It is finally officially, the lockout is over!! We can now look forward to all the joyous hockey to come! Yesterday the league released every team’s schedule. You can find the Panthers schedule here, and our closer look at their schedule here. The Panthers have released their 32-man training camp roster and the first practice is scheduled for Monday January 14th at 10 AM.
Alex Kovalev and Marek Svatos are both on the roster as expected although Adrei Kostitsyn is absent. Dmitri Kulikov is also not on the roster as the team has yet to sign him to a new deal. Youngsters Michael Caruso and Alex Petrovic will have a shot to make the team on the defensive end and young forwards, Jonathan Huberdeau, Quinton Howden, Jon Rheault, James Wright and Drew Shore will all be in camp.
The Panthers were 27th in the NHL last season in Goals For. If they want to have continued success, they need to generate more scoring. This years crop of forwards should closely resemble last years team with the exception of a few notable additions. Free-agent signee Peter Mueller and Panther prospect Jonathan Huberdeau should each make the starting roster hopefully adding a spark to the offense. Big-man George Parros was brought in to add toughness to the bottom of the Panthers roster and his influence is already apparently being felt as Kris Versteeg has been seen sporting a very Parros-like ‘stache.
Here is how I imagine the roster could look like when the Panthers face off against Carolina next saturday:
- It would be nice to see the Fleischmann-Weiss-Versteeg line back together, their production last season was excellent and they have a great nickname to boot: The Flash Mob.
- Huberdeau-Mueller-Upshall would be a super talented line. Each player has been drafted with the top ten picks in their respective drafts. If this trio can stay healthy and realize its potential then they could become pretty deadly.
- Bergenheim-Goc-Samuelsson was my favorite line last year. Their tenacity was unmatched and Marcel Goc was a beast at the face-off dot. Hopefully there will be no drop off due to replacing Samuelsson with Kopecky.
- The fourth line is where we will see a lot of flexibility. I personally love Matthias and hope he sees an increased role on this years team. He should be in the roster every night and I suspect he will be.
- Mike Santorelli and Jerred Smithson could see some time on the fourth line and Parros may be a healthy scratch if the team wants to go with a smaller roster.
- I do not see any of the younger guys other than Huberdeau breaking camp with the team. Jon Rheault and Drew Shore are leading the Panthers AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage with 29 points each but I see them as being used primarily as injury replacements.
- Quinton Howden is worth keeping an eye on, if he has a strong camp, he could end up making the team
2013 Offense Projections:
Here is what I am projecting for the key players in the Panthers offense this season. These projections are completely arbitrary but are nonetheless tons of fun to do. They are also great to look back on at the end of the season to see how far off I was in my thinking.
45 GP, 15 G, 20 A, 34 Pts
48 GP, 20 G, 20 A, 40 Pts
48 GP, 23 G, 19 A, 42 Pts
As you can tell I am pretty high on the Versteeg-Weiss-Fleischmann line. If this Panther team is to make the playoffs again this season, they will need another year of strong production from their top forwards.
48 GP, 12 G, 24 A, 36 Pts
I had to reign myself in a bit with my Huberdeau projection, the die-hard Panther fan in me want to project a 50 point season for the youngster but I think the above line is a better expectation if even still a bit inflated.
40 GP, 12 G, 18 A, 30 Pts
38 GP, 8 G, 12 A, 20 Pts
Can Mueller and Upshall both stay healthy for the entirety of the season? Its doubtful, but if they can then I would expect them to produce at a good clip. Upshall especially needs to improve from last year. Even when he was on the ice he did not do much with only 5 points in his 26 games last year.
44 GP, 9 G, 9 A, 18 Pts
42 GP, 5 G, 12 A, 17 Pts
48 GP, 6 G, 13 A, 19 Pts
48 GP, 12 G, 10 A, 22 Pts
This is partly influenced by my man-crush on Shawn Matthias as projecting 22 points from what should be a fourth or third line player is a bit high in this shortened season. Nonetheless, I expect Matthias to make positive strides this season thus legitimatizing my faith in him.
The Panthers are at an interesting juncture with the offense. The team is trying to maintain a stable of productive veteran forwards while providing room for the influx of talented youngsters the Panthers have in the system. The Panthers are trying to assimilate these youngsters without experiencing a drop off at the NHL level. If everything goes the Panthers way the offense will be more dynamic than last years offense. If some of the young players have trouble adjusting than we can expect a slight drop-off from what we saw last season.
Stay tuned to The Rat Trick as we will be providing tons of content preparing Panther fans for the upcoming season.