It says something when a winger who had one 70-game season with the Panthers can make their all-decade team, but ultimately the lack of scoring depth on the wing makes way for Kris Versteeg. Versteeg was a great acquisition by Dale Tallon, getting the Canadian from his former club in the Chicago Blackhawks. Versteeg was third on the team in points (54) and second in goals (23) as the Panthers returned to the playoffs that year.
Jussi Jokinen returning to his Carolina Hurricanes form after a disastrous move to Pittsburgh flopped seemed unlikely, but was a huge spark for the Panthers. Jokinen’s 132 points in 231 games across three seasons for the Panthers provided great scoring depth, something that has lacked immensely since he was traded. Jokinen put up 60 points, the second most in his career, in 2015-16 as the Panthers won the Atlantic Division.
At times, Nick Bjugstad’s play was very frustrating for Panthers fans, but he seemed to always come through when needed. Bjugstad, one of the longer-serving players on this list, playing seven years with the club, produced effectively. After leading the Cats in scoring in 2014-15, Bjugstad broke his career-high in scoring with 49 points in 2017-18.
For those that remember Tomas Fleischmann being one of the top wingers for Florida, it does feel harsh he’s on the third line. Fleischmann led the Panthers in points with 61 (career-high) the year the Panthers snapped their playoff drought in 2011-12. After that season, Fleischmann came back down to earth with just 84 points in his last 180 games for the club, but his efforts to lead the Cats back to the playoffs would not be forgotten.
Reilly Smith, another ex-Bruin, was incredible in his first season as a Panther. Smith dropped 25 goals in his debut campaign, which still remains as his career high. Smith would add another 25 points that year before dominating in the playoffs, scoring eight points in six games versus the Islanders.
Stephen Weiss was one of the first favorite Panthers for me, and slots in as the third line center. Weiss was second on the team in scoring in 2011-12, putting up 57 after a subpar 2010-11 season. Weiss also was huge in the postseason, with three goals and two assists versus the Devils that year. Weiss would fall victim to injury the year after before leaving to Detroit.
In his brief two seasons in Florida, Mike Hoffman has been arguably the most efficient goalscorer the team has ever had, up there with Pavel Bure. Hoffman’s 36 goals in his debut season was a franchise record for most goals in a first season, and was also a career-high. Hoffman’s 97 points in 120 games puts him up for one of the best wingers the Panthers have had this decade.
Evgenii Dadonov’s first stint with the Panthers this decade was relatively forgettable, but since rejoining from the KHL, he’s been electric. After just 20 points in 55 games before Russia, Dadonov soared to 65 points in his first season, before breaking his then-career highs last season, with 42 assists and 70 points. Dadonov is already off to a good start this year, with 29 points in 38 goals.
Don’t let this season be an outlier for Vincent Trocheck, who has been phenomenal after his first full season. Trocheck’s rampant run of form from 2015-2017 was a huge revelation, with 182 points across those three seasons in which the Panthers almost made the playoffs twice. Trocheck became a fan favorite in 2017 with 31 goals, but fell victim to a gruesome knee injury in November 2018, and has yet to find consistency since.
First Line: Jonathan Huberdeau (2011-2019), Aleksander Barkov (2014-2019), Jaromir Jagr (2015-2017)
How fitting is it that the first line of the Panthers’ best season is the first line for their all-decade team?
Jaromir Jagr, brought in as 42-year-old, exceeded all expectations after the Panthers traded a mid-level draft pick to New Jersey to get the living legend. Jagr’s 18 points in 20 games following the trade was a sign of things to come, putting up 66 points in 79 games at age 43, leading the Panthers back to the playoffs. From there on, Jagr hit a wall, with just 48 points in his next 88 games (including playoffs), but the records he set whilst a member of the Panthers will never be forgotten.
Second overall pick, annual Selke candidate, franchise leader in points in a single season, captain, what is there that hasn’t been said already about Aleksander Barkov. His first NHL goal versus Dallas made him the then-youngest goalscorer in NHL history at 18, and it’s been a consistent rise since then. With 390 points in 451 games, there was no doubt Barkov would be the number one center on this list.
Finally, the longest-serving Panther this decade, Jonathan Huberdeau has been a constant source of highlights and contribution. Huberdeau was the first Calder winner this decade, and led the Cats to the playoffs in 2015-16 as a first-line winger. After a bad knee injury sidelined him for the first 50 games of the 2016-17 season, Huberdeau has come back and electrified defenses.
He set his career high in goals, assists, and points in his first full season back, with 69 points in 2017-18. He then crushed that last season, with 30 goals, 62 assists, and 92 points, again all career-highs. This season, he already has 16 goals, 37 assists, and 53 points, and there’s still 44 games to play.
That is our full list for the Florida Panthers all-decade team, but there’s still plenty of debate to be had. Here’s hoping to bigger and brighter players in the 2020s.