Tallon uses myriad of methods to build rising D corps

There is an old NHL proverb passed down from generation to generation that dictates the winning formula for a team to embrace and thereby succeed: “Build from the back out.”

It is this mantra that hints at stabilizing your core from the defensive side out when trying to build a winning team that can keep winning for years on end.

Dale Tallon inherited a limping roster when he was hired and has gone through the process to turn it into one of the most promising, young and dynamic groups in the National Hockey League. He stabilized his net when he realized Jacob Markstrom was not cut for full-time duty and is now in the midst of cementing his D corps that will hopefully lead to real success in the short and long-term.

Dale Tallon’s defensive rebuild conforms to many rebuilds we’ve seen in the league over the years with one notable exception. He has used key draft picks to select core players, traded for young undervalued players from other organizations and signed complimentary pieces via free agency. Despite taking the beaten path in those regards there, is one piece that he added that did not conform to the traditional rebuild schematic. The piece that I am referring to is Dale Tallon’s long con….but we’ll get to that.

When you look at the Panthers’ potential defense for the upcoming season you see the results of the aforementioned beaten path which Tallon walked with great effectiveness.

The Key Draft Picks

Dmitry Kulikov, drafted 14th overall in 2009, 99 points in 313 games played after making the team directly out of camp after his draft. The Panthers committed to Kulikov long-term and clearly see him as an integral part of their defensive system.

Kulikov ate minutes for the Panthers finishing 2nd on the team in terms of total minutes played and was deployed almost with complete neutrality between the offensive and defensive zone last season, meaning that the coaching staff believed in him in both offensive and defensive situations.

Within the last two years Kulikov has been on the upward swing possession-wise and has had a positive impact on his team’s performance while on the ice.

Next up: Erik Gudbranson, the Panthers’ esteemed 3rd overall selection from the 2010 entry draft. Erik was thrown into the fire as Kulikov was and has been through the struggles that one would expect a young defenseman to go through while playing in the NHL as an under-20 year old. While Gudbranson’s skill set is elite and the talent is obvious, he is only beginning to carve his niche on the ice as was evident at times last season. Regardless of the past, the future is bright for the likely captain of the Panthers and a serious jump (and I mean serious) in possession metrics suggests that he is coming into his own as planned. At 22 and with the best surrounding cast since his debut, Gudbranson is primed for another season of improvement.

Then there’s the 6’3 216 lbs colt in the room, Aaron Ekblad. The Panthers invested heavily in the defenseman in June and undoubtedly plan to make him a part of their core for as long as they can (aka his entire career). Ekblad’s elite talent is undeniable and his ability to transition that from the junior game to the NHL is obviously paramount for the Panthers’ success in any realm. It’s a risk to select a defenseman first overall due to their slow development and potential for failure but the Panthers clearly thought that he was worth the risk so he will have to make it worth their while.

The undervalued trade target

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure has never been truer when it comes to Dylan Olsen (and his fellow former Blackhawk Jimmy Hayes). Chicago deemed Olsen (and Hayes) expendable to regain the services of Kris Versteeg and I believe I would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks the Panthers got the worse end of the deal from a player perspective. Olsen went from a fringe NHLer in Chicago’s system to a mainstay blue-liner in Florida and managed to put up positive possession numbers for the first time in his career with a weaker line up supporting him. Olsen is poised to keep his spot on the blue line out of training camp and cement his spot in the NHL as a valuable top six defender.

The complimentary free agent

Any good GM knows that free agency is for filling out the roster, not building it. When Dale Tallon went on a spending spree in 2011 he picked up players to fill the roster while his prospects were gaining experience in the minor league and junior ranks. That spree pushed the Panthers into the playoffs but that clearly did not equate to long-term success. Tallon’s youth is finally maturing and he is now at a stage where he can use free agency to go after players he deems suitable for his squad.

Enter Willie Mitchell. Mitchell is the kind of player that GMs love. He’s a winner at all levels winning an ECAC title with Clarkson University, a IIHF World Championship gold medal and of course the two Stanley Cups with the LA Kings in 2012 and 2014. He is a 12 year NHL vet who has made a positive impact on every team he has played for. He is a leader who leads by example and is not afraid to put his body on the line as is evident by his team-leading 128 blocked shots last year. To impress you more, even with Mitchell’s high blocked shot totals he is still a fantastic possession player who creates more positive possession events than he gives up and considering he blocked 128 shots last season that is a lot of positive possession events.

