Florida Panthers

It’s Florida Panthers day at PHT


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.

Andrew Ladd reminds us: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is back

Last summer, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge generated a ton of donations – and almost ubiquitous videos, sometimes ones that were very ambitious – for charity.

Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Ladd tweeted his submission along with the hashtag #EveryAugustUntilACure on Tuesday, reminding hockey fans that the drive is going again in 2015.

He challenged Jonathan Toews, teammate Adam Lowry and TV personality Cabbie Richards to continue the icy promotion in his tweet and clip:

Hey, we can let the your/you’re thing slide just this once, Laddie.

As a bonus, here are a few memorable Ice Bucket Challenge entries from last summer.

Apparently Jonathan Toews already did one, does that exempt him from Ladd’s challenge?

To little surprise, Roberto Luongo’s submission brought some laughs:

Ryan Kesler did his part:

P.K. Subban would take the NHL-version cake:

… If it weren’t for BizNasty:

Yeah, it will require a bucket of creativity to top 2014.

Oilers deemed to have best group of prospects; Penguins worst


The Edmonton Oilers have the best group of prospects.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have the worst.

Those were the findings of ESPN’s Corey Pronman, who ranked the “organizational prospect depth” of all 30 NHL teams and published his analysis today.

“The Oilers have two great defensive prospects in Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart, but the reason for their No. 1 rank is Connor McDavid,” wrote Pronman. “Frankly, remove him and the system is average, as it’s quite thin after the few top names.”

As for the Penguins, Pronman concluded: “There really wasn’t anybody close to Pittsburgh for the 30th spot. This organization is all-in for the next two or three years, and it has more or less burned its system to the ground, through deals of top picks and prospects, to get there.”

Since the article is posted behind a paywall, we’ll give you Pronman’s full list, but you’ll have to pony up for his explanations.

  1. Oilers
  2. Maple Leafs
  3. Sabres
  4. Coyotes
  5. Islanders
  6. Jets
  7. Red Wings
  8. Blue Jackets
  9. Flames
  10. Flyers
  11. Hurricanes
  12. Predators
  13. Blues
  14. Lightning
  15. Canucks
  16. Blackhawks
  17. Canadiens
  18. Bruins
  19. Sharks
  20. Ducks
  21. Capitals
  22. Panthers
  23. Senators
  24. Stars
  25. Avalanche
  26. Devils
  27. Kings
  28. Wild
  29. Rangers
  30. Penguins

Note that Pronman’s “definition for an NHL prospect for the purposes of this ranking is one with 25 or fewer NHL games played this regular season, or 50 total career games.” So, in other words, a player like Aaron Ekblad wouldn’t count, even though he’s only 19.

Related: ‘It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel’

Looking to make the leap: Noah Hanifin


Carolina Hurricanes prospect Noah Hanifin is hoping to follow the footsteps of Aaron Ekblad and make the leap to the NHL after being the top defenseman selected in his draft class.

The 18-year-old, Norwood, MA native is going to get every opportunity be in the ‘Canes opening night lineup despite the crowded blue line in Carolina.

“We certainly think with his skating ability and his size, he has the potential to step in and play, but we’re certainly not going to rush him in that regard,” GM Ron Francis told the team’s website recently. “I think if you look at history, a lot of young defensemen take a little longer to develop.

“There have been more and more (defensemen) recently that have been able to step in and not only contribute, but have tremendous success.”

Carolina’s fifth overall selection in the June draft scored five goals and 23 points in 37 regular season games with Boston College last season.

His experience playing against older players while with the Eagles is one of the reasons Francis believes Hanifin will be able to make jump to the NHL this season.

“You look at what he did as a 17-year-old, he jammed in a bunch of classes to make sure he’s eligible for college and at 17 was playing against guys in that league that are 22, 23 and not only held his own, but excelled,” Francis said.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound blue liner believes with a full offseason of training he’ll be prepared for the NHL game.

“There’s a lot of good defensemen here and nothing is guaranteed. I’m going to put in a lot of good work this summer up until camp and I’m hoping I’m going to make it,” he said after signing his entry-level contract. “The pace of the game is going to be a lot higher, but with all the training I’m going to be putting in this summer, if I can continue to get better, I feel that I can go in (to camp) and do OK, do well.”

In order to make the leap, Hanifin will have to beat out some stiff competition. The ‘Canes currently have eight blue liners with NHL experience under contract for next season.

Coach Bill Peters is looking forward to watching the competition.

“What I see is there’s going to be an unbelievable competition on the back end between Hanifin, you’ve got (Haydn) Fleury, you got (Brett) Pesce you got (Jaccob) Slavin and then you’ve got all your returning guys,” Peters said following the club’s development camp. “I think the competition there is going to be very high and we’re just going to give everybody an opportunity and see who takes advantage of it.”

Seguin (knee) wants to open Stars camp sans-brace

1 Comment

Given how well Tyler Seguin played with a knee brace, news of him getting rid of it is kind of a big deal.

“I want to go free,” Seguin told the Dallas Morning News this week, confirming he’s skating without a brace and hopes to open training camp the same way.

“I’m sure you can use a smaller brace or a lighter brace, but they say that once you start relying on them, you never get off. I like skating without one, and I want to keep it that way.”

Seguin missed 10 games last February/March following a hit from Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov. Originally scheduled to miss up to six weeks, he returned in three to aid Dallas in its (ultimately futile) late playoff push, admitting the knee was “definitely not anywhere near 100 percent.”

Not like it mattered an awful lot.

Seguin had eight goals and 10 assists in 16 games after his return and then, just a few weeks after the regular season ended, scored a tournament-high nine goals in 10 games to help Canada capture gold at the Worlds.

It’s easy to see why Seguin wants to go full-stop right out of training camp. He knows last year’s slow start was a big reason why Dallas missed the playoffs, something the club expects to change after an exciting offeason in which it acquired Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya and Antti Niemi.

“After the slow start, we spent the next 60 games trying to catch up, and we were never able to do that,” Seguin explained. “The start is important, obviously, there are too many good teams to try to fight through a bad start.”