NHL players tweet their goodbyes 2014

With the tumultuous early days of this year’s free agent frenzy now behind us, recently moved players are beginning to adjust to their new organizations as fans still lament their departures. In years past, if a player wished to show their gratitude to a former fan base or organization they were limited to mainly newspapers as their only outlet to express their appreciation. In today’s modern world, however, social media has made it possible for fans and players to be closer than ever in terms of communication.

Although not everyone chooses to participate, many players around the NHL have turned to twitter to help build stronger relationships with fans as well as opening their lives up to the public. It is through this social media revolution that players can now openly express their thanks when their time with a club has expired.

With all of the chaos that comes with free agency, many players have changed area codes within the past week and bid farewell to the organizations they once called home. After scouring twitter for a while, I have compiled a list of farewell tweets from some of the NHL’s recently moved skaters.

Willie Mitchell

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Ekblad ready for expectations that come with going No. 1

PHILADELPHIA — After several lengthy pauses, Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon announced what many had already assumed – that the team would select defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the No. 1 pick.

Ekblad, 18, becomes just the second No. 1 overall selection in Panthers history; The first being defenseman Ed Jovanovski who was chosen No. 1 overall by the team in 1994. In a bit of serendipity, both Ekblad and Jovanovski are natives of Windsor, Ontario.

As for the expectations that follow No. 1 picks throughout their careers, Ekblad doesn’t plan on getting too caught up in the label that will be synonymous with his name for year’s to come.

“There’s always the burden of expectation,” Ekblad said of being the No. 1 pick. “That’s always going to be there, but it’s what you make it. That pressure and all that is just motivation for me.” He continued,“I want that burden. I want that fuel for motivation. I want to succeed under that”

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On the eve of the NHL Draft, Panthers are keeping their options open

Aaron Ekblad (Credit: Jameson Olive)

Aaron Ekblad (Credit: Jameson Olive)

“Anyone who thinks they can predict what’s going to happen tomorrow night is crazy”, projected No. 1 pick Aaron Ekblad said during a chaotic media day on Thursday afternoon at the National Constitution Center in downtown Philadelphia.

With the Florida Panthers still undecided on whether or not they will hold onto this year’s No. 1 overall selection, the rest of the NHL sits in waiting as the team prepares to make their move.

As of Thursday evening, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said he has received at least one “really intriguing” offer for the pick and one that also came close.

Even with these offers, however, Tallon said he was 70-percent sure that the team would hold on to the No. 1 pick, but as of right now, anything is still possible.

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Gerard Gallant’s QMJHL Success Bodes Well for Panthers’ Future

After an extensive coaching search that began in late April, former Montreal Canadiens assistant Gerard Gallant has been named the Florida Panthers’ new head coach, the team announced today.

“We are pleased to welcome Gerard as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers,” General Manager Dale Tallon said in the team’s official press release. “He is an individual with tremendous character, integrity and a strong passion for the game and has experience as an NHL head coach. Gerard is an excellent teacher and motivator who possesses the leadership qualities and hockey knowledge that are necessary to lead our team.”

Gallant becomes the 13th head coach in franchise history, replacing interim coach Peter Horachek who was relieved of his duties on April 29.

Over nearly a two-month span, the Panthers conducted a coaching search worthy of its own reality television show as the team interviewed as many as 12 candidates before deciding on Gallant. In winning the job, Gallant beat out former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and former Avalanche coach Marc Crawford who were both considered to be finalists for the position.

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2014 Draft Profile: Ser Thatcher Demko

Ser Demko

SONG TO ACCOMPANY YOUR READ

NAME:THATCHER DEMKO
HOUSE: DEMKO
WORDS: “NO GOALS. NO MERCY”
POSITION: G
HEIGHT: 6’4″
WEIGHT: 192 lbs.
GLOVE: LEFT
TEAM: BOSTON COLLEGE (H-EAST)
NUMBER: 30
NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING RANK: #1 NORTH AMERICAN GOALTENDER
NICKNAME: THATCHER IN THE RYE

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Nick Bjugstad Finishes Rookie Season With Top Marks on The Ice And in The Classroom

As several of his teammates head east to Minsk, Belarus, and this year’s IIHF World Championships, Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad will instead travel west to his home state of Minnesota.

Originally thought to be a shoe-in for Team USA’s World Championships roster, Bjugstad’s suspicious snub actually makes sense when you realize that the competition conflicts with possibly an even greater event in his life – his college graduation.

Unbeknownst to many, Bjugstad spent the second half of the 2013-14 season not only being graded on his face-off percentage and point total, but also his work in the classroom as he pushed to earn the final credits he needed to obtain a degree in Business Marketing from the University of Minnesota.