Mitchell will bring a sense of stability to the Panthers defense this season. He will be a solid veteran presence to the young guns both on and off the ice and of course will be relied upon heavily by the coaching staff in key situations when needed.

The long con

Finally, we get to Brian Campbell.

When Brian Campbell was traded to the Florida Panthers on June 25th 2011 the narrative was that of “A cap dump by Chicago to rid themselves of a shell of a player that they thought they were getting to a team he won’t succeed with.”

Not exactly a rousing endorsement for the Panthers, but after finishing last in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs for the 10th straight year the pundits didn’t have to be generous to the team in Sunrise. From the Panthers’ perspective it was more than a cap relief favor to the GM’s previous employer, it was the start of the locomotive that was and is Dale Tallon’s rebuild of the Florida Panthers.

NHL GMs think that far ahead and that’s what Dale Tallon was doing when he traded for Campbell. He acquired a piece that would help the team in the short-term and one that would evolve into the cornerstone of his defensive corps in the long-term.

Tallon took it on the chin when he traded for Campbell but he is only reaping the benefits of acquiring a premiere all-around defenseman who can, has and will do it all for the Panthers.

Let’s talk leadership. Brian Campbell epitomizes the word.

I don’t just mean that he is a “leader,” of course he’s a leader. He’s a 35 year old decade plus player with 838 games under his belt. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion, has been a Captain, an alternate captain and is a poised and professional person who deals with fans and media with aplomb. His career speaks for itself in terms of intangibles but I want to talk about the aspects of his game that makes him the cornerstone of the team.

When I said leader I meant “leader” as in team leader in 5 on 5 ice time since he was traded to the Panthers. In fact he led by 288, 220 and 281 minutes within the past 3 seasons, which is insane. He has either led or finished 2nd in shots taken by a defenseman since his Panthers debut and has been among the team leaders (and led in 13-14) in blocked shots. He finished 2nd, 1st and 1st since the 11-12 season in takeaways by a Panthers defenseman. To top it all off, since 2011-2012 Campbell has led all Panthers’ D in points.

Beyond these stats, his possession numbers are exceptional.

He boasts a 52.1% Corsi For Percentage which means that when Campbell is on the ice 52.1% of the total shot attempts are going towards the opposing team’s net. To give you a comparison, that is 38th best among defenseman after the 13-14 season and best on the Panthers by 1.5%, which is astounding. Campbell literally drives possession forward for the Panthers better than any other D by a significant margin.

In terms of Fenwick (shots directed toward the net that aren’t blocked) Campbell clocked a 52.5%, 1% better than the closest Panthers D and good for 39th in the league.

These numbers are even more impressive when you take into account that Campbell played the 3rd most 5 on 5 minutes out of any defenseman in the NHL. To add to his impressive resume his 5 on 5 Zone Start Ratio is 50.8% meaning that he was nearly evenly distributed between the offensive and defensive zone which alludes to my “all-around player” label.

What impresses me most about Campbell’s metrics are his Relative Corsi and Fenwick numbers. He is a +3.0% 5 on 5 Corsi and Fenwick player which means that the team is much better (3% better) at possession when he is part of the 5 man on-ice unit. That is, again, a full percent higher than the next Panthers D which means he is better at making the team better than any other defenseman on the team.

With skating that cuts the ice like a knife does warm butter, a hard and accurate shot with a quick release, a premiere first pass and exceptional defensive skills, Brian Campbell is the whole package for the Panthers. He is the unequivocal cornerstone of a defensive group that has been carefully constructed and perfected over the years. Campbell was brought in with the knowledge that he would one day be this player for the team. He knows what it means to be a Panther, he wears an A and is a strong candidate to wear the C and has been through the absolute worst the franchise has seen. With the team ready to rise up from the bowels of the NHL, Brian Campbell is at the helm.

With less than two months until opening night, the current blue-line for the Panthers is shaping up to be one of the most talented defensive corps the franchise has seen in a long time.

Florida Panthers Re-Sign RFA Brandon Pirri

Today the Florida Panthers announced the re-signing of F Brandon Pirri to a two-year contract, worth $925K AAV. Pirri, 23 was a late season acquisition by Florida after trading a 2014 third round pick and a 2016 fifth round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for the young forward.

Playing in 21 games for the Panthers, Pirri posted 14 points (7-7-14) and became one of the team’s most relied on players as the season came to a close. During the 2012-13 season, Pirri spent time playing for the Rockford Icehogs of the AHL, where he led the league in points, scoring 75 points (22-53-75) in 76 games.

