Finally, we can start thinking about actual hockey!
As the sport and its fans continue to mourn the losses the game has suffered since Zdeno Chara hoisted the Stanley Cup in Vancouver this past June, the beginning of a new season starts for many NHL teams this weekend (sadly ironic that it’s the weekend of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 as we welcome the distraction of hockey). The Florida Panthers are one of the teams who welcome rookies for day one of camp.
Saturday, the young Cats will hit the ice at 9 am for practice to officially signify that the hockey drought that is over and kick off a busy week for one of the top group prospects in the league. Sunday, the team will play its first game against the Nashville Predators rookies, with a rematch scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday, they’ll wrap it all up with a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That means, Panthers fans will get another look at Erik Gudbranson, Quinton Howden and Jonathan Huberdeau (without Twitter chirp war opponent Rocco Grimaldi, who is in his freshman year at North Dakota), all of whom are expected to seriously compete for a roster spot on the big club,which opens camp next Saturday. There are many who are also looking to make catch the eyes of new head coach Kevin Dineen, his staff and GM Dale Tallon. Garrett Wilson, a big winger who led his junior team (Owen Sound) to the Ontario Hockey League championship with a 21-point postseason, is among them.
Colby Robak, a big, skilled defenseman, is looking to show that his game has rebounded after a rough transition from juniors to the American Hockey League last season. At 21, he’s one of the older prospects, and he may not have too many chances to impress before he becomes an afterthought in this player pool. Two of last year’s second round picks, Alex Petrovic and John McFarland also want to put in a strong showing. While both are likely to spend this year in juniors, both are very talented and should figure prominently in the team in future years. Petrovic is a huge defenseman whose offensive game blossomed last season at Red Deer of the Western Hockey League. McFarland is a fast skating winger who struggled last season at Sudbury (OHL) before moving on to Saginaw and saving his season.
Hope to see some of our readers out there. The Rat Trick will be out there in force as myself, Frank and Patrick will in attendance on Saturday. If you recognize us (from our Twitter avatars), or you overhear us talking (I talk a lot), please don’t hesitate to say hello. We’d love to meet you in person!
Thanks for reading! Any and all comments are appreciated!
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