The 2021 season has been quite strange and unusual thus far. One of the strangest things in the NHL has been the Florida Panthers being fantastic to start the season. Seemingly out of nowhere but this season they have risen to the top of the central division. They have had some surprise contributions from some of their offseason acquisitions. The team also has had their best players actually play like the best players as they are having some of the best seasons of their career.
Finally, the Florida Panthers have had a surprising change in events in their goaltending as prized 2019 free agency signing Sergei Bobrovsky has been moved into more of a backup goalie as Chris Driedger has taken the reigns as the Panthers new goalie.
Superstar Players Playing Like Superstars
The Florida Panthers have had some of their better players continue to play like the superstars they are. Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, and Keith Yandle are just some of the seasoned veterans on the Panthers that have been amazing for the Panthers thus far.
The former third overall pick has been amazing over the course of the last three seasons and he has carried that into the 2021 season. So far, Huberdeau has played in 17 games and he has put up 23 points. He has potted seven goals and has 16 assists. Huberdeau currently playing on the second line with new acquisitions Patric Hornqvist and Alexander Wennberg. “Huby” is also playing on the first power-play unit and has created such a formidable combination with Aleksander Barkov and Patric Hornqvist.
The captain of the Florida Panthers has been the perfect leader on and off the ice for Florida. He is playing on the first line in the center position alongside Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair. He is the second-leading scorer for the Panthers as he has scored seven goals and 12 assists in 17 games. As previously mentioned, the captain is also playing on the first powerplay unit that is one of the best if not the best powerplay units in the entire league. Overall, the captain has been amazing thus far and it a big factor in the Panthers success.
The first overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft is finally started to come into his own. After achieving 41 points in 67 games in the 2019-20 season Ekblad has followed up his strong 2019-20 season but putting up even better numbers in the 2021 season. In 17 games Ekblad has scored six goals and he also has five assists. With 11 points to begin the shortened season, Ekblad is tied for the highest-scoring defenseman on the team.
He also has provided solid defense for his team. He is playing nearly half of each game as he is averaging 25 minutes a night. He has blocked 14 shots thrown 12 hits so far in the young season. A fantastic start to the Panthers shocking rise to the top of the division.
After almost being a healthy scratch in the opening game of the season. Yandle has proved all the doubters wrong. The 34-year-old has been proving doubters wrong his whole career as the former fourth-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes has turned out to be a very good player in his 15-year NHL career.
This season, Yandle has produced 13 points including three goals. Also in 17 games Yandle has blocked 12 shots and has thrown six hits. It would not be shocking if Yandle is traded at the trade deadline as it is clear the management of the Florida Panthers want to go in a different direction, but so far Yandle has been very good for the franchise and is helping them be competitive up to this point.
New Acquisitions Producing
The Florida Panthers had quite a roster turnover this offseason. They signed and traded for multiple players that have made a very big impact on the team’s performance. The newest players have gone above and beyond the expectations put on them.
The Florida Panthers made a fantastic signing when they inked Carter Verhaeghe to a two-year contract worth $2 million. He is making $1 million a season and he has definitely been worth it.
So far, Verhaeghe has played 17 games and has produced 13 points, including seven goals. Verhaeghe has gotten an opportunity with the Panthers that he never had before. He is playing on the first line alongside Aleksander Barkov and Anthony Duclair. The trio has been quite good and has helped lead the Florida Panthers to a great start.
The former seventh-round pick of the Nashville Predators was acquired by the Panthers in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hornqvist spent six seasons with the Nashville Predators before being dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Penguins, he won two Stanley Cups.
After he found much success with the Penguins, he was dealt to Florida as part of what was supposed to be a cap dump. Since joining the Florida Panthers, Hornqvist has scored eight goals and also has seven assists in 17 games. Playing on the second line, Hornqvist has been a fantastic addition to the club and their success.
A Revelation in Net
When Sergei Bobrovsky was signed to a massive contract that is seven years long worth $70 million the Panthers and their very few fans thought they had found their goalie of the future.
Instead, he has been horrendous for Florida. It looked like the Panthers would suffer the same fate the Chicago Blackhawks would suffer from. Both teams looked like they were both going to have terrible goaltending woes. Surprisingly both teams turned to an unfamiliar face to take over the goalie reigns.
Chris Driedger has taken over the starting goalie position for the Panthers and has been very good for the team. So far Driedger has played nine games and has a 2.22 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. He has a 7-1-1 record to help the Florida Panthers be the division leaders.
The Panthers rise to the top of the central division has been very surprising, but it shouldn’t be as the superstars, new players, and Chris Driedger have been very good and have helped lead them to be successful. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Patric Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe, and Chris Driedger all have been contributing factors to the success of the Florida Panthers. Will the Panthers continue the success? This will be answered very soon. Let’s hear your opinion in the comments down below.
main image creditEmbed from Getty Images