A second round (59th overall) draft choice by the Blackhawks in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Pirri has a deceivingly powerful and accurate shot for his size (6’0″, 183 lbs). During his short campaign with Florida last season, Pirri posted an impressive 15.2% shooting percentage and also recorded five power play points (2-3-5).

Pirri has played in 56 career NHL games posting 27 points (13-14-27).

 

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Panthers Re-Sign RFA Dylan Olsen

On Monday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced the re-signing of RFA Dylan Olsen to a one-way, 2-year deal.

Olsen, 23, appeared in 44 games with the Panthers last season after being dealt to Florida from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Kris Versteeg. He recorded 12 points (3-9-12) during his first season as a member of the Panthers. Olsen recorded his first NHL goal this past season against Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.

The 6’2, 223 lb blue-liner is a native of Calgary, Alberta and was drafted by Chicago in the first round of the 2009 entry draft. The rugged defenseman has played 72 career NHL games, registering 13 points (3-10-13), 78 blocked shots, 159 hits and has averaged 14:14 minutes of time on ice.

 

 

We welcome your comments and feedback!

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Which NHL Playoff Team Should You Root For?

Panther Parkway Playoff Preview

We’re hours away from puck drop for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and it donned on me (and on all around good guy Jameson Cooper) that there may be thousands and possibly millions of you readers out there who don’t have a vetted interest in a team this year. Your team may have not made it to the post-season, you could be a new fan or you could have amnesia…if that’s the case, thanks for reading and consult a physician immediately after reading this post. Whatever the reason may be, if you need to latch on to a team for the post-season then do I have a piece for you! There are 16 teams in this year’s post season, some are good, some are really good, some are really really really good and some are just OK. Let’s take a look at which team may be a good fit for you.

Anaheim Ducks

Do you like Disney movies about a scrappy gang of youths melded together by the bonds of teamwork, being poor, and national pride? If so then the Ducks could be the team you’re looking for. Don’t be confused by their captain’s lack of hair – he’s amazing at hockey and will not let you down if you’re looking for a deep playoff run. The kicker is 92 year Teemu Selanne, who is retiring at the end of these playoffs, so if you’re into nostalgia and crying then you’re on the right path.

Boston Bruins

Nobody in their right mind should cheer for the Bruins so if you’re not in your right mind you can cheer for them I guess. Also I hate you.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been the toast of the NHL for a while now. If you’re that person who wants instant gratification then hitch your horse to the wagon and hang on for dear life. If you’re the person who has never seen a Rocky movie, watches Rocky 4 ,and then tells everyone that you love every Rocky movie then cheer for the Blackhawks.

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche is made up from a group of young players with an excessive amount of high-end dynamic talent. Players like Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene (injured, but still), Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny, will surely make your eyes pop out of your head. They’re also coached by a crazy person. Their playoff hashtag is #whynotus so if you’re into innovative playoff hashtags you might want to look elsewhere for a team to support.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs for the 2nd time in their history. Good for them right? If you like an underdog and or jokes about fellatio then you should fit right in with this fanbase. The Blue Jackets are this year’s working class blue-collar team so if you get a kick out of those Ford F-150 commercials where the announcer is pretty much reading everything on the screen, then go ahead and cheer for the Jackets.

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn, best player by far, has led his Stars to the last playoff spot in the West. I’m sure all of Texas is behind them but if you feel like hootin’ and hollerin’ and ho-downin’ and other Texas slangs then hop right on this chuck wagon!

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit has made the playoffs 23 years in a row. They have won only 4 Stanley Cups in that span, so if you like high winning percentages, then don’t root for the Red Wings. If you like Sweden, rookies, cool breakaway moves and great coaching then they may be right up your alley.

Los Angeles Kings

All of LA’s top C list celebrities are totally into the Kings so if you want to head to Staples Center and snap a selfie with Matthew Perry then you’re in the right ballpark. The Kings are a team that Wayne Gretzky used to play for so if you want to impress your friends with that bit of trivia when explaining your fandom then wear that silver and black.

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” which would be accurate if Michigan, New York, New Jersey, California, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania all didn’t have hockey teams too. Liars.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal has won the most Stanley Cups out of any NHL franchise with 24. They haven’t won one since 1993 so if you’re looking to get on board with a group of self-entitled history-clutching crazies, who are desperately waiting to see a cup win in their lifetime then mon ami/e you are knocking at the right door. Poutine is fantastic too, that should be good enough.

