With Stephen Weiss playing his 614 career NHL game in a Florida Panthers uniform, I decided to take a look back into the past and come up with the Top 5 Florida Panther forwards of all time. The rankings are not based on overall career numbers, but basically on how they did while in a Panther uniform. Since the Panthers are still a relatively young franchise, most of our readers should remember the glory days of these players.
#5. Stephen Weiss.
I was a bit hesitant to put Weiss in the top 5, with other players like Scott Mellanby, Nathan Horton and Rob Neidermeyer all having pretty good careers here in South Florida, but I just had to put Stephen here since he’s been a fairly consistent player all this career. Weiss was selected 4th overall back in the 2001 draft which was located here in our own stadium. Although Weiss spent most of the season in Juniors, he managed to play 7 games at the end of the year, recording 2 points in those games. Weiss has always been more of a puck possesion pass first type of player. He is the all time Panthers leading assist man with currently 238 in 614 games played. Since the 2006-2007 season Weiss has always managed to tally over 40 points, with a career high in the 2008-2009 season of 61. Weiss is a player that this organization trusts very much, and is the only current Panther to have been on this team before the 2007 season, every other player on the Panthers has been acquired after the 2006 season. Weiss is still only 28 years old and if he remains a Panther for a couple more years, he may be able to pass our next player on the All Time List.
#4. Ray Whitney
Like Stephen Weiss, Ray Whitney was another player that had that pass first mentality. Probably one of the most underrated players of all time, Whitney averaged 0.83 points a game in his Florida Panther career. Ray Whitney spent 4 seasons here in South Florida, helping the Panthers make the postseason back in the 1999-2000 season with a stunning 71 points. Not only was he a good player on the ice, but he was also a good leader, and a person that many players looked up too. Although many people may not remember Ray Whitney, people should definitely remember his linemate and next player on our top list.
#3. Viktor Kozlov
Viktor Kozlov played 414 games here in South Florida and centered one of the most potent lines in the Panthers history. Sandwiched between Ray Whitney and Pavel Bure sure helps a player becoming better than normal. Although Kozlov wasn’t a scoring machine, he knew how to pass the puck and feed the real scoring machine, Pavel Bure. In all, Kozlov tallied 190 assists here in South Florida and had a team leading 53 in the 1999-200 season. Kozlov was a very consistent Center for the Panthers for many years and thats why he is ranked #3 on the All Time Panthers List.
#2. Olli Jokinen
This is were the players start to seperate a little bit. Olli Jokinen for most of us younger fans was it. He was the superstar, the captain the all star, the man. Olli Jokinen came to the Panthers in the 2000-2001 season, and was if anything, below average. But something happened during the 2002-2003 season where he tallied 65 points, up to that point a career high. Following the lockout, Jokinen was the main attraction here in South Florida. He was the superstar that fans wanted to go see at a hockey game. Well, at least for me. During the 05-08 seasons, Olli tallied 251 points in 246 games during those 3 seasons. In all, Jokinen left the Panthers at the top of every offensive category; points, goals and assists. His 188 career goals still leads the franchise, but Stephen Weiss recently passed his all time assist total. In the end, Jokinen was dissapointed with the management and ended up leaving to attain playoff glory. He has yet to find it. Overall Jokinen is ranked #2, only behind one man, and I think everyone knows where I’m going here.
#1. The Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure.
I mean, what can I say about this player. He is one of Russia’s most decorated players with 60 points in 33 career international games. He has Olympic medals, World Junior Championship medals, World Championship medals, back to back Rocket Richard Trophys here in South Florida, and nearly captured the Art Ross Trophy. Pavel Bure was simply the greatest. Known all around the world as the Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure brought his talents to South Beach back in the 1999 season, but with several injuries wasn’t really able to make a full impact till the 2000 season. During that season, he scored 58 goals and tallied 36 assists, ending up with 94 points in 74 games. The following season, he didn’t slow down; this time he scored 59 goals and ended with 92 points, both the 94 and 92 point marks are all time Panther records. Bure was so dominate in the 2000-2001 season that the next closest player on the Panthers was Kozlov, a season in which he only tallied 37 points. Bure outscored the next player by almost 60 points. Bure set a league record that season by scoring 29.5% of his team’s total goals over the course of the season. Pavel Bure averaged 1.13 points a game here in South Florida and was named the 2000 NHL All Star MVP, a game in which he spent most of the time on the same line as other Panther all star Viktor Kozlov and his brother Valeri Bure, but his tenure was not very long. He only ended up playing about 2 and a half seasons here in Florida before being traded to the New York Rangers. Although Bure was not drafted by the Florida Panthers, Bure is pretty much the only pure successful scorer the Panthers have ever had in there franchise history. Pavel brought some attention back to South Florida during his tenure here and I was very sad to see he had left. Since the Bure era, the Panthers have failed to back the playoffs once. Hopefully with a new regime coming into place and players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Quinton Howden and Nick Bjugstad, it won’t be long before these players are attended to this list as well.
Thank you for reading!
Make sure to like is on Facebook as well. Remember to also follow the entire Rat Trick team on Twitter! Me @davidbub_2 . Frank Rekas @therattrick. David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Josh Luecht @joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, Paige Lewis @Peejlewiz, Adam Reid @AdamReid_ and Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger .