We end the Atlantic Division NHL previews today, with a look at the Florida Panthers. Tomorrow, we'll start the Metropolitan Division previews with a look at the New York Rangers. We've got 30 days until the Wild season starts Wilderness, so start putting your hockey helmets on.
Last season the Florida Panthers were the worst team in the NHL. They managed to win a whopping 15 games, just one less game than Colorado. And we all know just how much Colorado sucked last season.
At this point, it seems like the Panthers are in the middle of a re-build that has no end in sight. They have Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau back again this season, who along with Tomas Flieschmann were the only Panther players to score more than 30 points last season.
Gophers fans will be familiar with Nick Bjugstad, who joined the Panthers squad after the University of Minnesota's season ended. He will be back for a full season this year. While most teams would have had Bjustad in the AHL to adjust to pro hockey for a bit, the Panthers will depend on Bjugstad on the forward lines this season.
As for defense, the Panthers have Brian Campbell locked up for another 3 years on a $7.1 mil contract. They bought out Flip Kuba, and the rest of their defensive core frankly looks pretty sad.
After being beaten out by the Avalanche for the top overall pick, the Panthers chose Aleksander Barkov. Barkov's biography reads very similar to Mikael Granlund's, so maybe someone should let Panther fans know that they adjustment to the NHL for players who excel as teenagers in the Finnish Elite League can take a bit of time.
The rest of the prospects for the Panthers look pretty good. Hockey's Future ranks them number one overall when it comes to team prospects. The problem is, the Panthers are depending on these kids to jump into the NHL right away. Hopefully it has better results for the Panthers than it did for the Wild when they tried that experiment.
Jacob Markstrom looks to have the makings of a good goaltender, but he'll be dealing with the pressure of being the Panthers starting goaltender. But he does stuff like this, so maybe he'll be ok after all.
The Panthers look to be rounding out the last half of the league for the next few years. They picked up Scott Gomez during the offseason, but they haven't really added anything in terms of a game maker to their team. Until they do that, there isn't going to be much of a change in their overall rank in the NHL.