One thing that’s bothered me all off-season is the depth chart of the Florida Panthers. The Cats have a first line that could hang with any team in hockey but when you dig below the surface, the team’s weaknesses become apparent.
The depth on the right side wasn’t strong last year and I don’t see many upgrades to that situation. Kris Versteeg is a solid first line guy but the crew that’s skating below him is shabby at best.
Jack Skille has made improvements to his game but he’s still a player who tends to get bounced around between the NHL and AHL. He’s a solid hockey player but the gap in talent between him and Versteeg is huge.
Peter Mueller was a gamble when the Cats signed him. He was highly touted as a rookie but he has been plagued by concussion issues since he joined the league. If Mueller can stay healthy he will probably skate on the second line but if his health issues persist, the Cats will be in a bad position.
The third guy skating behind Versteeg on the right side is George Parros. What can I say? I love this guy but let’s face it, the only ice time Parros will see is when some enforcing needs to be done. He’s a specialty kind of player and will probably spend as much time in the penalty box as he does on the ice.
Stephen Wiess is the perennial starting center for the Panthers. Wiess is great but again, there isn’t much of a talent pool backing up his position.
Marcel Goc was last year’s second line center and it looks like he’ll have a chance to play that role again. The only problem with Goc is that he’s primarily a faceoff specialist, which is a big help on penalty killing situations but he’s never been the kind of player to put up a lot of points.
Shawn Matthias will be gunning for the second line center role but Matthias is still young and unproven.
Jonathan Huberdeau is the third guy who will skate behind Weiss next season. Everyone in South Florida is high on Hubby. He dominated the QMJHL in Juniors and he looks like he can be the heir apparent to Weiss. The only problem with the kid is 19 years old and has no NHL experience. I think Hubby will be a great player one day but he has to get used to the level of play in the NHL first.
Life isn’t all bad in Florida. The Cats have good depth on the left wing and extraordinary depth at defense, which includes several prospects from the San Antonio Rampage. The team that will take the ice at the beginning of next season will certainly be good enough to win hockey games but my concern is, will they be good enough to get back to the playoffs and win?
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