Dec 22, 2011; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) during warmup prior to game against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE

A Quick Look At My 5 Best Florida Panther Draft Picks

With the draft just a few short hours away, many of us are wondering who will be the first pick that’s will be chosen by the Florida Panthers.  Having the 23rd overall pick, and the draft itself void of many “elite” players, it remains to be seen how this will turn out for all 30 NHL teams as well.  By having such a low pick, which Florida isn’t quite used to it’s difficult to say who they’ll take.  An analysis could be much easier if the Panthers were picking in the top 5.  But honestly, it’s nice to be in the position that they are in now for a change.  By having a pick in this slot, the Panthers will have the ability to trade up, trade down, or just sit tight as things develop.

I’m sure that the scouting staff has a long list of players that are under consideration in the event that their number opne choice isn’t available.  So while we await for the “chosen one” for 2012, here’s my list of the Florida Panthers top 5 draft picks.  Note:  the list is of course opinionated, and will surely generate some dialogue from the readers.  The list however includes only draft picks that played in the NHL, and is made in order of the year that they were drafted, with the most recent being the last.

* Ed Jovanovski:  Chosen number one overall in 1994 the player now known as JovoCop has had a very solid NHL career.  Jovo spent his first four seasons with the Panthers before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks as part of the Pavel Buere trade.  He then found his way to Phoenix before coming home last season, signing a four year deal.  Jovo was and is expected to be the mentor for young defenceman Erik Gudbranson.

* Radek Dvorak: Radek was chosen 10th overall in 1995, just one pick ahead of Jarome Iginla who was taken by the Dallas Stars.  Don’t feel bad, as the Stars traded Iginla which is probably worse than not drafting him.  Dvorak was a speedy two way winger.  Very reliable, and very consistent. Dvorak played with the Panthers for five seasons and then spent time with the New York Rangers, Edmponton Oilers, and St. Louis Blues before coming home to the Panthers in 2007.  Dvorak played last season for the Dallas Stars.  Hmmmm….. see how that came around?

* Stephen Weiss:  Selected 4th overall in the 2001 draft that was held at the Bank Atlantic Center, Weiss, like a wall sconce, has become a fixture with the Florida Panthers.  He has spent his entire career here and has been through many coaching and general manager changes during that time.  Not to mention the different linemates he’s had.  Last season was the first ever playoff appearance for Weiss, which ended a decade long playoff drought for the Panthers.  

* Dmitry Kulikov:  The smooth skating Russian defender was taken 14th in 2009, and made the jump from juniors right to the big time in his first season.  Kulikov playing in 68 games his rookie season, started slowly, and as the season wore on began to get more comfortable with the NHL style of play.  While still very young, Kulikov has seen and learned a lot already, and still hasn’t come close to showing the potential that the Panthers drafted him for.

* Erik Gudbranson :  Drafted third overall in 2010, Erik was Dale Tallon’s first draft pick.  While he has only played one season, you have a right to ask how can he already be on this list?  The answer is very easy.  Erik was drafted with the knowledge by many scouts and experts as a player who has all the tools to eventually become one of the best defencemen in the NHL.  Big, physical, quick, and with a “controlled” mean streak, Big G as he’s known around this site is not only all of that, but is captain material.  He matured more than any player I have ever seen in their first season, especially during the first round of the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, that you can have nothing but high expectations for his development.  He’s going to be great.  Remember you read that here first!

There they are…..my top 5 Florida Panther draft picks of all time. 

Dishonorable mention:

* Jay Bouwmeester- overrated.  And now overpaid!

* Nathan Horton-he needed a change of scenery…. and got one.

*Rostislav Olesz- overrated, overpaid, fragile and now in the AHL. 

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: Dmitry Kulikov Ed Jovanovski Erik Gudbranson Florida Panthers Nhl Entry Draft Radel Dvorak Stephen Weiss

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