Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Florida Panthers
For the last 13 years (12 with The Hockey News) I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. My 14th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – The Panthers really love their forwards corps (and for great reason). So they instead focused on shoring up goaltending and completely revamping the defensemen. The new crop of blueliners revolve around their franchise player Aaron Ekblad. Yandle is an elite puck-mover who will take the heat and focus off of Ekblad. Demers replaces an aging Campbell. Pysyk replaces and probably upgrades an injury-prone Kulikov. Mike Matheson is an upgrade on Gudbranson – he is far more mobile and is a future All-Star.
The new-look Florida defensemen make for a more mobile and versatile group. The forwards will benefit from these changes in terms of production. By a lot. Especially the power player, where Yandle upgrades the first unit in a huge way and Matheson upgrades the second unit almost as much.
In net the Panthers are now set. Berra is a capable netminder when he’s healthy as he finally seemed to come around last season. Not bad for a No.3! And Reimer makes perfect sense. He’ll be the starter for two months while Roberto Luongo recovers from surgery, and then will be in a 1A/1B situation for this year and next. It will groom him slowly and properly to take the reins in 2018-19 as the full-time starter.
Ready for full-time – Hultstrom was a European free agent who really took off in the SHL (Sweden) upon getting traded to Leksand. Once joining that team in 2014-15 and then Djurgarden last season, he compiled 64 points in 100 games. While Ekblad, Yandle, Demers, Matheson, Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk can all move the puck well, Hultstrom gives the Panthers another option. He’ll likely get used to the North American game for some or all of this season, but injuries could dictate otherwise. Worth watching. (Read more on Hulstrom here)
Matheson is a future star in the league and in fact he lead Team Canada’s defensemen in scoring at the World Championship. The additions of Yandle and Demers could hold him back for this season, but he won’t be held back for long. He’ll be on the Panthers this season and can be penciled in for at least 30 points immediately. (Read more on Matheson here)
Jayce Hawryluk is a solid two-way grinder who took his offense up a notch when he tallied 106 points for Brandon (WHL) last season. He won’t make the team initially, but he could be one of those guys who gets called up for good midseason. He brings an element to the Panthers that they don’t have. (Read more on Hawryluk here)
Fantasy Outlook – Now a legit playoff team and Stanley Cup contender, the young forward corps will improve offensively in leaps and bounds this year thanks to a strong and stable defense group. The prospect pipeline is deeper than for most teams. The coaching style also won’t hold the offense back, which is music to poolies’ ears.
Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was C)
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