While all the attention during this rookie camp is going to be focused on the top two picks from the 2010 NHL Draft in Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, the #3 pick Erik Gudbranson is going to be another player worth keeping an eye on. The Florida Sun Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov caught up with Gudbranson to find out how he’s handling his first camp with the Panthers and what his expectations are going into this season.
“The level of competition just went way up. It skyrocketed. I don’t feel like I’m in the OHL anymore. I was bigger and stronger than most of the guys there; now I’m one of the little guys again. It was fun; it was hard; it was competitive. Based on what I see out there, we can have a great team this year if I stay and everybody else comes together as a team.”
“My hopes are to stay here; that’s my goal. I came here packed to stay to be honest with you. I’m not going to sell myself short of that. That’s what I worked for this summer. I want to make this team. This is where I want to be this year.”
The way the Panthers are set up along the blue line right now, they don’t necessarily need to rush Gudbranson to the NHL. They can have him head back to junior hockey and develop a bit more and continue to grow into his game. While Gudbranson may ultimately be one of the more talented guys that the Panthers will work out and give the chance to make the team, it’s an odd luxury for them to not need to bring him in immediately.
Then again, the Panthers potential blue line doesn’t really inspire fear or much worry of being shut down by opponents with the likes of Dmitry Kulikov and Bryan McCabe being the biggest names there. Guys like Mike Weaver and Nathan Paetsch, despite some of their abilities, aren’t game breakers. Gudbranson will get his time, he’ll just have to really knock Dale Tallon and Pete DeBoer’s socks off to have it be this year.