As the Florida Panthers get ready to start another season, the players that will occupy the third line are once again unknown. Who will play on the third line, and will they be good enough to contribute offensively?
Ever since the Panthers started their resurrection from being a pushover team in the 2014-15 season, the third line has been a thorn in the Panthers’ side. After losing in the playoffs to the New York Islanders, many thought they would add to the third line in order to secure three top offensive lines.
Instead, the Panthers spent money on other guys like: Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, James Reimer and re-signed players to huge contracts. While there was nothing wrong with locking up talented core pieces and signing two defensemen plus one goalie, the Panthers missed out on adding talent to the third line. This proved to be a horrible mistake as the Panthers not only had a hard time scoring, but were also hurt by the countless amounts of injuries to their top lines.
Like usual, the Cats once again missed the playoffs and found themselves staring at the same situation that they so desperately should have fixed the year before. While the Panthers did sign Evgeni Dadonov and Radim Vrbata, Dale Tallon seems set on the Panthers having both fill slots on the top two lines. With that, the Panthers once again seem ready to employ another unproven third line. So, who will play on the third line this year? Let’s take a look at some interesting options.
While the left and right-wing positions are completely up for grabs, the center position will be claimed by Nick Bjugstad. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Bjugstad will inhabit this role. Because he is a true center, Bjugstad falls down to the third line due to Barkov leading the first line, and Trocheck leading the second. Although Bjugstad has not played well the past two years, by not trading him this off season, the front office believes that he can effectively lead the third line. If Nick and the top two centers can stay healthy, he will most likely stay on the third line the entire season.
Looking at the wing positions, there are a few names that could possibly fill this spot. Although Jared McCann is known to be a center, he could slot into the left-wing or right-wing position. If McCann can have a strong training camp, fans should expect to see him on the third line.
Another possibility could be Denis Malgin. Malgin showed spurts of offensive firepower last season, but eventually fizzled out and ended in the AHL or on the fourth line. Denis could be the safest choice to slot into one of the wing positions if nobody else stands out at camp.
One name that stands out is newly drafted Owen Tippett. Tippett is a natural-born scorer and the Panthers could definitely use his offensive firepower. If Owen shines at training camp, the Panthers should pick him to stay with the team. Combining Bjugstad and Tippett could create one of strongest checking lines in the NHL.
Finally, the last possibility could be Maxim Mamin. While Mamin may not be exactly NHL ready, this could be Mamin’s chance to show Florida that he can produce in the NHL. Taking a risk on Mamin could prove to be a wonderful decision or a terrible decision. Could Mamin possibly be a diamond in the rough?
Here is what the Panthers’ third line could look like:
Panthers playing it safe: LW Denis Malgin, C Nick Bjugstad and RW Jared McCann
Panthers playing it risky: LW Maxim Mamin, C Nick Bjugstad and RW Owen Tippett
Projected third line: LW Jared McCann, C Nick Bjugstad and RW Owen Tippett
Combining a veteran prospect in McCann, a young veteran in Bjugstad, and a rookie in Tippett should be the way to go for the Panthers. This combination gives every guy on the line a chance to shine and show their true potential and talent.
When the Panthers suit up for their opening game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, watch for a combination of McCann, Bjugstad and Tippett to occupy the third line and showcase their talents for the Panthers and the entire NHL to see.