New York Rangers

The Rangers are one of three teams in New York (keep thinking of that third one). They’re like the Yankees if the Yankees have only won 4 World Series ever and haven’t won one since 1994 and the one before that was in 1940. If you like not having lofty expectations met then go put on a blue shirt.

Philadelphia Flyers

They sing America the Beautiful instead of the Star Spangled Banner so if you like alternate forms of patriotism then cheer for the Flyers. They’re also historically violent, made the Red Army team refuse to play against them because of it and their fans have the reputation of being a-holes. If this made you mad then you’re probably a Flyers fan already.

Pittsburgh Penguins

If you like cheering for the best at anything then step right up and feast your eyes on Sidney Crosby. Supporting the best hockey player in the world is reason enough to cheer for the Penguins and fans have been doing just that since 2005. I’d like to point out that former arguably best player in the world Mario Lemieux partly owns the team and will be shown frequently on TV throughout these playoffs so if you like passing torches from generation to generation then grab a Pens jersey and get ready to be disappointed by Marc Andre Fleury.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have never won a Stanley Cup and have the unfortunate reputation of being “playoff chokers.” If you like great teams with great players then cheer for the Sharks. If you like teal then cheer for the Sharks. If you like the Jaws theme song then cheer for the Sharks. If you want to get offended every time someone mentions the word “choke” then sheer for the Sharks. If you want to be part of their first cup win then don’t cheer for the Sharks because they’re kind of chokers.

St. Louis Blues

Another team without a Cup win ever. A lot of people don’t like the Blues so if you’re a fan of being the outcast who sticks up for their team no matter what horrible thing they do that makes everyone else angry then cheer for the Blues. American almost hero Ryan Miller is their starting goalie. You probably heard of him a few years ago.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Led by elite sniper Steven Stamkos for now, the Lightning are one of those cool teams that doesn’t end in an S. If you like the Oklahoma City Thunder then DEFINITELY cheer for the Lightning because then you can make your twitter handle @ThunderandLightning and you’ll be really cool.

By now you should have a team that suits you perfectly. If you’re still undecided, then refresh this page and read the post again. Go Hockey Go, enjoy the playoffs folks.

Florida Panthers and the Role of Leadership in the NHL

The leadership debate has been kicked into high gear recently in the hockey world and everyone who’s everyone is throwing in their two cents (5 cents if you’re from Canada). Leadership is a tricky notion in any realm to define and quantify, but in the sports world leadership is more like an omnipotent force than quantifiable trait. The inspiration for this piece comes from Steve (Dangle) Glynn, who debates the quantities/qualities of leadership in this video: http://theleafsnation.com/2014/4/7/leadership-in-hockey-what-s-that

Steve questions whether or not leadership is even real, if it’s tangible based on goals, hits, motivational speeches etc. It’s a great video; I’d check it out if I were you.

So what is it? What is leadership?

To re-hash and expand on what Steve said: Is leadership defined by production? Fighting? The notion of clutch-ness? (That’s a whole other can of worms)

Is it defined by being vocal in the locker room? On the bench? On the ice?

Is it by example? Putting your body on the line to help your team win? Attending charity events? Being available to the media no matter the situation?

Is it how you interact with your teammates? Patting them on the back when they do something right? Teaching them when they did something wrong? Calming them down when they’re making mistakes?

Is it just being old? How many cups you’ve won? How many years you’ve been in the league?

To me, leadership is a mixed bag. It’s a combination/selection of everything I listed above and more.

You can sense leadership in sport (and life, really) at any level, from the professional grade to the beer league. There are people who others gravitate to for inspiration, support, guidance or security. There are people who possess those unquantifiable quantifiable qualities that make people gravitate to them.

The term “Leadership” is used so often these days so it’s not insane to see why it’s been watered down and questioned as much as it is being. When a team wins or loses, part of that result was due to what we call leadership. Players cite their captains, alternates, goal scorers, grinders, goalies, coaches etc. as people who were impactful on the game’s outcome. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and are defined by the many variations of leadership. There’s not just one answer, there’s not just one quality, leadership is an orchestra.

When it comes to a team’s captaincy group, I have no doubt that whoever makes the decision takes all of these qualities into account. Technically a team only has captains and alternates so that there is a designated group of people to talk to officials. Obviously that has evolved into what we have today. Being a captain or an alternate is seen as a prestigious honor.

We rank the best captains; we debate if a player should be captain, we even put more weight on a goal when it was scored by a captain or when captains fight! Obviously leadership matters in the NHL and whatever you quantify leadership as it has an impact on how you watch the game and how the game is played.

