When talking hockey, the most generic question asked to a person may be, “Who is your favourite team?” Followed by, “Who is your favourite player?”
Looking down the roster at the 2012-2013 team, there are a few players who I admire on the ice; key players which really stepped up last season to make a difference in South Florida. Yet, when asked which player is my favourite, I don’t hesitate to quickly answer – Kris Versteeg.
A Diamond In the Rough
Kris Versteeg was drafted in the 5th round (134th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins. Although he was selected by the Bruins, he would never manage to see a game with the parent club and instead spent his time with their AHL affiliate the Providence Bruins.
The 2008-09 season would ultimately turn out to be Versteeg’s first year in the NHL – as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks – one which made the Bruin’s realize just how much of a mistake they truly made.
Versteeg’s first full season in the NHL saw him score 22 goals, and tally 53 points. This formidable rookie total proved to be a career high (until last season when he put up 54). In Chicago, Versteeg would take full advantage of his first chance to make it in the NHL. The following season would prove to be an even better one for Versteeg as he scored 44 points en route to winning his first Stanley Cup – and the first cup in the windy city since 1961.
A Cowboy without a Home
Following a Stanley Cup victory, the Chicago Blackhawks organization ran into financial trouble when they were unable to sign main players which were under contract. Due to this situation, Chicago was forced to move guys to free up cap space. As a result of this Versteeg found himself on a plane to Toronto alongside Bill Sweatt for rookies Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis.
Versteeg would only manage to play 53 games for the Buds before being traded for a first-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers organization. Through 27 games, Versteeg would score 7 goals and 4 assists.
Following the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, Versteeg was traded to the Florida Panthers for a conditional 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick in 2012.
This would prove to be one of the best moves of Versteeg’s career as he started out leading league in points for an early part of the season; even through November he was top 10 in points. Versteeg would then run into unfortunate injury problems, yet he managed a career best 23 goals and 31 assists.
What the Future Holds
Thanks to his hot play last season, Versteeg would ultimately meet with Panthers organization to discuss arbitration. Finally, a 4-year 17.6 million dollar agreement was settled.
Heading into the 2012-2013 season, Versteeg still has room for improvement. At the beginning of last season, Versteeg was on pace to put up 90 points. But, due to injuries which saw him sit out 11-games followed by a terrible cold-streak which saw him struggle trying to find the back of the net, yet 54 points was nothing to be ashamed of.
Based on Versteeg’s performance, there is a lot expectation heading into this season. A 60-plus point season doesn’t seem too farfetched as fans look to him to lead this team back into the post-season once again.
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