Florida Panthers: MacKenzie Weegar is Becoming a Difference Maker

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 07: Florida Panthers defenseman Mackenzie Weegar (52) passes during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers on March 7, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 07: Florida Panthers defenseman Mackenzie Weegar (52) passes during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers on March 7, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Following an adequate 2018 NHL campaign, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar has developed into a quality top 4 d-man during the 2019 season for the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers selected defenseman MacKenzie Weegar with the 206th overall draft selection in the 7th round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Weegar would experience several outstanding seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL before joining the American Hockey League (AHL).

MacKenzie Weegar certainly took the longer road before arriving at the NHL. “Weegs” spent three additional seasons in the AHL, finding continued success as a steady, two-way offensive defenseman.

The native of Canada experienced a sensational 2016-17 season with the Springfield Thunderbirds before finally receiving a call up from the Florida Panthers.

In 60 AHL games during the 2016-17 season, Weegar registered an utterly impressive slash line of 14G, 22A, for 36 points as well as 70PIM (penalty minutes).

Essentially, Weegar fully established himself as a premier defenseman and no longer belonged at the AHL level. Dale Tallon, the General Manager responsible for drafting Weegar, announced that MacKenzie would make his NHL debut during the 2016-17 NHL season.

In 3 games during the 2017 NHL season, Weegar didn’t record any statistics offensively but displayed promise on the defensive end (plus/minus rating of 0). Weegar was given a more significant opportunity during the 2017-18 campaign.

In 60 games during the 2018 season, Weegar recorded some respectable numbers: 2G, 6A, 8 points, +5 rating, 69BLK, and 108HIT.

He played mostly as a third pairing defenseman for the Panthers last season, but certainly demonstrated that he deserved a spot on the starting d-corps in the near future.

The 2018-19 season has truly been a different story for the 25-year-old defenseman. In essence, Weegar has undoubtedly solidified himself as a satisfactory top 4 defenseman, one who plays sufficiently well on both ends of the ice.

In 54 games this season (2018-19), Weegar has recorded 3G, 10A, 13 points, +1 rating, 48PIM, 84BLK, 101HIT, while averaging approximately 17 minutes of ice time per game.

Since HC Bob Boughner paired MacKenzie Weegar with Keith Yandle on the second pair, Weegar has seemingly developed offensively (taking more shots and passing rather accurately).

Furthermore, Weegar has certainly gained more confidence while playing alongside an all-star caliber defenseman.

While Weegar isn’t entirely polished in terms of offensive skills, he certainly possesses promise on the defensive end.

Moreover, Weegs plays a physical, bruising style of play, and does a marvelous job in terms of blocking shots (closing shooting lanes) and pushing forwards off the puck using his body.

Weegar has also clearly improved in terms of generating offense from the blue line. He has produced career high numbers in terms of points and shots on goal. In addition, his skating and passing abilities have gotten significantly better.

Weegar does a superb job of joining the rush or pinching in (holding puck in the offensive zone), therefore conveying how the 25-year-old defenseman is only improving and becoming a more complete player.

In essence, MacKenzie Weegar has provided much-needed stability on a challenged, turnover prone blue line for the Florida Panthers during the current season.

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In fact, Weegar has undoubtedly outperformed the other top four defenseman in Mike Matheson, Aaron Ekblad, and Keith Yandle in terms of playing “lights out” defense.

Despite Matheson and Yandle possessing minus ratings and all (including Ekblad) being ranked in the top 10 among all NHL defensemen in giveaways, MacKenzie Weegar has been the lone bright spot for the Cats in that respect.

Weegs has impressively maintained a plus rating, on top of limiting the turnovers (fewer giveaways than the aforementioned defensemen).

The impending restricted free agent will unequivocally receive a well-deserved contract extension from the Florida Panthers during the 2019 NHL offseason.

As Weegar is entering his prime years and gaining NHL experience, he’ll surely continue developing into a reliable, two-way defenseman for the Florida Panthers for the foreseeable future.

Ultimately, it’s absolutely imperative the Panthers retain the services of the often overlooked MacKenzie Weegar for the long run.

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Essentially, Weegar has found himself a home in Florida and certainly deserves a starting nod on the blue line for the Panthers moving forward.