Despite a lack of offense this past season, Juho Lammikko showed that he can play in the NHL. The Florida Panthers would be wise to retain his services on a short-term deal.
When you look at Florida’s roster, the most glaring holes that need to be addressed come on the blue line and in the crease. The team’s top-six is as solid as it’s ever been in franchise history and shouldn’t be altered too much this offseason.
That said, the forward group as a whole drops off after the top two lines. Rat Trick contributor, Matt Lichtenstadter, recently wrote a piece on the Panthers needing to improve their bottom six and I couldn’t agree more.
When it comes to building a supporting cast to round out the bottom of the forward core, there should be no hesitation from the Panthers front office when it comes to re-signing Juho Lammikko.
Granted, Lammikko’s point total last season was underwhelming. With just six assists in 40 games, there’s definitely a ton of room for improvement. However, his defensive game and his potential make up for his lack of offense.
In another article on The Rat Trick, Cal Friedman explored the possibility of Lammikko cracking the team’s opening night roster. Ultimately, Friedman seemed unconvinced that the 23-year-old Finn would start the year in the sunshine state but he didn’t rule out the possibility entirely.
With steep competition within the Panthers organization, it’s likely that Lammikko will start the year in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds. However, newly hired head coach Joel Quenneville may have other plans for the young forward.
Lammikko was played in a defense-first role last season and surprisingly held his own quite well shutting down elite competition both in the NHL and on the world stage.
Most recently, he helped an underdog Team Finland reach victory at the World Hockey Championships taking down Team Canada in the gold medal game.
He failed to find the back of the net and was in fact deprived of a single point during the tournament, but he played a big role.
In the gold medal game against Team Canada, Lammikko played over 18-minutes – the second-most minutes among Finnish forwards – helping to hold Canada to just one goal in Finland’s 3-1 victory.
Lammikko will obviously need to work on his offensive game if he wants to last in the NHL but if he can improve his shot and his playmaking ability even slightly, it could be enough to boost his point totals enough to be a solid depth forward.
No logical hockey fan is looking for Lammikko to have a 100-point season, but if he could get to the 20-25 point range, the Panthers would be thrilled.
But just how realistic is that goal? Lammikko is 23-years-old, meaning he is young enough to grow his game and played on the bottom six of a top-heavy team last year.
If Panthers GM Dale Tallon chooses to bolster his offensive depth, Lammikko could be given the opportunity to play with more experienced guys with more aggressive instincts.
Having only played 40 games last year, Lammikko was on pace for 12 points. It’s not absurd to expect around 25 points if he does end up playing a full year in Florida and the Cats decide to sign another depth forward. (See article: Three Under-the-Radar Free Agent Forwards to Pursue).
The bottom line is this: re-signing Lammikko would be cheap, risk-free, and short term.
Every team needs sturdy defensive forwards who can kill penalties and take defensive zone faceoffs. At just 23 years of age, Lammikko already checks those boxes.
Take a player like Jay Beagle of the Vancouver Canucks for example. While his $3 million cap hit is arguably too rich, it does show just how far teams are willing to go when pursuing a lockdown centerman.
Beagle has only eclipsed the 25 point mark once in his career (30 pts in 2016-17 with Washington) and is still an everyday NHLer. He was a big part of the Capitals penalty kill and played a substantial role in their Stanley Cup win just last season.
If Juho Lammikko can become a Jay Beagle type player, Panthers fans should be ecstatic. Stability is something that’s been lacked when it comes to Florida’s bottom six and Lammikko could serve as the team’s defensive rock up front if he continues to grow.
Worst case scenario, Juho Lammikko plays in the AHL and fails to become a regular in the NHL. Best case scenario, he turns into a consistent role player on the Panthers’ bottom two lines. Given how affordable an extension would be, it’s a no lose situation.