2010 first round pick Erik Gudbranson's chances to make the Panthers look slim


erikgudbranson.jpgA lot of the hype around Florida Panthers first round pick Erik Gudbranson was that he was a big player and the kind of guy that could step into the NHL right away in his first season. With being drafted by the Panthers, playing right away seemed like a definite possibility for the young defenseman with the sky-high potential.

Like all big ideas, however, sometimes it’s better to not get any in the first place. After the Panthers signed defenseman Mike Weaver yesterday, this pushed the Panthers total of NHL-experienced blue liners (with one-way contracts) to eight. The Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Steve Gorten mused that this might not work out so well for Gudbranson’s chances of making it to the NHL right away.

That seems to signal the Panthers plan on returning Gudbranson to juniors either before the end of training camp or before he plays his 10th regular season game, which would start the clock on Gudbranson’s entry-level deal yet to be signed.

Here’s what [Panthers assistant GM Mike] Santos had to say about that:

“I wouldn’t say Gudbranson can’t make the team, but he has to make the team. We’re not going to give anything to  him. If he comes in and he’s better than any of those guys in front of him, then he’ll be on the team.  But there’s nothing wrong with an 18-year-old continuing to develop in juniors. It’s nice to have this depth, so you don’t put that pressure on an 18-year-old where he has to come in and step in.”

There’s certainly nothing wrong about having a guy develop in the minors and if you’ve got the ability to allow him to do that, that’s the route a team likely should take. There’s no need to rush a guy to the pros if you don’t have to and with what the Panthers are rolling with right now with the eight defensemen they’ve got squared away on one-way deals (Bryan McCabe, Mike Weaver, Clay Wilson, Dennis Wideman, Dmitry Kulikov, Bryan Allen, Jason Garrison, and Nathan Paetsch) they’ve got plenty of depth to be had there.

Training camp will find out if Gudbranson is a better player than some of these guys that can help the Panthers win more games as well. Of those eight, the players destined to start for the Panthers are McCabe, Wideman, Kulikov, and Allen. The last two spots on the starting blue line are up for grabs. Whether or not Gudbranson can shine enough in camp to make the Panthers decision that much more difficult remains to be seen, but if anyone can you’d imagine that a top three draft pick can do it.

Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Morris Lukowich #12 of the Winnipeg Jets alumni moves the puck in front Steve Staios #24 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.

With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.

  • Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
  • The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
  • No doubt about it, the futures of both franchises will be on display, from Connor McDavid to Patrik Laine.
  • The league’s PR department tweeted out some silly facts: 425 lbs. of cheese curds “will top poutine” during the event and 2.5 kilometers (about 1.55 miles) of hot dogs and “smokies” will be consumed.

(Imagines one enormous cheese dog.)

Now that you have important food facts in mind, here are a few fun photos as promised.

Should be a great time.

Oh, and in case you missed it, here is a recap of Saturday’s wonderful alumni game:

Coyotes consider Mike Smith (lower body) week-to-week

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The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.

While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.

(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)

Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.

As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.

Report: Rangers expect Dan Girardi back on Sunday

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13:  Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers in action in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers will have defenseman Dan Girardi back in the lineup against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.

If that holds true, Rosen reports that Girardi will replace Adam Clendening in the Rangers lineup.

The Rangers are 3-2-0 to start the season without Girardi, including a nice 4-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

For plenty of Rangers fans, this is great news, especially since New York could probably use some fresh legs on a back-to-back. He hasn’t played so far this season thanks to a groin injury.

More than a few people wonder if the former All-Star is actually a hindrance to his team, however, so expect some jokes here and there.

These two tweets from earlier this season do a decent job of summarizing the dichotomy:

/Awkward laugh

Panthers’ Harper made a childhood dream come true last night

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 22: Shane Harper #38 celebrates his third period goal with Gregg McKegg #41 of the Florida Panthers against the Colorado Avalanche at the BB&T Center on October 22, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Avalanche 5-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

“Who is Shane Harper?”

Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.

Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:

Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.

So, who is Shane Harper?

For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.

His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.

You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone:

He was modest there, but acknowledged that even playing in the NHL was a dream come true, so scoring a goal must have been even better.