Two very important decisions were made on Monday for the Florida Panthers, and while both were big news, the decision to keep Erik Gudbranson on the roster was met with open arms, and big smiles. Last year’s number three overall draft pick has done enough according to both coach Kevin Dineen and general manager Dale Tallon to prove that he belongs in the NHL. Last year the young defenceman appeared to have won a job, however contract talks stalled, and while the Panthers were in no rush to sign Gudbranson, he was sent back to juniors for more seasoning. Much like the decision to send back Jonathan Huberdeau. It appears that this was the right choice for Erik.
Gudbranson came back this summer bigger adding about 20 lbs to his frame, stronger, and looks much quicker on his feet. In addition he has that physical edge the Florida Panthers have been missing on the blue line. The man crush campaign for Erik to make the squad started on this site last year when he was drafted, but as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Erik was sent back to juniors last season, and had an eventful year for the Kingston Frontenacs that included racking up 44 points on 12 goals and 32 assists. The big defenceman hulked over many of his opponents, and while he experienced a few challenging moments, proved that he deserved a shot at the big time.
When asked about his performance in training camp this year Panther head coach Kevin Dineen said this:
“He’s another guy that earned his way onto the team. For us, there’s a sense of urgency right now to have some success, to try to get this thing started in the right way.
“If I didn’t feel he was ready for that role, then he would’ve been served better going back to junior. But his play and off the ice demeanor says he’s ready to start his professional career.’’
Music to my ears. While some say that they may not have seen too much this camp, maybe you didn’t pay attention close enough. He had a fight with Tampa’s Ashton Carter, he makes some very smooth passes, he skates extremely well for a man his size, and the ladies all love his smile.
I’ve watched a lot of hockey in my years (no math please), and the
100’s 6 of you that read our site know that since day one I’ve projected Erik to become an eventual leader of this team. He has all of the tools and when you look at how he’s developed, and what’s he’s done to prove that he belongs here, you’d have to agree. He was mad, or rather a bit angry when a contract couldn’t be signed last season, and he had to go back to Kingston. That attitude right there showed that at his young age, this kid, is mature way beyond his years.
Now, be a bit patient boys and girls. Defencemen, usually take a little extra time to develop. It’s a very difficult position to play, and the NHL game is 1,000 times faster than juniors, so don’t expect perfection right off the bat. Look at Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Myers and Luke Schenn as examples. All three are big defencemen who have advanced in varying degrees in their young career. Some get better like Drew Doughty, and others regress never advance such as Jay Bouwmeester. However, with the proper people surrounding him, Erik Gudbranson is about to get the right kind of training that those other three might not have had. Most likely being paired with Ed Jovanovski, the two will be the”shut down” pair for the Panthers. Also having players like Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Kris Versteeg on the team, players who have won Stanley Cups (Kopecky won twice), Big G will learn from some of the best. And be able to have a touch of fun along the way.
Here’s a quote from Big G himself as it appeared in an article by Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel:
“It’s like a dream come true,’’ Gudbranson said. “I put a lot of work into this … but I’m still trying to make this team and practice hard for the whole season. I want to thank Kevin and [GM Dale Tallon] for this opportunity and I’m going to make the best of it.
“The best part of it is when they said this is your team now. It’s nine games, but it’s your team for nine games and act that way. It definitely was relaxing to hear.’’
Erik has to survive past nine games. When, not if he does that, he’s here for the season. I can’t see him going back to juniors as there will be nothing to prove anymore. Here’s a video courtesy of @rinkside of Erik talking about the first pre season game. of this year’s training camp. Also, a peak at Erik and his “booming” shot that we’ll hopefully see a lot of from the point. And finally a short interview after a game last March with the Kingston Frontenacs.
I predict a very solid season for the big defenceman, and if he plays the way he’s projected to play, maybe just maybe he also contends for the Calder Trophy. From all of us here at The Rat Trick, and that of course includes Little Miss Rat Trick, the best of luck Erik. Looking forward to great things.
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