Throughout the offseason we have, from time to time, attempted to project the Florida Panthers’ opening night roster. This being the offseason, these roster projections have been largely speculation based. By looking at where a player was on the depth chart last season and how much we can reasonably expect him to improve, we can come up with a decent approximation of what the team’s roster will look like when the Cats play the Stars on October 3rd. When training camp gets underway next Thursday (Sept. 12th) we will finally begin to get some real information but for now your guess is as good as mine. With that in mind lets take a look at the roster:
This And That
- If you look at our roster projection from late August you will notice a number of changes. Players getting healthy is the main cause for the changes. In August it appeared that Kris Versteeg was definitely going to miss some of the early season while Drew Shore, Dmitry Kulikov and Sean Bergenheim were questionable. It now appears that all four will be ready for the start of the season. The biggest surprise of this bunch is Kris Versteeg who at one point was expected to be out until November. His recovery appears to be ahead of schedule and he is back skating with the team. He is confident he will be able to play when the season starts so I have penciled him in at the top right wing spot.
- If Versteeg has to miss anytime, expect Scottie Upshall to move up to the first line with the rest of the right wingers jumping up a spot and Bobby Butler filling in on the fourth line.
- If healthy, I think the Huberdeau-Barkov-Upshall trio could be devastating. That is a huge IF, especially with Upshall in the mix. He has only played in 40.7 percent of the Panthers regular season games over the past two years.
- The final few forward spots will be fought over tooth and nail during training camp. The position battles could look something like this: Gomez/Shore/Bjugstad battling it out for one center spot, and Butler/Crabb/Howden/Trocheck/Selleck fighting for the one or two remaining spots.
- Although I have gone back and forth all summer, I am finally settling on Gomez in the fourth line center spot. I think Shore could snag a wing spot. I think Bjugstad has the most to gain out of the trio by spending some time in the AHL and that is where he will begin the 2013-14 season.
- I think Howden has the inside track on the final spot but I could see Selleck in the spot if the Panthers want to add some size and toughness (but not too much toughness) or Trocheck could have a stellar camp and force his way onto the opening night roster.
- I based my defensive pairings on the strengths of each player. Both Kulikov and Campbell possess strong offensive capabilities while Gudbranson and Weaver lean more towards the defensive end of things. A Kuli-Soupy pairing is tempting but I think putting the two forward thinking d-men with the stay at home guys allows Kulikov and Campbell to do their thing with the assurance that someone will be backing them up.
- The final two defensive spots are completely up in the air. With Ed Jovanovski looking like he will miss some time, players like Petrovic, Robak, Gilroy and Caruso will have a legitimate shot at making the team. Veteran Mike Mottau will also be an option but the 35 year old will have to prove he can shake off the rust of having not played an NHL game since the 2011-12 season.
So there you have it, the last off-season roster projection. Here at TRT we welcome your opinion so if you disagree with any of my selections, let me hear about it in the comments section below, or feel free to yell at me on twitter @FansidedTheRat or on Facebook.