Tag: Aleksander Barkov

Boston Bruins v Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers ’15-16 Outlook


Jaromir Jagr is extremely important to the Florida Panthers, and not just because he found such great chemistry with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.

One can imagine a scenario where the Panthers’ bounty of youngsters make a huge leap and help Florida burst onto the scene in its market.

Still, many would probably agree that the Panthers are more likely to make incremental improvements in 2015-16, which pivots back to Jagr: if this team wants any butts in seats, their veterans may be the ones to draw them. Even if it’s really about the young guns.

Discuss Florida’s attendance issues here.

Barring that meteoric rise, it will take time for crucial casual fans to really get acquainted with the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Huberdeau, Barkov and even Aaron Ekblad.

In the meantime, the Panthers can trumpet Jagr’s continued gallop through the record books to entice the less-hardcore among their potential base. Just look at how much he could climb if the 43-year-old continues to defy the aging process:

All-time goals list:

3. Brett Hull – 741 goals
4. Marcel Dionne – 731
5. Jagr – 722

All-time points:

2. Mark Messier: 1,887 points
3. Gordie Howe: 1,850
4. Jagr: 1,802

Remarkable stuff, right?

Roberto Luongo may be a subtle draw, too, although goalies probably don’t bring in audiences quite like a seemingly ageless, legendary forward might.

Again, the truth is that Jagr would ideally serve as a supporting cast member on the ice. The Panthers will probably just market him as if he’s still the marquee star – at least until the team is clearly in contention – and who would blame them?

Panthers’ biggest question: Can the old guys hang on while the young guys get better?

Boston Bruins v Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are a bit of an odd team, in terms of their mix.

They have Jaromir Jagr, who at 43 is the oldest player in the NHL by a considerable margin. They also have a couple of 38-year-olds in Willie Mitchell and Shawn Thornton, plus a couple of 36-year-olds in Roberto Luongo and Brian Campbell.

Yet you can’t call the Panthers an old team. These aren’t the New Jersey Devils we’re talking about here.

Not with 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad, the league’s reigning rookie of the year, and 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau, who received the same honor in 2013.

Also, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, and Dylan Olsen. All of them under 25 years of age.

Oh, and don’t forget Lawson Crouse, the 18-year-old winger that could make the team. And Rocco Grimaldi, the 22-year-old forward who had 42 points 64 AHL games last season.

You get the point.

“We’ve got young players that are very capable of playing for us next year,” said GM Dale Tallon. “We don’t want to shut the door on that. We want those guys to get every opportunity to be on our team. I want to be the youngest team in the league and the best team in the league at the same time.”

The key next season will be for the old guys to hang on while the young guys get better. If that happens, the Panthers have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, and even making some noise once they get there.

On the other hand, if key veterans like Jagr, Campbell and Luongo start showing their age and/or the youngsters experience too many growing pains, they could stumble.

Related: Roberto Luongo is under pressure

It’s Florida Panthers day at PHT

Roberto Luongo

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Florida Panthers.

For the third season in a row, the Florida Panthers fell short of the playoffs.

This time around, there were signs of moderate progress, as they finished 10th overall in the East with a 38-28-15 record (91 points). Final wild card team Pittsburgh finished seven points ahead of them, so there’s still work to do.

For especially jaded fans, this may sound like a broken record, yet the team’s extreme mix of potential and experience could make for intriguing results.

At one end, you have veteran star power with Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo. They even have Brian Campbell for one more year, as his oft-cited $7.14 million cap hit will expire after 2015-16.

On the other end, a bountiful crop of young players earned from all these years of underwhelming play.

Aaron Ekblad won the 2015 Calder Trophy, while this year’s first-rounder Lawson Crouse may also make an immediate impact. Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are all showing varying degrees of promise. Bjugstad’s the oldest of these young players, and he’s just 23.

Expectations should climb in Gerard Gallant’s second season as head coach, at least from those who are paying attention to a team that frequently slips under the radar.

Off-season recap

For the most part, the Panthers stayed idle in free agency, either letting veterans walk (Tomas Kopecky) or shoving them out the door (Brad Boyes). Perhaps re-signing Jagr constitutes their “big splash,” then?

They did make one eyebrow-raising move in adding Marc Savard’s contract in a deal that sent Jimmy Hayes to the Boston Bruins for Reilly Smith.

Florida seems content with letting its young players continue to grow alongside Jagr and Luongo.

With 11th overall pick, Panthers looking to add ‘one more final piece’ to the core

Florida Panthers v Buffalo Sabres

On paper, the Florida Panthers have all the makings of a future Stanley Cup contender.

Talented, young forwards already in the organization include Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri, and Rocco Grimaldi. Meanwhile, on the back end, they’ve got a potential Norris Trophy winner in Aaron Ekblad.

For three of those players, they can thank all the losing they’ve done. The Panthers were able to draft Huberdeau with the third overall pick in 2011, Barkov second overall in 2013, and Ekblad first overall in 2014.

The Panthers also have the third overall pick from the 2010 draft in defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Even if the big, tough 23-year-old has yet to become a star, the club still considers him “one of the building blocks for our team.”

On top of all that, the Panthers have the 11th overall pick in the upcoming draft, of which they’ll be the hosts.

“We view this as one of the last pieces that we’re going to acquire at the draft that could really help us get to the next level sooner rather than later,” Panthers director of scouting Scott Luce told the Sun-Sentinel earlier this week.

“We’ve got a good young corps, so we feel that with this draft we can take that final step and add one more final piece to the core that will be our core for hopefully close to the next 10 years.”

In a lot of ways, the Panthers look a lot like their state rivals from Tampa Bay did a few years ago. Remember that the Lightning were able to translate losing seasons into drafting Steven Stamkos with the first overall pick in 2008 and Victor Hedman second overall in 2009.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee the Panthers will have the same success as the Lightning, who’ve done a lot more to build a contender than just draft Stamkos and Hedman.

But Panthers fans have every right to believe a winning team is around the corner, even if most of the national focus on the franchise has been negative.

Agitator extraordinaire Ville Nieminen calls it a career

San Jose Sharks v St. Louis Blues

One of the NHL’s more colorful characters is stepping away from the game.

Ville Nieminen, who appeared in 385 career games with Colorado, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Calgary, San Jose, St. Louis and the New York Rangers, announced his retirement over the weekend after playing his final game in the Finnish League.

Nieminen, 38, made a mark for himself in the vein of former Oilers pest Esa Tikkanen, developing a reputation as a gritty, annoying and yappy forward that could prove important come playoff time. In his first full NHL season, he scored a career-high 14 goals for the Avs during the regular season, then chipped in 10 points in 23 playoff games as Colorado captured the 2001 Stanley Cup.

Three years later, his postseason savvy helped Calgary advance all the way to Game 7 of the ’04 Cup Final, where it would lose to Tampa Bay. Nieminen finished that run with eight points in 24 games and became something of a folk hero in Calgary with his wit and sense of humor (click here for some of his best lines, per the Herald.)

Nieminen’s last NHL season came in St. Louis in 2007. From there, he spent time in the KHL, Swedish and Finnish Leagues before calling it a day. Most recently, he served in a mentor role for Florida’s Aleksander Barkov heading into, and at, the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.