The Florida Panthers are beginning to take shape as the team approaches the start of the regular season. With just two pre-seaon games remaining, the battles for the final roster spots are heating up. The training camp roster is down to 30 players which means there are only a few more cuts to make to get the team down to the 23 man roster. Here is a look at some of the remaining camp battles:
First off, it looks like Sean Bergenheim (groin/hip) and Nick Bjugstad (concussion) will start the season on IR. When Bjugstad recovers from his concussion he will probably be sent to the AHL to refine his game. Steve Pinizzotto also recently sustained an injury which means there are 16 healthy forwards competing for 14 roster spots. I think the following ten players are locks to make the roster: Kris Versteeg, Shawn Matthias, Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, Marcel Goc, Scottie Upshall, Brad Boyes, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Scott Gomez.
The following six players will be competing for the remaining four roster spots: Joey Crabb, Drew Shore, Jesse Winchester, Bobby Butler, Quinton Howden and Vincent Trocheck. I’m going to assume that Shore makes the team and Crabb is on a one way contract which combined with his play in camp makes him a safe bet to grab a spot. That leaves us with Winchester, Butler, Howden and Trocheck fighting over the last two spots.
Although the Cats will probably carry 14 forwards, only 12 will dress on any given night. Simple math dictates that each game will feature two healthy scratches. What I am getting at is, if Trocheck and Howden are to make the team, it will probably be as the last two men on the roster meaning on many nights they will not even dress. If the Panthers have to choose between having two of their best prospects ride the pine with the big club or play a featured role in the AHL, wouldn’t they choose the latter?
My prediction is that the last two roster spots go to Bobby Butler and Quinton Howden, but to be honest I really have no idea. The last few games will go a long way towards helping Kevin Dineen and Dale Tallon make their decision.
Starting with the injuries, it looks like Ed Jovanovski will begin the season on IR. Now excluding Jovo, the Cats have eight defensemen in camp but will most likely start the season with seven on their roster so somebody has to go. We can assume Dmitry Kulikov, Mike Weaver, Erik Gudbranson and Brian Campbell are locks. That leaves four players competing for three spots. Those four players are: Colby Robak, Matt Gilroy, Mike Mottau and Tom Gilbert.
As with the forwards, when it gets this close to the final roster only Dineen and Tallon truly know how things will shake out. Yours truly may have enough Panthers knowledge to confidently state that Brian Campbell will make the team while Jonathan Racine will not, but when it comes to these close calls all I can do is throw my hands in the air and admit defeat. If you want to take that admission of uselessness as permission to stop reading then I guess I can’t blame you.
BUT… while the wise man is aware of all that he does not know, the wiser man says f**k it and pretends to know everything anyway, so here is how I see it all shaking out: I think Robak and Gilbert will make the team and the final spot will come down to Gilroy and Mottau. Gilroy is younger and provides much more offense but his defense leaves a lot to be desired. Mottau on the other hand is the veteran stay at home type defender who will put in solid, if unspectacular, performances as long as his body holds up. Mottau probably has the better shot at making the team although I would rather see Gilroy.
The goalie battle is being fought on two fronts right now. We cannot say for sure which two goalies will be kept on the roster and we also cannot say for sure who the starter will be. That’s the diplomatic version, the candid version goes like this: Scott Clemmensen is screwed. The addition of Thomas made Clemmensen about as useful as an abacus on a calculus test and unless he (Thomas) or Markstrom get hurt or forget how to play, Clemmensen will spend most of his time in the AHL or out on the street looking for a new team.
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