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Brandon Pirri: “I have a role on this team”

In the midst of yet another rebuild, the Florida Panthers will certainly have a lot of question marks to address this offseason. Rookie center Brandon Pirri isn’t one of them.

Acquired in a pre-deadline deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 2, Pirri, 22, has quickly become one of the Panthers’ most reliable and productive forwards on a team that has been bereft of offense for the majority of the season.

“It’s been good. The transition has been easy,” Pirri said of his first month in Florida. “Very comfortable, great locker room here.”

In 46 games split between Chicago and Florida, Pirri has tallied 23 points (12-11-23), placing him 25th in the NHL among rookies while playing in significantly fewer games than those ahead of him.

Brandon Pirri ( Kelsey Hinds @Kelsey1344 )

Brandon Pirri ( Kelsey Hinds @Kelsey1344 )

Additionally, since the trade deadline, Pirri’s performance has actually been on par with some of the biggest names that changed uniforms roughly one month ago.

With a post-deadline point total of 12 (6-6-12), Pirri has been producing around the same rate as Matt Moulson (10), Thomas Vanek (14) and Marion Gaborik (11). And unlike the three aforementioned forwards, Pirri has been doing the majority of his damage from the third line.

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Q & A With New Panthers F Brandon Pirri

Before being buried under the media frenzy that surrounded Roberto Luongo’s return to Florida, the Panthers made headlines last week when they announced that they had acquired F Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick in 2014 and a fifth-round pick in 2016.

A 2nd round draft pick (59th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Pirri, 22, has tallied 11 points (6-5-11) so far this season for the Blackhawks while competing in 28 games in mostly a bottom-six role.

Already one of the youngest teams in the NHL, Pirri will spend the last 21 games of the 2013-14 regular season trying to stand out as numerous players fight for limited roster spots heading into next season.

Getting ready to compete in his first home game at the BB&T Center, Pirri was nice enough to talk to Panther Parkway after today’s morning skate and shed a little light on the trade that sent him to Florida, as well as his first few days of being a Panther.

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Florida Panthers Acquire F Brandon Pirri From Chicago Blackhawks For Picks

In what could potentially be the first of many moves as the March 5 trade deadline approaches, the Florida Panthers announced today that they have acquired center Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick in 2014 and a fifth-round pick in 2016.

A 2nd round draft pick (59th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Pirri’s move to Florida reunites him with current Panthers’ General Manager, Dale Tallon, who held the same position with Chicago when Pirri was drafted.

Pirri, 22, has tallied 11 points (6-5-11) so far this season for the Blackhawks while competing in 28 games in mostly a bottom-six role.

Prior to his rookie season with Chicago, Pirri turned heads while playing for the Rockford Icehogs (AHL) where he managed to score 75 points (22-53-75) in just 72 games played during the 2012-13 season.

In joining the Panthers, Pirri will be surrounded by a few familiar faces in the locker room as both D Dylan Olsen and F Jimmy Hayes spent some time with the young centerman while in Chicago’s system.

Pirri’s entry-level contract is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season at which time he will become a restricted free agent.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Dylan Olsen, The Panthers’ Early Christmas Present

With Christmas just under two weeks away, the Florida Panthers have already unwrapped a big present as newly acquired defenseman Dylan Olsen has brought consistency and a surprising offensive element to a previously struggling blueline.

Drafted 28th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Olsen, 22, polished his game while playing collegiately for the University of Minnesota-Duluth and later for the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford Icehogs. Already one of the NHL’s top defensive prospects, Olsen waited several years to crack the Blackhawks’ lineup even after continued strong AHL and training camp showings.

However, even as frustrations grew while laying in wait, Olsen never felt slighted and was quick to praise Blachawks’ exceptional depth at his position.

“You just have to look at the lineup they have, (Duncan) Keith, (Brent) Seabrook, these guys are Olympic gold medalists. Then they have young guys like (Nick) Leddy who has obviously established himself as an NHL player,” Olsen said of the Blackhawks’ loaded blueline. “It’s tough lineup to crack. They have so much depth in that organization.”

Though he never became a regular, Olsen was still able to compete in 28 games and one playoff appearance for the Blackhawks while filling in for injured teammates. In those 28 games, Olsen recorded one assist and registered six PIMs. Though his stay in the NHL was shorter than he had hoped, Olsen credited his brief stint with the team as a sign that he could compete and belonged in the NHL.

