperton||LW||Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)||5′ 9″||175|
|6||152||Joshua Brown||D||Oshawa (OHL)||6′ 5″||215|
|7||206||Mackenzie Weegar||D||Halifax (QMJHL )||5′ 11″||183|
|1||23||Michael Matheson||D||Dubuque (USHL)||6′ 1″||180|
|3||84||Steven Hodges||C||Victoria (WHL)||5’11”||178|
|4||114||Alexander Delnov||LW||Mytischi 2 (RUS)||6′ 0″||187|
|6||174||Francis Beauvillier||C/LW||Rimouski (QMJHL)||6′ 1″||181|
|7||194||Jonatan Hielsen||D||Linkoping Jr (Swe)||6′ 3″||183|
|1||3||Jonathan Huberdeau||C/LW||Saint John (QMJHL)||6′ 1″||170|
|2||33||Rocco Grimaldi||F||USA U-18 (USHL)||5′ 6″||163|
|2||59||Rasmus Bengtsson||D||Rögle (SWE)||6′ 2″||190|
|3||64||Vincent Trocheck||C||Saginaw (OHL)||5’10”||165|
|3||76||Logan Shaw||RW||Cape Breton (QMJHL)||6′ 3″||197|
|3||87||Jonathan Racine||D||Shawinigan (QMJHL)||6′ 1″||182|
|3||91||Kyle Rau||C||Eden Prairie HS (Minn)||5′ 8″||163|
|5||124||Yaroslav Kosov||F||Magnitogorsk 2 (Rus)||6′ 3″||220|
|6||154||Edward Wittchow||D||Burnsville HS (Min)||6′ 3″||190|
|7||184||Iiro Pakarinen||RW||Kalpa (Fin)||6′ 1″||198|
|1||3||Erik Gudbranson||D||Kingston (OHL)||6′ 3″||195|
|1||19||Nick Bjugstad||C/W||Blain (MN-HS)||6′ 5″||197|
|1||25||Quinton Howden||C/LW||Moose Jaw (WHL)||6′ 2″||170|
|2||33||John McFarland||C/LW||Sudbury||6′ 0″||200|
|2||36||Alexander Petrovic||D||Red Deer||6′ 4″||190|
|2||50||Connor Brickley||F||Des Moines||6′ 1″||195|
|3||69||Joe Basaraba||W||Shattuck-St. Mary’s||6′ 2″||190|
|4||92||Sam Brittain||G||CANMORE||6′ 3″||215|
|4||99||Joonas Donskoi||F||KARPAT JR.||6′ 0″||180|
|5||123||Zach Hyman||F||Hamilton||6′ 0″||182|
|6||153||Corey Durocher||LW||Kingston||6′ 2″||173|
|7||183||R.J. Boyd||D||Cushing Academy||6′ 2″||175|