No, the Panthers haven't hit many home runs from their scouting staff, but if you take a step back and look at the style of players that they are trying to pick up, it isn't very far off and it simply becomes more about the luck of the draw.
For us poolies, it doesn't matter much if the Panthers make the playoffs or not, we just want to see points get racked up for our teams so we can win money. Do we want players from Florida this year? That's the real question. If I were in a keeper league, something which this blog doesn't really touch on often, I might say yes, building for the future through Florida is quite plausible, but on a year-to-year drafting style like my pools, you want players for the now and those might be rather limited.
|Forwards||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Defense||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Goaltenders||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit|
|Jonathan Huberdeau||60||0.894||Brian Campbell||40||7.143||Roberto Luongo||60||5.333|
|Nick Bjugstad||55||0.900||Dimitri Kulikov||25||4.333||Al Montoya||15||1.050|
|Tomas Fleischmann||45||4.500||Erik Gudbranson||15||2.500|
|Jussi Jokinen||45||4.000||Colby Robak||15||0.675|
|Alexander Barkov||40||0.925||Willie Mitchell||10||4.250|
|BUYOUTS & OTHER||3.400|
|Quinton Howden||25||0.870||Dylan Olsen||20||0.775|
|Vincent Trocheck||25||0.662||Alex Petrovic||5||0.795|
First Round Picks
I don't expect any Florida Panthers to be first round picks in any hockey pool draft. The team's best players will be hindered by a lack of help, both offensively and systematically, which may prove to be difficult for winning more games, but this team might find a way to do that, more in the marginal sense.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Shuffled off in the conversation last Summer was 2010 1st round draft pick Nick Bjugstad, who had been toiling in the NCAA system for a few seasons, working at the University of Minnesota, developing his game at the college level and earning his education at the same time. Bjugstad finished up his college career at the end of the 2013 season, played in a handful of games and got a good look. In the 2014 season, he played in 76 games, scored 16 goals and 38 points. Now, 22 years old, gone the longer way into the NHL, he may now be ready to break out as the player to watch in Florida, taking the spotlight away from a few other prospects, possibly taking a bit of the heat off of them, while he shows his stuff.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Last season, only four Florida Panthers forwards were taken in the draft, but I can definitely see that number grow this year. Beyond Bjugstad, there is some depth there, albeit not the strongest of groups, but depth nonetheless. Jonathan Huberdeau, Alexander Barkov and Tomas Fleischmann were three of the four taken last year, ready to go again this year, and if you wanted to throw newly-acquired Jussi Jokinen and/or Brandon Pirri into the mix, you could make a case for a better Panthers team this coming year. The Panthers were busy in the off-season and there may be a little bit more hope for a better result from all this work.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The Panthers also didn't have many defensemen taken last year in the draft and it looks like the same two that were taken last year are the only candidates to be taken this year as well. Brian Campbell and Dimitri Kulikov are the only two defenders with a great deal of offensive pedigree, while the other three on the projected roster are going to use their physical prowess to help keep the puck out of their own net.
It was likely a relieving return to the Sunshine State for Roberto Luongo last season, but as much as he has made a happy return home, it may not be an easy season with the Panthers. Unless there is some kind of breakthrough offensively, Luongo may have a long year, as the retooling of the team in front of him continues. He will get some wins, earn a few shutouts in the process, but it may not be enough to bring the Cats to the playoffs. Behind him will likely be Al Montoya, but his job isn't necessarily safe, with Dan Ellis also in the mix.
Team To Pick From Late?
I don't think there is really any tangible reason why this team should fill out your hockey pool team's depth, as the Panthers are still a rag-tag bunch of players, trying to find a competitive nature through the dregs of free agency, while the team's youth tries to mature into a proper core group of players. Once you have picked through the players that have some upside, the rest are unlikely to get enough points that will thrust your pool team into the money.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
Thanks to a few corrections through using good ol' CapGeek, a little bit more space has opened up for the Florida Panthers, thanks to the changes in entry-level contracts and how their bonuses are counted on a yearly basis. The Panthers have 20 players on their projected roster at a cap hit of $60.7 million, leaving about $8.3 million under the ceiling. Plenty of play room left to go, especially if that kind of space is available at the trade deadline.
One key injury to keep an eye on and it is the 1st overall pick in the Entry Draft this Summer, defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who suffered a concussion at the World Junior team training camp in August. Ekblad was invited to camp as a returnee from last year's tournament, but if all was to go well, he would be dressing in Florida colours and would likely be unavailable for the tourney in December/January. If you're thinking about drafting him, just make sure you're up-to-date on his status. As of the rookie showcase in mid-August, he had said that most of the symptoms have cleared.