After experiencing a tumultuous season on defense, the Florida Panthers should look towards alternative reinforcements in order to improve their defense core.
Following a successful AHL stint with the minor league affiliate of the New Jersey Devils, the Florida Panthers acquired MacDonald via free agency.
General Manager Dale Tallon saw a potential diamond in the rough and subsequently locked up MacDonald on a two-year contract worth approximately $750k annually.
The Jacob MacDonald signing during the 2018 NHL offseason was essentially a low risk, high reward acquisition by Tallon. Essentially, MacDonald was already an established offensive defenseman at the AHL level, producing 55 points in 75 AHL games during the 2018 season.
However, the main concern with MacDonald was his defensive abilities. The United States native recorded an abysmal plus/minus rating of -26 for the Binghamton Devils in 2018.
The Cornell University product required further development defensively but was already a proven d-man offensively.
Despite being projected to begin the 2019 season with the Springfield Thunderbirds, the 26-year-old defenseman actually cracked the opening night lineup for the Florida Panthers. Impressively enough, MacDonald recorded a goal in his NHL debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road.
However, his NHL stint was short-lived as he would become demoted after just two NHL contests. In essence, Jacob MacDonald certainly impressed and opened the eyes of many, even recording a goal and a +1 rating
Nonetheless, the Cats decided an additional full season in the American Hockey League would help complete Jacob MacDonald’s overall development. Once again, MacDonald would display flashes of brilliance at the AHL level for the Thunderbirds.
In 72 regular-season contests for the T-Birds, MacDonald recorded an outstanding slash line of 14G, 29A, for 43 points.
Ideally, MacDonald was Springfield’s top defenseman during the 2018-19 AHL season, dominating the competition on both ends of the ice.
MacDonald was only a -2 on an inconsistent Springfield squad which faced countless struggles defensively. Ultimately, his dominance and improvement at the AHL level suggest that he longer belongs there anymore.
With only one year remaining on his current contract, the Panthers should provide MacDonald with an everyday role on the team.
An ideal spot for MacDonald would be on Florida’s third pairing with a young, yet somewhat experienced NHLer like MacKenzie Weegar, for example.
Joel Quenneville can undoubtedly help Jacob MacDonald improve in certain areas defensively, but there’s no denying the incredible talent that he possesses offensively.
Quite frankly, MacDonald could easily record anywhere between 25-30 points at the NHL level if given the appropriate playing time.
Ultimately speaking, the Panthers coaching staff should certainly consider the possibility of giving Jacob MacDonald a role, either as the team’s sixth or seventh defenseman.
In short, if given the playing time to play on a consistent basis, don’t be surprised if MacDonald impresses and develops into a quality two-way, bottom-pair defenseman.