When the Florida Panthers used their second round pick on Swedish goaltender Jacob Markstrom, they suddenly filled the spot for goaltender of the future. The team made the selection while already having goalies Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen on the roster. Being drafted early in the second round, a lot of pressure was put onto Markstrom as people began to view him as a potential all-star goalie in the NHL.
After being drafted by the Panthers, Markstrom continued to play for Brynas IF, a Swedish Ice Hockey team that is located in Gavle Sweden. The young goaltender continued to impress at his position. Due to his enormous amount of success, the Panthers were ready to bring Jacob to America and introduce him to the western style of play. On June 1st, 2010 the Panthers and Markstrom finally came to a deal, as the team agreed to sign the goalie to an entry level deal.
On January 23rd, 2011, Markstrom made his NHL debut as he went onto replace then starter Scott Clemmensen. Upon his debut, Markstrom became the youngest goalie to have ever played for the Panthers.
When the season was over, the team sent him back down to their AHL affiliate Rochester Americans. The team executives felt that he needed to spend more time developing his skills in America due to the fact that players in America have many different shooting tendencies than those from Sweden. The Panthers did not get the type of play that they wanted from him as he struggled during his first season. Not only did he face different struggles, unfortunately he also fell victim to a knee injury. After having the surgery in South Florida it was time for him to get back to being the goalie he used to be. With an intense rehab schedule and a lot of practice to get back on the ice, Markstrom was ready to have a great year.
As the 2011-2012 season approached, Markstrom had a real good shot at making the Panthers roster, because of the departure of starting goalie Tomas Vokoun. The Cats showed that they believe in him, as they invited him to the September training camp to compete for a goalie spot on the roster. Unfortunately for him, he was forced to play another year in the AHL, this time with the San Antonio Rampage, the main AHL affiliate for the Panthers.
Due to many various injuries to both Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen throughout the year, Markstrom did in fact see some playing time in the NHL. In his short time as a Panther started, he went 2-4-1 in his seven games played, starting six of them. On October 22nd, 2011, Markstrom earned his first career victory when he came in for the third period. Jacob saved an all of the shots he faced as he went 18-18. The success that he had during that game gave fans hope that he is coming around and can be a full time Panther sooner than later. However as both goalies regained their health, Markstrom found himself back in the American Hockey League.
Now it’s the 2011-2012 offseason, and the questions have continued to come up; what should the team do with Markstrom. Should the Panthers keep him in the AHL for continued development? Or should they have him have a full time spot in the NHL? Two very good questions as GM Dale Tallon is going to have a lot of thinking to do. If I were in Tallons shoes, I would without a doubt keep him in the AHL. The reason why I believe he should stay there is simple. He isn’t ready for a spot in the NHL. Even though Scott Clemmensen’s contract is now up and the team will be down a goalie, I believe that they must go out and either re-sign Clemmy to a one year contract or go out and sign another veteran goalie to help this team continue to progress.
I myself am not the only one who thinks that he should stay in the AHL. Florida Panthers Assistant GM Mike Santos believes so as well. In a recent interview with the Sun-Sentinel, he was asked about what he thinks should be done with the goalie. When asked about how he thought he played during the AHL playoffs, Santos went onto say “he was ok”. He then went onto to continue saying why he thinks he should play another year in the NHL by saying, “Again he’s a young guy, and unfortunately for two years as a pro he hasn’t had a full season in the minors as far as being the number one guy that we had hoped. Most of it’s been because of injury, not only to him, but injuries to the goalies we have in Florida which required us to recall him.”
A lot of people have been patiently waiting for Markstrom to come play with the big boys and in all honestly, I think that everyone is going to have to wait another year. Unless he suffers a serious injury in the AHL (KNOCK ON WOOD), another season with San Antonio cannot hurt him, but only help him. With another year in the AHL, Markstrom will have the chance to continue to learn how skaters in the US play and quickly adjust to the “American Way” of hockey. I am hoping that he is kept in the AHL. Whether you like it or not, Jacob Markstrom is our goalie of the future and at the young age of only 22 years old, why rush his development and hinder his learning abilities? The wait for Markstrom will definitely be worth it, as he has the potential to be a dominate goalie in the NHL.
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