Following an absolutely dominant 2017-18 campaign for the Springfield Thunderbirds, Dryden Hunt could potentially be slotted onto the Florida Panthers’ bottom 6 forward group in the upcoming 2018-19 season.
In the 2016-17 AHL season (Dryden’s 1st professional season), the rookie experienced glaring struggles, recording an abysmal slashline of 13G,18A, and 31 points, participating in 70 games of AHL action. Although, despite Hunt’s mediocre performance, the Panthers strongly felt the youngster was fully prepared for NHL style hockey. In the 2017-18 campaign, Dryden Hunt participated in 11 NHL contests, posting an unimpressive line of 0G, 1A, and 1 point, eventually finding himself demoted and returning to the Springfield T-Birds.
Essentially, Hunt’s struggles in adapting to a completely different environment of pro-style hockey carried over from the AHL to the NHL. Once a highly sought-after prospect, Dryden’s confidence level reached an all-time low. However, Hunt experienced an incredibly remarkable AHL campaign, upon becoming sent down from the big-league club. In 58 AHL games played, Dryden Hunt registered an outstanding tally of 23G, 23A, and 46 points all together.
In essence, Hunt’s demotion resurrected the youngster’s once downfalling, bleak pro-hockey career. Although Hunt’s spot on the opening day lineup for the 2018-19 Florida Panthers club isn’t considered a guaranteed lock, he’ll receive numerous opportunities as means of proving himself through training camp and preseason games.
Hunt notably possesses a lethal wrist-shot and smooth-skating abilities, characteristics which could result in Dryden cracking the starting lineup in the upcoming 2018-19 campaign. Moreover, General Manager Dale Tallon wouldn’t have made the noteworthy commitment of signing and retaining the services of Hunt if Dale wasn’t confident in Dryden’s overall hockey abilities.
However, once training camp begins, the struggle regarding securing a permanent or temporary roster spot will intensify because of one primary factor: competition. Dryden Hunt will compete against the likes of prominent faces, such as Owen Tippett, Henrik Borgstrom, Jayce Hawryluk, Maxim Mamin, and alternative unmentioned notables, all of whom contain tremendous probabilities of landing an opening day roster slot.
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Dryden will unquestionably become forced into demonstrating he’s fully capable of producing consistently, otherwise, Hunt could find himself playing the majority or entire season in Springfield. If Hunt spoils another glorious opportunity, than Florida will presumably cut ties, realizing the Dryden Hunt signing several years ago was ultimately a failed experiment, which unfortunately never materialized as expected or hoped for by FLA management.
The highly skilled 22-year-old, Canadian-born winger indubitably possesses the upside, notching a remarkable line of 58G, 58A, and 116 points, while participating in 72 WHL games during the 2015-16 season. As displayed in the past, Hunt can undeniably snipe the puck and demonstrate effective play-making ability, incorporating precise passing and accurate shooting, altogether.
Hunt never truly received a chance of blossoming/flourishing into a proficient NHLer throughout the course of the 2017-18 season, considering HC Bob Boughner distributed limited minutes for Hunt, as well as frequently pairing the disadvantaged yet overlooked Dryden with untalented forwards, such as Derek MacKenzie and Micheal Haley.
If given the opportunity and coached properly, Dryden Hunt’s confidence will undoubtedly soar and he’ll develop into an effective bottom six winger, without question. Hunt holds all the tools and skillset to become a successful NHLer, thus indicating that if bench boss Bob Boughner utilizes Hunt correctly, than Dryden’s offensive numbers and production levels will peak at a respectable amount.
Ultimately, in speaking from the perspective of a Florida Panthers fan, I truly hope Dryden Hunt develops into a winger who can score 10-15 goals and register anywhere from a reasonable range of 25-35 points in a single season, as a bottom six winger.
By adding Hunt into the fold, Florida will become significantly younger, faster, and more skilled on the bottom line. Embracing the youth is essentially Dale Tallon’s motto, so the ‘writing is on the wall’ for Dryden Hunt.
Although I’m evidently placing incredibly high expectations onto the mere shoulders of the inexperienced Hunt, who contains a plethora of glaring questions marks, I anticipate Dryden will exceed my expectations and positively shock Panthers Nation, without a doubt.