August is an incredibly dull month in the hockey world. The Draft and Free Agency have passed, and training camp has yet to begin. The rumor mill is quite and there is little to report. August is the month of predictions and speculations of what is to come. So with that said, here is what I think we can expect to see from some of the Panthers’ players this upcoming season.
I’m sure most Panthers’ fans are tired of reading, “Huberdeau was the lone bright spot for the Panthers this season,” because I know I am. Did these people seem to forget the emergence of Shawn Matthias? The 25 year old scored four more goals in 31 less games. Not only did his production increase, but his drive and determination really made him stand out. Last year Matthias was our Most Improved Player, and I am going to say that he will be this year’s Most Improved Player as well. Matthias is now the longest tenured Panthers’ player, excluding Jovonovski, and I expect him to take on a real leadership role this season and continue to improve.
Runner Up: Erik Gudbranson
I had a really tough time with this decision. It really came down to two players, but I want to save one of those players for a different award. In my opinion, Scottie Upshall doesn’t break from tradition and will sit out most of this season with a yet to be seen injury. He wins Most Injured Panthers’ Player of the Year. No real originality came from this pick, and I am sure most of you understand why. Out of a possible 130 games we could have seen Upshall in a Panthers’ jersey, we have only seen him 53 times. Pretty sad. This man has a strong case of the DiPietros, except with not as much disappointment.
Runner Up: Ed Jovonovski
I am going to continue my trend of not making any bold picks, but rather just trust my intuition and say Jonathan Huberdeau takes home this award. The kid is special. If he develops solid chemistry with Barkov and gets plenty power play time, as expected, then he should be lighting the lamp for us the most this season.
Runner Up: Kris Versteeg
One of the more consistent players for the Panthers the past two seasons, I believe Tomas Fleischmann will record the most assists. Fleischmann will most likely be paired with Kris Versteeg this year, and if the two can rekindle the magic they had between them their first year as Panthers then they will both be solid contributors. Not to mention Fleischmann will get power play time with Huberdeau.
Runner Up: Brian Campbell
Least Impactful Player
When considering the award for Least Impactful Player two things need to be noted. First of all, it needs to be a player that gets regular ice time, not a player that occasionally comes up to play on the fourth line. Second of all, it cannot be a player who is never there, as in always injured. I am considering the Least Impactful Player to be someone who just flies under the radar. A player that is there, but does not really provide anything offensively or defensively. I don’t mean our worst player either, because a player can be pretty impactful if he is always turning the puck over or is just being careless. The Least Impactful Player Award goes to Scott Gomez. I actually like the addition of Gomez to our roster, especially for the price. However, on a team full of young guns making either beautiful passes or causing disastrous turnovers Gomez is not going to get any attention. He will be there aiding our team and mentoring the young kids, but at the end of the day no one will really care.
Runner Up: Mike Weaver
Most Penalty Minutes
George Parros. Just kidding. We couldn’t afford his $875,000 contract. Trading Parros was really frustrating to see. On a team full of kids, and rather ‘dainty’ players having Big George and his MUSTACHE patrolling the ice would have been comforting. Anyway, the Award for Most Penalty Minutes goes to Erik Gudbranson. Gudbranson is our most intimidating player, and he will be involved in his fair share of fights. And like any young defensemen he will probably take stupid penalties occasionally like hooking.
Runner Up: Tomas Kopecky
Huberdeau? Barkov? Bjugstad? Nope. Time for my first bold pick! I am going to give the Panthers’ Season MVP Award to Jacob Markstrom. Here’s my reasons why. Markstrom was praised as “The Goalie of the Future,” but now he is here, and everyone saw him play last year, but no one seemed impressed. Why? Because he was not supposed to be here last year. Pretty simple.
It was not the time to call him up, but with Jose Theodore going down there was no choice. Add in the fact he was playing behind essentially a minor league team and that does not really bode too well for him. Markstrom, in my opinion, is really going to shine next year. He has experience, he has a new contract, and he has a slightly better team in front of him. It takes a while for goalies to mature, but I can see Markstrom bailing the Panthers out of quite a few games next season. Disagree if you choose, but Markstrom gets my vote for team MVP.
Runner Up: Jonathan Huberdeau
Player I Will Complain About Most
Here it is. The award you have been waiting for all night. The Award for The Player I Will Complain About Most goes to… the one, the only Ed Jovonovski! I really just do not like him. I understand his impact when he was drafted, and how much fans loved him back then, but for crying out loud it is time for the man to retire. He is slow, he is reckless, and he looks just downright lost. I will spare you my complaints about Jovo for now, but come the start of the season I cannot make any promises.
Runner Up: Ed Jovonovksi
Third Place: Scott Clemmensen
I hope you enjoyed the article. It was fun to write. Just keep in mind these are nothing more than my personal opinion, agree or disagree all you want. The regular season is still a little ways off. All we can do is speculate until then.