2018-19 Record (36-32-14) 86 Pts
In the 2018-2019 season, the Panthers lost to the Montreal Canadians taking them out of playoff contention. This was also goaltender Roberto Luongo’s last year playing in the NHL after 19 seasons.
Season MVP: Aleksander BarkovEmbed from Getty Images
Aleksander Barkov had an exceptional season in 2018-19, as he led the team not only as their captain but scoring the most points in the season with 35 goals and 61 assists. He was also this year’s winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is given to the NHL player who has shown the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct while maintaining a high standard of playing ability.
Disappointment: Mark PysykEmbed from Getty Images
“Pysyk ended the season playing in 70 games, recording 1G, 10A, for 11 points. His offensive stat line – while underwhelming – is something you would take into consideration seeing that he’s purely defensive-minded.”
“For the past two seasons at least, Pysyk hasn’t played up to the team’s standards defensively. He’s constantly caught out of position and offers very little puck support for his defensive partner.”
Highlight of the Year
Florida Panthers – Depth Chart
|Center||Aleksander Barkov||Vincent Trocheck||Henrik Borgstrom |
|Left Wing||Jonathan Huberdeau||Mike Hoffman|| Frank Vatrano |
|Right Wing||Evgenii Dadonov||Denis Malgin||Brett Connolly
|Left Defenseman||Mike Matheson||Keith Yandle||Mark Pysyk
|Right Defenseman||Aaron Ekblad||Anton Stralman||MacKenzie Weegar
|Goalie||Sergei Bobrovsky||Sam Montembeault||—|
Top Three Prospects
Owen Tippett – Right WingEmbed from Getty Images
Owen Tippett tops the current list of Panthers prospects. The 10th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, he played seven games with Florida to start the 2017-18 season before being returned to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he has been a top scorer.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger was drafted by the Panthers for his pure goal-scoring ability, and, after averaging nearly 35 goals and 75 points the past two seasons in the OHL, he appears ready to earn a full-time spot in the Panthers lineup this season.
Spencer Knight – GoalieEmbed from Getty Images
Spencer Knight was the highest-rated goalie in this year’s draft class, and the Panthers made him the first goalie selected with the 13th overall pick in hopes that the 18-year-old from Darien, CT develops into their future franchise goaltender.
After playing with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USNTDP) for the past two seasons, he is slated to play at Boston College this season. The Panthers have the luxury of allowing him time to mature and develop after the franchise signed free agent goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract this offseason
Grigori Denisenko – Left WingEmbed from Getty Images
The Panthers’ top draft pick last year, Grigori Denisenko, is a highly skilled Russian forward that many folks have rarely seen play, as he stayed in Russia after being drafted and is under contract for one more season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound forward may have slipped to the middle of the first round in 2018 based on his two-year KHL contract but his skill and playmaking ability attracted the Panthers enough to invest their first-round pick and wait for his Russian contract to expire.
Players Primed For a Breakout Season
According to Dave Stevenson, the Panthers Breakout player is going to be #77 Frank Vatrano. Here is why he thinks so:
Last season, among the 361 forwards with at least 520 minutes at five-on-five, here’s where he ranked in some key stats. All stats are at five-on-five.-Dan Stevenson
Goals per hour (1.06) – 44th
Shots on goal per hour (10.38) – 12th
Individual expected goals per hour (0.86) – 24th
Vatrano is a fairly one-dimensional player. He’s not much of a playmaker, though his passing is a bit underrated. Vatrano doesn’t stand out defensively at all, though neither do most wings (you’d be surprised how many wings are centers who struggled defensively).
However, the one dimension to his game happens to be a very valuable one – shooting the puck. Vatrano has the potential to be a 30+ goal scorer, especially if he continues to get consistent minutes in the Panthers top-six.
Sergei Bobrovsky provides immense value for the Panthers next season and projects to be an above-average goaltender over the length of Barkov’s contract. He’s also a massive risk heading into the latter half of the deal, where the Panthers could be paying $10 million a season for below-average goaltending. Cap space is valuable, and the Panthers could really be put in a tough situation where they have to give up a ton of assets in order to keep Barkov/Trocheck. It’s ok to be both excited and concerned over that kind of contract.
Brett Connolly has been one of the better five on five goal scorers in the league over the past three seasons (among skaters with 500 minutes TOI), with his 1.14 goals per hour rate tying him with Alex Ovechkin and Anders Lee for 12th in the league. That scoring has been mostly inflated by a 17.9% shooting percentage, the seventh-highest total in the entire league. Considering that Connolly’s expected goals per hour in that same time frame was just 0.64 (tied for 230th in the league) and that his career shooting percentage (even including the past 3 years) sits at 13.6%, it’s just not reasonable to expect him to match his 21 five on five goals from last year, regardless of who he plays with or how much ice time he gets.
There’s really not much to be said about this signing, as the 27-year-old will be making $1.67 million for the next three seasons to be the team’s fourth-line center. Acciari comes in as a decent defensive forward making a minimal amount against the salary cap and was a key part of Bruins’ bottom six as they made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals this past season.
Owen Tippett – Right Wing
A Core Defenseman
Between Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, and Mike Matheson, the Panthers have some serviceable pieces on their back end. While Ekblad may not become the true number one that his draft billing would suggest, he’s a capable two-way player. Yandle remains one of the better offensive threats on the blueline while Matheson has shown flashes of potential as well.
In my opinion, this team could really bring some new competition to the Atlantic Division. In the opinions of my colleagues, this new Florida team could give the Boston Bruins something else to think about. With new players and a pretty hefty contract to their goalie, the 2019-20 season could be extremely exciting for Panthers fans.