Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Draft: Florida Panthers Draft 'Boring', But Add Much Needed Grit, Role Players

Aaron Ekblad

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In every great organization there lie depth and role players that when executing said role helps just as much in victory as the stars.

The Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and now Anze Kopitar’s of the league may get the headlines, but it is sometimes the players at the bottom of the depth chart that makes the biggest difference.

The fourth line center – Maxime Talbot – scored the lone two goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. His fight against Daniel Carcillo also sparked a comeback that put them on the path towards winning the Cup, all the way in the first round.

Unsung heroes (at the time) like Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell (as well as Dave Bolland, of course) came through when it matters most.

Plain and simple, any team that can roll out four strong lines will beat any team who can throw out two elite lines (see any Penguins’ playoff series since 2009).

Those are the teams that win consistently in the playoffs. The Kings have won the Cup two out of the last three years because they roll out four lines that can – 1. Control the puck, and 2. Make life hell for the opposition when they don’t.

The 2014 draft for the Florida Panthers may have gone a long way into beginning to build that depth for the bottom of the lineup.

After selecting Aaron Ekblad with the first overall pick to become one of the faces of the organization, the Panthers went with one common theme with the rest of their picks – grit.

Outside of Juho Lammikko, who still projects as a two-way middle-6 forward if he pans out, and goaltender Hugo Fagerblom, every pick the Panthers’ made brought with them a gritty-tenacity to their game that will be a welcome addition to their bottom-6.

Even second round pick Jayce Hawryluk and Miguel Fidler (5th round) bring some edge to their game. Not shying away from physical play and puck battles along the boards and neither are the biggest players out there.

Remember the saying; it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog that counts. There is no denying that Shaw is one of the fiercest and physical players for the Blackhawks, and he checks in smaller than both Fidler and Hawryluk.

In a draft that may not produce any true elite superstars, but getting a building block defenseman and role players that can play behind the young talented players already playing for the Panthers right now can’t be underrated or undervalued.

It may have not been the ‘fanciest’ of drafts, but fancy doesn’t win when it counts. If it won during the playoffs, the Penguins would be in the Stanley Cup Final every year, instead they haven’t come close since winning it in 2009.

Tags: Aaron Ekbald Andrew Shaw Florida Panthers Jayce Hawryluk Miguel Fidler Nhl Draft

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