“All done,” Bjugstad said after practice on April 2 with his final course completed – a five-week economics class. “I should be able to walk in May with my class, so that’ll be kinda cool. I was pretty excited to get that done.”

Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Bjugstad (Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

A first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Bjugstad played for three years at the University of Minnesota before forgoing his senior season and making his NHL debut for the Panthers on April 6, 2013.

However, at just 21 years old and only just beginning his promising young career in the NHL, Bjugstad admits that he hasn’t fully moved on from his college lifestyle.

“I still kinda live like a college kid anyways,” Bjugstad said. “Taking the classes and still talking to all my college buddies. I moved on a little bit from school since you obviously don’t have to go to class, but online work, you have to have some self motivation to do that.”

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Rocco Grimaldi Agrees To Entry-Level Contract With Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers smallest prospect took a big leap on Wednesday as Florida Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced that the club has agreed to an entry-level contract with 5-foot-6 F Rocco Grimaldi.

“We are very pleased to have reached a contract agreement with Rocco,” said Tallon in the team’s official press release. “He is a hard working forward who possesses speed along with great vision on the ice. We look forward to his continued growth and development within our organization.”

Rocco Grimaldi (Natalie Shaver)

Rocco Grimaldi (Natalie Shaver)

Selected in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Grimaldi, 21, caught the eyes of Panthers scouts with his blazing end-to-end speed and ability to play beyond his size. After two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team, Grimaldi committed to the University of North Dakota and competed as a freshman for UND during the 2012–13 season.

In the midst of his freshman season, Grimaldi and fellow Panther prospect Vincent Trocheck were selected to represent the United States at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. Although Grimaldi started off the tournament shaky and never even saw the ice during USA’s game vs. Slovakia, he was able to progress and get better every game as the tournament went on.

Grimaldi’s speed was on full display in the later rounds of the tournament as he was able to break into the offensive zone with powerful bursts. Throughout the tournament Grimaldi compiled 4 points (2-2-4) and had a key assist on Jake McCabe’s game winning goal over Canada. Grimaldi’s shining moment came in the gold medal game when he took home MVP honors after scoring two goals in USA’s 3-1 win over Sweden.

Upon his return from Russia, Grimaldi would finish his freshman season at UND third in team scoring with 36 (13-23-36) points. For his efforts, Grimaldi was selected to the ALL-WCHA Rookie Team.

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How to Improve The Florida Panthers’ Brand

When new owner Vincent Viola took the reins of the Florida Panthers prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, he made it very clear that the team would no longer be content to simply survive in Florida, but flourish instead.

As the inaugural season of the Viola-Cifu era comes to a close, both players and management have already begun to look ahead to an offseason in which new ownership will have the time and planning to truly make their mark both on and off the ice.

With that in mind, there are several key areas that should be addressed if the organization hopes to go from a perpetual sideshow to a respected franchise.

Some areas in need of change are obvious.

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Florida Panthers Win 2014 NHL Draft Lottery

Things may finally be looking up for the Florida Panthers as the team won the NHL’s annual draft lottery on Tuesday night.

By winning Tuesday’s lottery, Florida erases the bad memory of missing out on last year’s 1st overall selection, even after finishing with the worst record in the NHL.

This was the third time in franchise history that the ping-pong balls bounced favorably and the Panthers won the annual lottery. In both 2002 and 2003, Florida traded its top pick for the third overall selection.

With just an 18.8% chance of winning, Florida jumped over Buffalo (25% chance), much like Colorado had done to the Panthers just a year ago.

This year will mark the fourth time in the past five seasons that the Panthers have had a top-three pick. Selecting Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson in the previous three. Given their history of trading the overall top pick, the Panthers haven’t actually picked first since taking current team captain Ed Jovanovski in 1994.

Void of a consensus number one pick in this year’s draft, the Panthers may once again look to move their pick as it seems quality players will be available throughout the majority of the first round.

However, if the team does decide to hold onto their pick, players such as D Aaron Ekblad, F Sam Reinhart and F Sam Bennett are thought to be this year’s top talent.

The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will be held on June 27–28, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Drew Shore, Vincent Trocheck and Jimmy Hayes named to Team USA’s 2014 IIHF World Championship Roster

On the eve of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, USA Hockey announced today the first 15 players of the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team that will compete at the IIHF’s Men’s World Championship May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus. 

As of right now, representing the Florida Panthers at this year’s tournament will be forwards Drew Shore, Jimmy Hayes and Vincent Trocheck.

No strangers to international competition, all three players have competed for Team USA at some point in their careers.

Their international experience is as follows:

Jimmy Hayes 

U.S. National Junior Team (2009)
U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team (2007)

Vincent Trocheck

U.S. National Junior Team (2013)

Drew Shore

U.S. National Junior Team (2011)
U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team (2009)

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