Florida Panthers: Ian McCoshen and MacKenzie Weegar are growing up quickly

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 20: MacKenzie Weegar (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 20: MacKenzie Weegar (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Defensemen Ian McCoshen and Mackenzie Weegar have stepped in nicely as everyday players for the Florida Panthers thus far.

The Panthers have undergone change in many positions over the last two seasons, but no position has had more turnover than the defense. Because of all the changes, Florida has turned to two young prospects, Ian McCoshen and MacKenzie Weegar, to pick up the slack. So far, both players have stepped into their roles nicely and have really adjusted to the NHL style game.

MacKenzie Weegar spent most of last season being one of the best players on the Springfield Thunderbirds, Florida’s AHL affiliate. He has played in three games for the Panthers thus far and has already scored his first NHL goal. The goal came at an important time; he scored in the October 20th game against the defending champs (Pittsburgh Penguins) back in Sunrise.

The Panthers were down 3-2 with about 10 minutes left in the game when Weegar took the pass, sidestepped a Penguins defender and buried the long shot past the goaltender. Scoring a goal against a quality opponent is impressive enough for a rookie, but the level of skill and poise Weegar displayed on that play is rare.

Because of his outstanding play, MacKenzie has seen his ice time increased in each of his three games. Most recently, he played a respectable 15 minutes against Montreal. The Panthers seem to like what they’ve gotten from Weegar so far and view him as a long-term defenseman on this team.

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Similarly to Weegar, Ian McCoshen spent most of last season in Springfield before making his NHL debut towards the end of the year. McCoshen has played 8 games for the Panthers and has 8 shots on goal over those games. He also scored his first career goal just recently. McCoshen sniped a medium range shot for Florida’s second goal in their victory over St. Louis.

Ian has carried an even bigger load for the Panthers than Weegar has. McCoshen logged almost 19 minutes in Florida’s 8-3 win over Anaheim and has been stellar defensively so far. He has quickly become an important part of the team both offensively and defensively, which the Cats saw in him back on Springfield. McCoshen has traditionally been known for his defensive style of play, but has also shown that he can jump up in the play and contribute offensively when needed.

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The defensive core will be a huge key to this season for the Florida Panthers, if they are looking to achieve any success during the year. The team will bank on their young guns (like McCoshen and Weegar) to replace the steady pieces they lost last offseason. So far, the gamble is paying off well.