The Florida Panthers are set to begin training camp this Thursday, September 12th. While the Panther’s rookie camp these weekend was exciting, it was just an aperitif, something to wet our appetites as we prepare for the main course. In the coming days we will start to see the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Tomas Fleischmann, and Brian Campbell, so as we stand on the brink of what is sure to be an action packed 2013-14 season, there is no better time to ask the question: who will lead the Panthers in scoring this season?
Forgotten in all the Jonathan Huberdeau buzz last season was the fact that the Panthers leading scorer was actually Tomas Fleischmann. With 12 goals and 23 assists, Flash finished with 35 points, four more than Huberdeau. Can he do it again in 2013-14? If he can stay healthy he should, at the very least, be near the top of the leader board. As some of the younger Panthers develop, the battle for the team’s scoring title should become more competitive. That being said, Fleischmann’s experience gives him a definite edge. He has lead the team in scoring the past two seasons and if he stays on the ice, there is no reason to think that he cannot do it again.
If anyone is going to take the title away from Fleischmann, it will be Jonathan Huberdeau. As a rookie he scored 14 goals and 17 assists in 48 games while playing the last part of the season with an injured hip. Huberdeau has a nose for the goal and he is a natural playmaker. As he gains more NHL experience, we can expect to see a jump in his assist numbers. Those assist numbers could also get a boost if his young supporting cast learns to more efficiently finish the plays he sets up. All in all Huberdeau looks like he will make a huge jump in his sophomore season.
Brian Campbell has been a productive scoring defenseman his entire career. He has finished among the Panthers top five scorers in each of his two years with the team. To be honest, if Brian Campbell leads the team in scoring, the Panthers will be in a hell of a lot of trouble. Moving on…
Kopecky has spent most of his career as a secondary scorer. That changed last season when Kopecky scored 15 goals in 47 games to lead the Panthers in goals. He also tied a career high that he set in 2010 when he scored 15 goals in 81 games with the Blackhawks. Kopecky’s 2012-13 production represented a huge jump from his usual production and he finished tied for third on the team in scoring with 27 points. If he can prove last year was not an aberration, he should challenge for the team’s scoring title.
Like Kopecky, Matthias also experienced an increase in production last season. He set a career high with 14 goals but what was most impressive was his month of March where he scored 11 goals in 16 games. This hot streak emphasized his scoring potential while also bringing to light the inconsistent nature of his production that has been so frustrating throughout his career. Putting the month of March aside, Matthias only scored three goals in 32 games. Which Matthias will we see this year? If we get the March-Matthias more often than not, he could be in for quite the season.
The Panthers first round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft (2nd overall) comes into training camp with a very good chance of making the opening day roster. While he is extremely young (he just turned 18 on September, 2nd) Barkov could make a quick adjustment to the NHL as he has already experience professional hockey having spent the last two seasons playing in the Finnish Elite League. It would be brash to expect Barkov to lead the team in scoring right of the bat, but he is immensely talented and at the very least, it is a possibility.