GDHQNHL15_2pg-Florida Panthers 1

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Florida PANTHERS Key Additions: Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen, Willie Mitchell, Shawn Thornton Key Subtractions: Tom Gilbert, Scott Clemmensen, Jesse Winchester Strengths: Influx of veterans, young talented forwards, goaltending Weaknesses: Lacking big scoring threat, defense, special teams Offense The Florida Panthers are coming off of a down year where their offense scored just 196 goals, which ranked second-to-last in the league. A big part of their struggle was the reliance on their young talent to produce offense. Rookie Nick Bjugstad led the Panthers with 38 points, which set an NHL record for futility. It is the lowest point total to ever lead a team during an 82-game schedule. The 6-6 Bjugstad did manage to finish 13th in the Calder Trophy voting, three spots ahead of teammate Aleksander Barkov. Barkov had his excellent rookie season cut short by a knee injury suffered while playing for team Finland at the Sochi Olympics. He excelled as the Panthers’ top center at just 18-years old, scoring 24 points in 54 games. He’ll get additional support from the wing this season in the form of countryman Jussi Jokinen, who signed as a free agent. Another of the young prospects that the Panthers will rely on, 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau, struggled last season both on offense and with a concussion. The opposition focused more on him in the offensive zone, and teams were able to shut down his game. He scored just 28 points in 69 games after scoring 31 during last year’s strikeshortened season. Tomas Fleischmann was supposed to be a veteran presence for the youth to rely on in tough times, but he failed to display the scoring prowess that he did in his first two seasons with the Panthers. After scoring 96 points in his first 130 games with the team, he managed just 28 last season. Veteran Scottie Upshall has been unable to stay healthy the past few seasons but he was productive last year, scoring 15 goals and 22 assists. He’ll play a solid role on the team’s third line. It was another veteran, Brian Campbell, that contributed offense from the point. He was second on the team in points (37) and led in average ice-time by a significant margin. He may get some help if first round pick Aaron Ekblad forces his way onto the NHL roster. The 18-year old defenseman scored 53 points for the OHL’s Barrie Colts and had 113 points in 175 games for them. Defense The Panthers defense matched the offense by being second-to-last in the league in goals allowed with 268, but there is hope for 2013-14 thanks to a few big additions. Veteran Willie Mitchell is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Los Angeles Kings. Although knee problems kept him out of the 2012- 13 season, Mitchell proved a pivotal part of last year’s championship run where he posted a +20 through the playoffs. The Panthers drafted Ekblad with the number one pick in the draft and he could contribute to the team this season. At 6-3 and 216 pounds., EASTERN CONFERENCE ATLANTIC DIVISION Roberto Luongo Bill Wippert/NHL/Getty Images


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