Then, on November 14, 2013, Olsen would finally get his chance to standout as the Blackhawks’ sent both he and teammate F Jimmy Hayes to the Panthers’ in exchange for veteran winger Kris Versteeg. Initially sent to the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, a promise from Panthers’ General Manager Dale Tallon let Olsen know his time would soon come.

“The first night it happened, Dale (Tallon) called me and said we’re going to send you to San Antonio right now, but obviously we’re going to give you an opportunity to play up here,” Olsen said.

A man of his word, Tallon recalled Olsen from San Antonio after just three games – a decision he would not regret. Wearing number four, Olsen made Panthers’ debut on November 25th against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Dylan Olsen & Erik Gudbranson (Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

Dylan Olsen & Erik Gudbranson (Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

Helping Olsen ease into his new role with the Panthers was a familiar face in the form of defenseman Erik Gudbranson. A former teammate of Olsen’s on Canada’s 2010 U-18 World Junior Championships squad, Gudbranson and Olsen looked as if they had been playing together for years as the duo combined for three points (1G-2A-3P) and several key defensive plays in their first game paired together.

“He was great. Extremely easy to play with,” Gudbranson said of his first game with Olsen.“We’ve already played together in a World Junior U-18 Tournament. We knew each other. We knew what to expect from each other. The biggest thing was we communicated so well on the ice. Every time I touched the puck I know where he was, he knew where I was.”

A standout player from start to finish, Olsen’s stat line for his debut consisted of an impressive +2 rating, two blocked shots and an assist in 19:10 total TOI as the Panthers defeated the Flyers 3-1. 

Since that first showing, Olsen has yet to regress from the high level of play that has already endeared him to the Panther faithful.

In eight games for the Panthers’ this season, Olsen has totaled six points (2G-4A-6P) while playing responsible defensive hockey in his own zone. On a team normally starved for offense, Olsen’s contributions have been a welcomed surprise to the Panthers – and to Olsen himself.

“I really don’t know,” Olsen said with a laugh when asked to explain his recent offensive outburst. “This has never happened before.”

Having already been tasked with shutting down star forwards like Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk, Olsen’s life won’t be getting any easier tonight as the Panthers’ welcome the Washington Capitals and the NHL’s top goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin.

Although the Panthers will need to continue an arduous uphill battle to regain playoff relevance this season, Panthers’ head coach Peter Horachek has faith in both his team and Olsen.

“He’s a big kid, he has a good shot, he shoots the puck really well — he has a really good first pass and he does things assertively,” Horachek said. “Right now, I think he’s contributing in a positive way.”

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Florida Panthers Trade Kris Versteeg to Chicago

The winds of change continue to blow in stormy South Florida.

Having already relieved former head coach Kevin Dineen and his assistants of their duties last week, Florida Panthers’ General Manager Dale Tallon made his first big roster move on Thursday night as RW Kris Versteeg and LW Phillippe Lefebvre were traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for RW Jimmy Hayes and D Dylan Olsen.

“We are pleased to welcome both Jimmy and Dylan to the Panthers,” said Tallon in the team’s press release. “Jimmy is a young, strong, hardworking, versatile forward who brings both size and skill to our team. Dylan, a former first round draft pick, is a young, solid defenseman who adds further depth to our blue line. We thank Kris for his contributions to the Panthers, including helping us win the 2011-2012 Southeast Division Championship, and wish him the best of luck in his return to Chicago.”

In just over two seasons with the Panthers, Versteeg totaled 65 points (27G-38A-65P), but had begun to struggle in the year’s since the team’s improbable playoff run in 2011. Prior to being traded, Versteeg tallied 7 points (2G-5A-7P) for the Panthers this season.

In exchange for Versteeg, the Panthers will be getting two young skaters in Hayes and Olsen who both still have a lot to prove at the NHL level.

Hayes, 23, has played in 43 career NHL games with the Blackhawks, scoring 13 points (6G-7A-13P) and 16 PIM. The 6-foot-6, 221-pound forward has both the size and physicality that Tallon has tried to stock up on in Florida.. This season, Hayes has recorded eight points (4G-4A-8P) in 13 games with Rockford (AHL), while also appearing in two games for the Blackhawks.

Olsen,22, has played in 28 career NHL games with the Blackhawks and registered a  lone assist and six PIM during his brief stint in the NHL. This season, he has played in 18 games with Rockford (AHL), recording eight assists and eight PIMs.

We here at Panther Parkway wish Kris Versteeg the best as he enters the next stage of his career.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

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