Panthers top 4 rookies
Heading into the 2010-11 season, the Florida Panthers are no doubt considered a long-shot to make the playoffs. While many fans argue that there will not be much excitement from the team, which enter the season as a mediocre group at best, one thing the fans can look forward to is the up-coming rookies that will get a chance to shine. We now take a look into 4 rookies (in no particular order) that the Panthers will have on display this season, and why fans could start to get excited.
1. 19-year old Dmitiri Kulikov was drafted 14th overall by the Panthers in 2009, after doing an amazing job the previous season on the blue line for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. In 57 games with the Voltigeurs he scored 12 goals and added 50 points. Therefore, despite his age, he was given the chance to play with the Panthers last season. He played in 68 games in his rookie season where he showed high levels of skill and confidence. He scored 3 goals and added 13 helpers from the blue line. He has also represented Russia for the past 4 years in international play, winning gold in 2007 at the World Junior U18 Championship. GM Dale Tallon has said the club has high expectations for the young Russian defencemen, and is considered the first step in the rebuilding process. Fans can expect good things from Kulikov this season as he will definitly play a huge role on the Panthers blue line, playing with Bryan Allen on the second line.
2. Micheal Frolik, who was drafted 10th overall in 2006 by the Panthers enjoyed a very good second season with the Panthers last year, finishing 3rd on the team in scoring behind Stephen Weiss, and former teammate Nathan Horton. Playing in all 82 games, he managed to score 21 goals and total 43 points. While playing back in Kladno, Frolik was constantly nicknamed, "The Baby Jagr," because he not only looked like the great Jaromir Jagr, but also played the same style of hockey. The Panthers hope that this guy, who has only missed 2 games in the past 2 seasons can step up his game even more and start to produce like Jagr. He will no doubt try to find the back of the net even more this season as he will enjoy playing on the top line this season with David Booth and Stephen Weiss.
3. Erik Gudbranson is no doubt the guy Panthers fans will look forward to seeing this season. He is definitely the biggest defencemen prospect for the Panthers since Jay Bouwmeester who left prior to last season to join the Calgary Flames. Gudbranson was drafted 3rd overall by the Panthers in this years entry draft, and has already been looked at as huge building block in this team. At 6-3, 201 pounds, Gudbranson will be a huge threat on the blue line. Gudbranson preformed well last year in a shortened season for him. He scored 2 goals and added 21 assists in just 41 games last season, as he missed 27 games due to mononucleosis, but he was awarded the Bobby Smith Trophy, which is an award that is named to the OHL Scholastic Player of the Year. Entering the season, projected to play on the third line, one thing the Panthers can be sure of, is this guy will bring excitement to this Panthers blue line.
4. Finally, the biggest threat the Panthers have going into the 2010-11 is Goaltender Jacob Markstrom. For those of you who don't know Markstrom, he is best known for his monsterous international play, where he has represented Sweden playing excellent hockey. In his last 3 International tournements (WJC, WC) since 2009, Markstrom has a record of 11-2. He posted a GAA of 1.72 and a save percentage of .938. Markstrom won the IIHF best player award at the goaltender position at the World Juniors in 2009. The 20 year-old who was drafted 31st overall in 2008 stands at 6'4 and is known for his all-out agressive style. Last season, playing with Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite League Markstrom posted a 2.01 GAA and a save percentage of .912 , earning him the title of Elitserien Rookie of the Year in 2010. No doubt, this guy is the highest rated rookie in the Panthers system and once joining forces with Tomas Vokoun, will make a fantastic goaltending tandum, the only question is how much he will get to play. One thing is for certain, this guy is definitely the goaltender of the future for the Florida Panthers Organization.
So, there you have it. This Panthers club may not be the most exciting team on the ice compared to the past couple of years, but no doubt this team has potential to be great, with high expectations. This is four guys which will definitely be great in years to come, and will represent the Panthers organization very well. All we can do is hope for the best, sit back, and watch them shine.