In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Twenty-sixth up are the Florida Panthers who are in their 25th year as a franchise. They have made the playoffs just once in the last seven seasons.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 18th
- Goals for Rank: 9th
- Goals against Rank: 28th
- PP Rank: 2nd
- PK Rank: 10th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 7th
- Eastern Conference Standings: 2nd
- Atlantic Division Standings: 1st
- Coach: Joel Quenneville (first season with the Panthers; 890-452-249 regular season; 76-52 playoffs)
On offense, this team had the 6th most shots for last season and had the 9th most goals for. The top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov are probably a top five line in the NHL. The three combined for 93 goals and 258 points last season. Behind that Mike Hoffman, Vincent Trocheck and Denis Malgin give a two headed monster to this offensive attack. What used to be the young talent of Huberdeau, Barkov and Trocheck are entering the prime of their careers and the team can turn to Henrik Borgstrom, Jayce Hawryluk and Denis Malgin as the next group.
Defensively, this team allowed the 10th fewest shots against last season. They had the 4th most takeaways last season and what they lack in star power, they make up in depth. Michael Matheson, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle and Anton Stralman are a good deep unit. Ekblad is a good stay at home defenseman, Yandle put up 62 points last season and Mike Matheson had two game winning goals last year! Joshua Brown showed glimpses of solid defensive play in his 37 games last year but I am expecting more out of him this year.
In net, the team acquired the biggest free agent goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky. The two time Vezina winning goalie brings a massive upgrade to a team that allowed the 28th goals against last season. The team is forever grateful to Roberto Luongo for years of standing on his head but they have found a new worthy backfill who is younger and can provide more of a bump.
Behind the bench, Joel Quenneville is a three time Stanley Cup winning coach who brings a bevy of experience and quality coaching to Florida. This was a huge win for the Panthers and should be a continued asset for them going forward. For further context here, in the 22 years Joel has been a coach across St. Louis, Colorado and Chicago, he has missed the playoffs twice (not counting the year he was fired).
- Sergei Bobrovsky
- Roberto Luongo
Prospects and Picks
Owen Tippett – The 10th overall pick in 2017, Owen put up 74 points across 54 games in the OHL last year with both the Mississauga Steelheads and the Saginaw Spirit. He’s a talented scorer and he should likely spend meaningful time in the AHL this year. He made a very brief seven game stint in 2017-2018 where he scored one goal and while I’m not sure if he is in the NHL this season, he’s making all the right moves along the way.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Vincent Trocheck – He was limited to just 55 games due to a nasty injury that he bounced back from formidably last season. The previous year he had 31 goals and 75 points and while that might be a reach, I think he can certainly achieve 25 goals and 60 points this season with so much talent around him not to mention some great coaching.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$80.7MM Spent; $781k in Cap room; 22 players signed.