Thats right, the Florida Panthers begin their season in one measly week. What does that mean? It means the football season is over. (Dolphins finished undefeated yay!) It means you best not be caught watching any playoff baseball and it means it is time for another Florida Panthers roster projection.
The roster is almost complete so the only thing left to do is figure out where all the pieces fit. Sean Bergenheim, Nick Bjugstad and Ed Jovanovski will most likely start the season on IR so we will not factor them into our roster. Here is what we think the Panthers will look like when they travel to Dallas for their debut:
Scratches: Quinton Howden, Bobby Butler
Goc Flash and Huberdeau were practicing together on the same line earlier this week and while that could mean nothing, at this late stage in pre-season the practice lines will start to resemble those seen on game day.
“We played maybe three games last year together. We have got to find a chemistry,” Huberdeau said of playing with Fleischmann, “He’s just helping me to get to know him a little bit on the ice and to find him a little bit easier.”
The duo would form a potent combination as they finished one-two (Flash 35 its, Hubby 31) in the Panthers scoring race last season. Throwing Goc in the middle seems like a good idea. Goc is strong on face-offs and plays steady defense. Those skills would allow Fleischmann and Huberdeau to focus on making plays on the offensive end of the ice.
Last season Boyes played Robin to John Tavares’ Batman. Flanking the MVP finalist, Boyes finished the season with 35 points (10 goals 25 assists). Pairing Boyes with Barkov could provide similar results and at the very least Boyes would provide a veteran presence for the rookie Barkov to turn to on the ice.
Flexible is Better
With this roster, the Panthers would be able to do a lot of things with their bottom-six players that would give them multiple different looks. They could switch Crabb out for Butler if they want a more scoring punch or they could give the veteran Gomez a day off and shift Shore to his natural center position while inserting either Howden or Butler on a wing. The quintet of Howden, Crabb, Gomez, Shore and Butler would give the team a nice mix of veteran presence, youth, grit, skill, speed and potential. Can you really ask for anything more?
Scratch: Tom Gilbert
Gudbranson Making Strides
Erik Gudbranson has had an uncharacteristically productive pre-season but even more important than the stats is the high praise heaped on him by head coach Kevin Dineen.
“Erik Gudbranson has been our top defenseman in camp and is right up there for being the top player in training camp,” Dineen said of the 21 year old.
If his upward trajectory continues into the regular season, it will go a long way in improving a defense that ranked last in the league in goals allowed with 171.
Matt Gilroy and Tom Gilbert will probably rotate most of the season between the last roster spot and being the healthy scratch. Gilroy plays an offensive minded game while Gilbert has a defense first mentality so Dineen can make the necessary adjustments depending on what he thinks his roster needs on any given night.