Offseason Additions Bring Physical Presence to Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are off to a hot start at 9-2-2, winning two of their last three games against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Lightning. If you watched Panthers hockey last year, you might notice a different feel and style of play this season, along with some new faces you had not seen before.

Ever since the departure of defenceman Erik Gudbranson from the Panthers blueline, fans have longed to see a tangible physical fight from players. It seems fans’ most popular gripe with the Cats is they’re too soft, they won’t fight, and they are always too scared to get in the dirty areas to earn goals. It seems as if new general manager Bill Zito got a read on this issue quickly, making key offseason additions to change the character of his team seemingly overnight. Here are some new faces who are transforming the culture for the Florida Panthers.

Anthony Duclair

Coming off of a 23 goal season in Ottawa, Duclair hit the market as a UFA. After waiting months, Duclair represented himself in negotiations and signed with the Panthers. Speed is the name of Duclair’s game and he puts it on display every single game. He’s a player who you can see his motor running at top speed as he flies along the ice, and he finally cashed in with a wraparound goal against Tampa Bay on Monday night. Though he only has one tally in 13 games, he’s logged 6 assists alongside Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaghe. I expect Anthony Duclair to continue bringing the speed aspect to the Panthers’ top line and for his goals total to start rising as well.

Patric Hornqvist  

To the collective rejoice of Panther fans far and wide, Mike Matheson was shipped off to Pittsburgh in exchange for veteran winger Patric Hornqvist. Adding a 34 year-old on a big money deal ($5,300,000/year) traditionally is a horrible move, but subtracting Matheson and adding a 2-time Cup Champion for practically net-zero change in payroll was something Bill Zito wanted to gamble on. Hornqvist is a big body who loves to be right in front of the opponent’s net. This is where he makes his money, and already has 12 points in 13 games. Hornqvist also brings the energy to the team, as you’ll often see him loudly whooping and joking around at practice.

Radko Gudas

After earning a reputation as one of the NHL’s wrecking balls, Gudas signed a 3-year deal with the Panthers this offseason. As most fans may have noticed, Radko Gudas is quite the physical presence. He’s immediately given the Cats more energy on and off the ice during every game and serves as the muscle to protect superstars like Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov. Gudas does a great job of clearing space in front of Florida’s net and gets opponents off the puck, oh, and he currently leads the League in hits (72).

A hot start to the new season has Florida Panthers fans excited that this year could be different, and if it really is, you can be sure these three guys are involved in the fun.

Continue to follow along on the Panther Parkway Podcast with Tom McLean every Sunday, and the Locked On Panthers Podcast with myself Monday-Friday for more news, insights, and analysis on your Florida Panthers.  You can also follow our writers: @FrankRekas, @Josh_LOPanthers, @JacobWinans8, @prudentia0, @Spencer_hoag, and @mandoman12. All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of @KimSmithImages

One comment

Comments are closed.