Florida Panthers: Expectations for Keith Yandle in 2019

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle (3) skates in the second period of the NHL preseason game between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on September 25, 2018, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle (3) skates in the second period of the NHL preseason game between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on September 25, 2018, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Following a sensational season in 2018 for the Florida Panthers, what should Panther fans anticipate from star-studded defenseman Keith Yandle in 2019?

The recently turned 32-year-old premier defenseman experienced his best season as a member of the Florida Panthers during the 2017-18 season.

The native of Boston, Massachusetts recorded a phenomenal slash line offensively, compiling 8G, 48A, for a total of 56 points, a 15-point increase from the previous season (Keith’s first as a Panther).

Keith Yandle proved his worth, leading all Florida Panthers defensemen in total points and assists. The 2018 season was evidently a memorable one for Yandle, conveying that General Manager Dale Tallon made the right decision by signing Keith Yandle to a long-term contract multiple offseasons ago.

The dependable d-man provided stability and offensive firepower, contributing greatly toward the success experienced by your Florida Panthers in the prior campaign. The iron man defenseman also participated in all 82 regular season contests for the second consecutive season with Florida.

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Yandle’s durability and effectiveness ultimately culminated in a near playoff finish for the Cats in 2018. His improvement was certainly encouraging, as the highly priced d-man was frequently scrutinized for mediocre performances in 2017.

Ultimately, Yandle undoubtedly silenced the critics (including myself) in 2017-18, playing tremendously on the defensive end, as well. Keith registered a plus-minus rating of plus 7, a 13-point difference from his minus 6 rating back in 2017.

In essence, Keith Yandle seemed more comfortable with bench boss Bob Boughner’s system of play, as justified by Yandle’s drastic improvements.

Gaining familiarity with the other defensemen certainly contributed towards a successful, well-rounded year for ‘Yands,’ both offensively and defensively. The 32-year-old played more confidently and truly embraced a leadership role on the team.

For instance, in a game in which Keith Yandle wore a mic, the defenseman was shown consistently communicating and coordinating with his teammates in an emphatic, enthusiastic manner.

Essentially, Yandle has established himself as a premier two-way defenseman on a competitive, playoff contender in the Florida Panthers. Yandle’s miraculous 2018 season was Keith’s second greatest season as an NHLer, statistically speaking (recorded 59 points in 2011 with PHX).

The Florida Panthers will indubitably rely heavily on the services of Yands, especially if FLA plans on securing a playoff berth. Quite frankly, I fully expect Keith to eclipse the 50-point plateau in the upcoming season.

Known as the primary quarterback on the Panther power play, Yands will contribute tremendously on special teams, especially with the addition of pure sniper Mike Hoffman.

The Cats will clearly possess more weapons on their main PP unit, meaning Keith Yandle will most likely accumulate significantly more assists than in years past.

Regarding my expectations for Keith Yandle on the defensive end, I truly expect a relatively adequate season defensively for Keith. From an unbiased perspective, Yandle will undoubtedly commit several egregious, highly questionable decisions defensively on a game-by-game basis.

However, seeing Yandle has made tremendous strides defensively, I fully anticipate that Yands will limit the number of turnovers and overall poor decisions.

In short, Keith Yandle will be a vital part of Florida’s future and success, as the veteran will hope for another steady, satisfactory season for the team and himself.

The 2019 season promises a potential All-Star Game selection for Keith Yandle, depending chiefly on whether the 32-year-old demonstrates upwards progression and consistency.

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The recently named alternate captain of the Florida Panthers will most likely undergo a phenomenal season, resulting in a potential playoff berth for the surging Cats.