Florida Panthers: Highlighting MacKenzie Weegar’s Road to Success

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 08: MacKenzie Weegar #52 of the Florida Panthers prepares for a face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at BB&T Center on October 08, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 08: MacKenzie Weegar #52 of the Florida Panthers prepares for a face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at BB&T Center on October 08, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

With the NHL season currently on pause due to the coronavirus outbreak, I examine the tremendous year that MacKenzie Weegar was experiencing, while also highlighting his road to success for the Florida Panthers.

The recently turned 26-year-old defenseman was selected by the Florida Panthers in the seventh round of the 2013 NHL Entry Level Draft. The native of Ontario was highly overlooked during the draft process, slipping into the hands of Dale Tallon with the 206th overall pick.

The road to the NHL was certainly not easy for the underappreciated seventh-rounder. However, Weegar would consistently work hard and produce at the QMJHL and AHL levels before receiving a shot at the National Hockey League with the Panthers.

During the 2013-14 pro-hockey season with the Halifax Mooseheads, Weegar would light up the QMJHL, producing a sensational slash line of 12 goals as well as 47 assists for 59 total points in only 61 games played. Moreover, while producing absurd numbers on the offensive end, Weegar had a historic season on the defensive end, recording a miraculous plus/minus rating of +56 on the year.

Following a dominant year in juniors, Weegar would be promoted to the Panthers’ AHL affiliate to further his development. The 2015 and 2016 seasons were spent in the American Hockey League, where MacKenzie Weegar would develop into a solid two-way defenseman in Florida’s system.

The 2017 season was where Weegar would break out at the AHL level and prove that he did belong in the NHL with the Cats. While participating in 60 games for the Springfield Thunderbirds, Weegar went on to register a solid slash line of 14 goals as well as 22 assists for 36 total points, along with a +7 rating on defense.

Weegar’s outstanding 2017 AHL campaign earned him a look with the Cats, appearing in only three regular-season games that year. Nevertheless, Weegar’s days in the minors were over and he would transcend into a full-time NHL caliber defenseman with the Florida Panthers going forward.

The 2018 campaign was Weegar’s first chance to prove himself in a starting capacity. While participating in 60 games, Weegar recorded 2 goals as well as 6 assists for 8 points. Moreover, Weegar certainly performed well on the defensive end as a rookie, recording a +5 rating, 69 blocked shots, 108 total hits, and 25 takeaways while averaging 14:34 minutes of ice time per game.

The 2019 campaign was a step in the right direction for the gradually ascending Weegar. In a season full of defensive woes for the Panthers’ blue line, Weegar was certainly one of the biggest bright spots on the season.

While participating in only 64 games due to injuries, Weegar recorded a relatively decent tally of 4 goals as well as 11 assists for 15 total points. While averaging roughly 17 minutes of ice timer per night as a top-four defenseman, Weegar performed quite admirably on the defensive side of the ice, recording 103 blocked shots, 127 total hits, and 34 takeaways.

With more experience under Weegar’s belt at the NHL level, the 2020 season was supposed to be a breakout campaign for the promising defenseman from Ottawa, Ontario. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic suspending the season, Weegar was experiencing a career season in practically every single statistical category for the Panthers.

While participating in only 45 games due to injuries and the suspended season, Weegar recorded an eye-appealing tally of 7 goals as well as 11 assists for 18 total points. Moreover, Weegar’s efforts on the defensive end were even more impressive for the emerging top-pairing defenseman.

Weegar recorded a career-high +6 rating, along with 71 blocked shots and 76 total hits. Moreover, while averaging roughly 20 minutes of ice time per game, Weegar contributed to providing stability to Florida’s blue line and making a tremendous pairing with Aaron Ekblad on the top pair.

Weegar rarely turned over the puck and shut down the opposing team’s best lines on a nightly basis. Furthermore, he brought out the best in his partner Aaron Ekblad, who was also having a career year on both ends of the ice prior to the suspended season.

Once and if the season resumes play, the Florida Panthers and coach Joel Quenneville will continue to heavily rely on marvelous two-way defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. The ascending 26-year-old is playing himself into a much deserved long-term contract extension in the foreseeable future with the Cats.

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Considering Florida drafted and fully developed Weegar, they should do everything in their power to retain Weegar in the long run.