Puck Drop Preview: 2019-20 Florida Panthers

OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 28: Florida Panthers Left Wing Jonathan Huberdeau (11) skates by the bench to celebrate a goal during second period National Hockey League action between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators on March 28, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2019-20, where Last Word on Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2019-20 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Our series continues with the 2019-20 Florida Panthers.

2018-19 Season Recap

After a disappointing end to the season, the Florida Panthers missed the playoffs by over ten points. The organization needed to take a long hard look in the mirror and the injuries that took a toll on the team.  The upside?  Team captain Aleksander Barkov and linemate Jonathan Huberdeau finished with career highs. Barkov broke former Panther Pavel Bure‘s single-season point record with 96 points and Huberdeau finished with 92 points. Not to mention that goaltender Roberto Luongo became the third most winning goalie of all time.

The Panthers were fifth in the Atlantic Division with a 36-32-14 record and a total of 86 points. It seemed to everyone that the Panthers would continue to be the bottom of the barrel hockey team. The Panthers seemed to take two steps forward… one of the most productive on special teams. Finishing second-best on the power-play, ninth in scoring, and top ten on the penalty kill. And then… they take two steps back. They finished 28th in the league in goals against. It’s hard to make any real progress when you cannot keep the puck out of your net.

2019 Off-Season

A season for the record books. The Panthers were able to fix all of their problems in goaltending, head coaching, and depth. With the hire of coach Joe Quenneville and signings of Sergei Bobrovsky, Anton Stralman, Brett Connollyand Noel Acciari. They were also able to make a big splash at the NHL entry draft this year. Grabbing future franchise goaltender Spencer Knight. The Panthers made sure to let everyone know they mean business. You can read more about the Panthers off-season here.

Projected Lines

Offense

Jonathan HuberdeauAleksander BarkovEvgenii Dadonov

                          Mike HoffmanVincent TrocheckOwen Tippett

                       Frank VatranoHenrik BorgstromBrett Connolly

                          Colton SceviourNoel AcciariDenis Malgin

Extras: Jayce Hawryluk, Dryden Hunt

Top Six

Excitement surrounds the Panthers offense this upcoming season. They were one of the highest-scoring teams in the league last year with one of the most dominant top lines in the league. The Panthers offense combined for 267 goals for, placing them ninth in the league in scoring. Adding plenty of depth that will only increase the scoring.

The Panther’s first-line combination of Huberdeau, Barkovand Dadonov combined for 258 points, one of the highest-scoring lines. After Barkovended the season breaking Pavel Bure’s single-season record for points with 96, he’ll look to break the 100 point mark.  It’s possible to see Huberdeauand Barkovboth reach 100 points, while Dadonov can help to continue to add to their offensive firepower.

Trocheckwas limited to 55 games this past season with injuries yet still able to put up 34 points. He will look to create a strong comeback.  In his last complete season, Trocheck scored 31 goals and had a total of 75 points, paired with Mike Hoffman, who had a career-high 36 goals and 70 points. Speculation surrounds who will be paired with Hoffman and Trocheckon the second line. Look for Tippett, Vatrano, and Connolly as all possibilities to take that wing. Brett Connolly continues to show that he can play with some of the best, another addition to the Panthers offense.  Coming off a career-high, Connolly seems like the obvious choice to take this spot but if Quennevillewants to spread the scoring, only time will tell.

Bottom Six

With the additions this off-season, the Panthers were able to add plenty of depth. As mentioned above while Tippett, Vatrano, and Connollyall can make the second line, they will help fill out the third line. Tippett has only played seven games previously in the NHL and is one of the clear-cut favorites to get called up. Frank Vatrano and Henrik Borgstrom will be looked at to fill out that third line. Vatrano, who also has come off a career-high in points will assist Borgstrom to turn into the star he is projected to be. Adding even more to an already deep roster. If Borgstrom can get a full season under his belt there will be no question of him getting 25-35 points as the third line center.

Besides Bobrovsky, the signing of Noel Accarciwas greatly applauded. A true role-playing center who is going to bring leadership and energy on and off the ice. Accarci can be moved to the third line from time to time, and most likely to have both Colton Sceviour and Denis Malgin on his wings. Malginrecently signed a one-year contract with the Panthers.  A move that will prove to the right decision by the Panthers. This line is going to be a hidden gem for the Panthers once they create chemistry. Sceviour and Accariboth have size and grit. All three of them will look to use each other to improve their game.

Defense

                                      Keith YandleAaron Ekblad

                                   Mike MathesonAnton Stralman 

                                   Mark PysykMacKenzie Weegar

Extras: Josh Brown

The Panthers have some younger defenceman. Coach Quenneville is known to have little patience for young guys. It will be very interesting to see how he plans to pair the back end.

Both Yandle and Stralmancome in with a veteran presence that can help the young guys feel at ease. Pairing up Yandle and Ekblad as the first D pair, who will also lead their powerplay, while Matheson with Stralman will be the second pair.  These pairings will allow the young guys to take risks and learn from them. Matheson and Ekblad both are looking to have broken out seasons showing they are here to stay.  Pysyk is the stay-at-home defenceman that every team loves to have. He and Weegar will both be watched carefully to see if they are ready for that next step.

Goalies

                                             Sergei Bobrovsky

                                            Sam Montembeault

The one thing that has haunted the Florida Panthers for quite some time now has finally been eradicated. The addition of star Sergei Bobrovsky has finally allowed for some peace of mind in the crease. Two-time Vezina winner Bobrovskyis is known for being a stellar work-horse that can lead a team. He is one of few goaltenders active that can win a game on his own. The missing piece to the puzzle.

Possibly the biggest question mark that comes up with this roster is their back-up goaltending. Yes. Knight is going to be the future; it is going to take some time for him to develop. Montembeault, who has 11 games played, will be looked at to play anywhere between 20-25 games. He has shown a glimpse of great potential, yet only time will tell if this young goaltender has what it takes.

Players to Watch

Vincent Trocheck

Plagued by injuries, Trocheck was only able to play 55 games last season putting up 34 points. The previous season he was able to put up 75 points, 31 goals, and 44 assists. With a full off-season to heal and train Trocheckis bound to make a tremendous come back. Helping push the Panthers into contender status.

Mike Hoffman

After a breakout season, Mike Hoffman will be one to watch to see if he has to ability to repeat as a 30-goal scorer and 70 point man.

Sam Montembeault

Here for his first whole season, the 22-year-old goaltender previously played 11 games, going 4-3-2 and a .894 save percentage. Montembeault is going to be tested to see if it has what it takes to be a sufficient NHL quality back-up goalie. Luckily, the Panthers have Bobrovsky who will be a great mentor for him. He will be looked upon to win games if they want to make a deep run.

Prediction for the 2019-20 Florida Panthers

Playoffs or bust should be the only thing crossing anyone’s minds in that locker room. Creating one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL today the Florida Panthers will look to make a deep playoff run. It will be a struggle with a very different looking Eastern Conference. In the past, the Panthers have never been able to get off to a good start, catching up to them by the end of the season. If the Panthers can establish a positive winning record early. They will most likely battle it out for a wild card spot.  Atlantic Division?  Going to be a competitive one this year!

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

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