#44 is a rookie no more! Yes, that guy on the Panthers with GQ good looks and the power to smash someone to the ice like this, was in fact only 19 years old last season. This past NHL season for Erik Gudbranson was a good one. After the “nine game tryout” as they call it, Dale Tallon made the decision to keep Gudbranson with the Panthers feeling he had nothing left to prove in Juniors. As in any typical rookie season, there weren’t always fairytale ending moments. In November, he was scratched for 3 games in a row for a bad line change that resulted in a goal. In the end however it had a positive effect on his growth and maturity. Gudbranson even said “It’s a great opportunity for me to watch from the stands and really appreciate being on the ice. It’s a learning experience watching the game from up top and seeing what’s going on out there”. Obviously he understood the benching and that learning from your mistakes is part of any rookies growth in the NHL.
By the end of last season, I think a lot of people found themselves thinking, this guy is the real deal. In the playoffs, Erik proved to everyone how quick he could learn and adapt to a situation and thrive in it. He played some of his best defense along with that extra little bit of toughness. This quick learning was in part thanks to fellow defenseman Ed Jovanovski and his veteran advice. Gudbranson and Jovanovski were a defensive pairing most of the year and it proved to be a perfect combination.
This leads me to think, how much will he improve this upcoming season? Now with a loaded defense, players will be competing for a spot on the ice which always leads to putting 110% out there. His toughness is a huge part of his game and I expect to see it even more this season which is exciting since the Panthers never really had that one tough guy that stood up for the team. Gudbranson has a pretty hard shot from the blueline which will eventually lead to more goals. Over these next few years, his offensive skills will improve and once that happens, I think he will be a force to be reckoned with. With his size, toughness, and defensive skills mixed with a nice shot and offensive abilities, you’ve got an excellent player. I’m very excited about the growth of Erik and can’t wait to see what he brings each year to this team.
Clearly, us fans, aren’t the only ones who can’t wait for hockey season to start. Just the other day Mr. Erik Gudbranson tweeted “Dear hockey season…please start.” Pretty cool to see a player just as excited for the season to start! And for the ladies out there, if you find yourself bored, go take a look at Erik’s profile picture on Twitter. It’s bound to keep you busy for a bit!
Thanks for reading and all comments are appreciated!
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