2014-15 NHL team previews: Florida Panthers

2014-15 NHL team previews: Florida Panthers
August 18, 2014, 7:30 am
Share This Post
(Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

As part of our summer series previewing the 2014-15 NHL season, CSNwashington.com is analyzing all 30 NHL teams, division by division. Today we continue with the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.

Today: FLORIDA PANTHERS

2013-14 record: 29-45-8 (66 points)

Where they finished: 7th in the Atlantic; 15 in the East; 29th in the NHL

Coach: Gerard Gallant (1st season)

Key additions: LW Jussi Jokinen, C Dave Bolland, C Derek MacKenzie, RW Shawn Thornton, D Willie Mitchell, D Aaron Ekblad, G Al Montoya

Key subtractions: RW Jesse Winchester, D Tom Gilbert, G Scott Clemmensen

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Scottie Upshall

Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Dave Bolland - Tomas Kopecky

Sean Bergenheim - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Extras: Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, Drew Shore

Defense

Brian Campbell - Dmitry Kulikov

Erik Gudbranson - Willie Mitchell

Aaron Ekblad - Dylan Olsen

Extras: Alex Petrovic, Greg Zanon

Goaltenders

Roberto Luongo - Al Montoya

Our take:  Like the Buffalo Sabres, the Panthers used the offseason to acquire a number off veteran free agents that can show their top prospects a thing or two about life in the NHL.

In the Panthers' case, that meant signing Stanley Cup champions Dave Bolland [Chicago, 2010 and 2013], Shawn Thornton [Boston, 2011] and Willie Mitchell [Los Angeles, 2012 and 2014] on July 1.

Nine-year veteran Jussi Jokinen, 31, also signed with the Panthers on the first day of free agency, while Roberto Luongo, 35, is ready for his first full season back in Florida after he was acquired via trade from Vancouver last March.

Luongo will likely be busy again next season, as the Panthers look to cut back on their 3.20 goals-against-average from a year ago [29th in NHL]. The Panthers also ranked next-to-last in total offense [2.29 goals-per-game] and 30th overall on both the power play [10.0%] and penalty kill [76.0%].

In front of Luongo, Mitchell and Brian Campbell will be the veterans on an otherwise young blueline that may include Dmitry Kulikov, 23, Erik Gudbransson, 22, Alex Petrovic, 22, and 1st overall pick Aaron Ekblad, 18.

Ekblad, who is 6-foot-4, 216 pounds is expected to crack the NHL roster after an impressive junior career in the Canadian Hockey League.

The Panthers also have plenty of young talent up front, but with much room still to grow. Jonathan Huberdeau was the NHL's Rookie of the Year for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, but was held to nine goals and 28 points in 69 games in his sophomore campaign.

Huberdeau is still only 21-years-old while last year's leading scorer Nick Bjugstad is 22. No.1 center Aleksander Barkov only turns 19 in September.

Bjugstad led the Panthers with 38 points in 76 games, as Florida set a League record for fewest points by a leading scorer in a full season.

Former Capitals forward Tomas Fleischmann is one of four Panthers forwards who are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer, a group which also inludes Sean Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky.

Will they make the playoffs in 2014-15? No, the Panthers will miss the postseason for the 13th time in 14 years.

Against the Capitals: Sat. Oct.18 at Washington; Tue. Dec.16 at Florida; Sun. Jan.4 at Washington;