The ‘youth movement’ is happening, just not where you would expect.
Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon talked during the summer about an impending youth movement with the NHL club, but with the NHL season set to kick off tonight it seems like the ‘movement’ will not be as radical as advertised.
During the summer and the pre-season it was speculated that big name prospects like Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden, Alex Petrovic, Vince Trocheck and Colby Robak could end up on the Panthers opening day roster. Now it looks like the only new young addition to the Panthers will be top pick Aleksander Barkov. Barkov, 18, will join fellow youngsters Drew Shore, 22, Jonathan Huberdeau, 20, Erik Gudbranson, 21, and Jacob Markstrom, 23. That young core will be flanked by a group of veterans that make the Panthers as a whole, a surprisingly old team. Despite the youngsters in the lineup, the Panthers have the seventh oldest team in the NHL with an average age of 28.732.
In retrospect, this offseason, when Tallon talked about going with his ‘young guys’ what he was really saying was, ‘I cannot make the moves that I want because I have my hands tied by a potential sale of the team so in order to avoid a massive fan rebellion, I have to sell everybody on the myth of youth.’ Once the sale of the Panthers to Vincent Viola was finalized, the team went on a spending spree of sorts where they signed veterans Tim Thomas, Brad Boyes, Tom Gilbert, and Ryan Whitney while also trading for Krys Barch effectively putting the kibosh on the ‘youth movement’.
Not all is lost for fans of young talent. The Panthers may have gone the safe route by signing experienced NHL vets, but a result of those signings is, all the young players many expected to be with Florida will now start the season with the San Antonio Rampage.
Movement Relocates to San Antonio
Under new head coach, Peter Horachek, the San Antonio Rampage should have a roster that boasts numerous players with NHL experience. Looking at their roster, the sheer amount of potential really stands out. Quinton Howden, Vincent Trocheck, Alex Petrovic, Colby Robak, Jonathan Racine and Michael Caruso are all young players who appear to have bright NHL futures ahead of them. Also, when highly touted center Nick Bjugstad recovers from a concussion he will more than likely be assigned to the Rampage. Throw in experience AHLers like Greg Rallo and Jon Matsumoto and the Rampage look like a team that will be pretty fun to watch this year.
***Brief Interruption alert***
Can I just say how bummed out I am about the Nick Bjugstad concussion? Not because it robs me of a chance to watch him play, there will be plenty of time for that in the future, but because it robs us of the opportunity to have the biggest question of the offseason play out before our eyes in training camp.
The question was essentially, will Nick Bjugstad make the Panthers? I struggled with this question all summer, publishing numerous pieces where I flip-flopped my opinion more than a government official in an election year.
The Bjugstad question was a part of a larger debate revolving around the center position. The Panthers seemingly had six NHL caliber centers and only four spots. Scott Gomez, Shawn Matthias, Aleksander Barkov, Marcel Goc, Drew Shore, and Nick Bjugstad would all be duking it out for one of four center positions on the roster.
Now with the rosters almost set, I can’t help but wonder what could have been if Bjugstad was healthy during camp. The most probably option is that he would be sent to San Antonio for more seasoning, but what if he impressed in camp? Would the Panthers move him to a wing a la Drew Shore or would he potentially displace Scott Gomez? With a healthy Nick Bjugstad, the Panthers would have been faced with some tough decisions but instead, Bjugstad gets concussed and misses all of training camp essentially taking all the tough decisions out of the Panthers hands and in the process robbing us fans of all the drama and speculation.
So in conclusion, F-you concussions, you suck!
***Back to your regularly scheduled article***
Where was I…Oh yea, the Rampage roster will feature a number of players that many thought would be starting the season in South Florida. Add to all that the chance that Scott Clemmensen could be joining the team shortly and you have a pretty formidable AHL squad…
Now that I think about it, is it completely implausible that the Panthers keep Clemmensen and send Markstrom back to the minors instead? Assuming Clemmensen is healthy and Tim Thomas is in good enough shape to handle heavy minutes, there is an argument that can be made that Markstrom would be better off playing on an everyday basis with the Rampage rather than backing up Tim Thomas in the NHL.
If Markstrom gets sent to the AHL, he will get a chance to gel with the teammates he will grow through the ranks with, and playing everyday will help him work on his game and help him prove that he can dominate and stay healthy, something he has not been able to do in the past. I am not saying I want to see Markstrom get demoted, but I do not think it would be the worst thing in the world if he does.
The goalies in San Antonio right now are Dov Grumet-Morris, 31, and Michael Houser, 21, who spent most of last season in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Here is what the Rampage roster looks like at this point in time:
|Jack Combs||Jared Gomes|
|Tony Turgeon||Greg Rallo|
|Logan Shaw||Eric Selleck|
|Jon Matsumoto||Philippe Cornet|
|Garrett Wilson||Jed Ortmeyer|
|Quinton Howden||John McFarland|
|Jonathan Racine||Denny Urban|
|Michael Caruso||Zach Miskovic|
|Greg Zanon||Alex Petrovic|
|John Lee||Colby Robak|
|Dov Grumet-Morris||Michael Houser|
The San Antonio Rampage begin their season at home on Friday against the Chicago Wolves. On Saturday they are at home again, playing the Rockford Icehogs.