Where to begin with this year’s version of the Florida Panthers?
Only seven wins and 20 points speaks volumes about this season’s lack of success. The next worst team has 10 wins. I could mention their Goals For/Goals Against ratio of minus-39, or as I like to call it, Winnipeg in January. By a wide margin, Florida sports the leagues worst goals-against average of 3.72, the next worst are the Islanders sitting at 3.25. This was a team that won their division last season.
In their defence, the team has been beset by lengthy injuries to too many players such as Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, Dmitry Kulikov, Jose Theodore, Mike Weaver, Scottie Upshall and Team Captain Ed Jovanovski.
An optimist would argue that finishing at the bottom of the standings this season is the best thing that could happen to the team. I would tend to agree with that sentiment as it would allow Florida to grab one of Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin or Nathan MacKinnon, regardless of the lottery outcome. Adding one of those players would be huge when you consider the quality of the young Panthers core already on the team or in the system:
Literally leading the way is their top scorer Jonathan Huberdeau. The 19-year-old has 12 goals and 18 points in 29 games. In 2010-11, he was the QMJHL Playoff MVP with 16 goals and 30 points in 19 games. That year, he was also named Memorial Cup MVP. In his final junior season, he scored 30 goals and 72 points and led the league in plus/minus with an insane plus-53 in only 37 games. Huberdeau should be in the conversation for rookie of the year.
Drew Shore has been a pleasant surprise for the Panthers this year. Many expected fellow big body Nick Bjugstad to make a splash before Shore. Shore has 11 points in 27 NHL games and had 30 points in 41 AHL games this season. He has earned increased ice time and hasn’t looked out of place in the NHL at all. The 22-year-old was taken in the 2009 entry draft with the 44th overall selection.