Yesterday at the Saveology.com Iceplex, a metaphorical wrench was thrown in the Panthers’ plan for the upcoming year. Erik Gudbranson, in an informal workout session, apparently badly injured his shoulder. Even though he received treatment right away and the Panthers have yet to announce his injury, Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel was tipped off that Gudbranson could be out of action for up to four months.
Gudbranson could still be considered the Panthers’ sixth defenseman, even after his ice time increased late in the season and during the playoffs last year. His NHL stats, though they aren’t spectacular (2 goals, 6 assists, -19 plus/minus, 78 penalty minutes), were decent enough to hold off his competition and keep his spot on the blue line. As the year progressed, you could really see coach Kevin Dineen‘s confidence in Gudbranson grow. His ice time grew, he took more chances in the offensive zone, and he took more faceoffs in his own zone - I detailed his progress as a player about a month ago. Most people were looking forward to see if Gudbranson’s second NHL season would push him up to star status.
Greetings everyone. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the smooth transition to our new website, Panther Parkway. I’m excited for our team and what lies ahead. What I’m not excited about is a lockout, so lets continue to hope and pray that there isn’t a full season lockout looming.
Staying away from the that for while, I’d like to share my opinion on who will have breakout seasons; if we have a season. All 5 of these players are relatively young, and most are about to hit their prime age and break out, so it should make sense when you see my 5 guys.
There are plenty of players to choose from but first I’ll start with a player who had a great season last year, and I believe he can have an even better one.
That player is John Tavares. The former first overall pick of the 2009 NHL draft had a great season last year. His 81 points were a career high, and his 50 assists were among the top leaders in the league. Since he plays with the New York Islanders, his name isn’t in the headlines every night, but when people get to see him live, he is something special. With so much turmoil going on with the Islanders, Tavares has been a bright spot. Even though they lost P.A. Parenteau to free agency, Tavares should still thrive and I believe he’ll flirt with the 100 point range. He’s averaged 67 points a season in his first 3 NHL seasons, but I believe his 4th will be the best one he’s had thus far.
Second, I’ll go with a name that might not be a household one, but possibly could be. It’s a stretch but I’m going with Derrick Brassard. The 6th overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft has shown that he can play in the NHL. His 41 points last year were a step back from his 2010-2011 campaign where he tallied 47 points, but with Rick Nash gone; someone has to take the helm in Columbus. I believe Brassard will be that man. Although he had a slow start last year, in his final 32 games he totaled 25 points. His time on ice increased, which resulted in more production. With Nash gone, Brassard will be one of the go to guys for Columbus. He’ll be in the neighborhood of 65-70 points.
Third I’ll go with a our very own, Dmitry Kulikov. Kulikov was lights out before he got injured. Night after night, he was tallying points on a consistent level. He was certainly on his way to shatter his career highs. Although he did surpass his career highs by 2 points, we didn’t get to see Kulikov thrive as much as we thought he would. Hampered by a leg injury, Kulikov missed 24 games. Although Kulikov finished with 28 points, he had 20 points in the first 38 games and was on pace for a 50 point season. If Kulikov can stay healthy, he’ll be on pace once again to get to that plateau. He’s had injury issues in his young NHL career, but if he wants to play for the Panthers organization for many years, he is going to have to prove that his injuries are a thing in the past.
Fourth, a player that isn’t as young as the rest of the field but seems to have found a steady place for awhile will be Curtis Glencross. The 29 year old player for the Calgary Flames had a terrific season last year even if he had some injury issues. He missed 15 games overall but still managed to score 26 goals on a mere 110 shots. Thats a 23.6% shooting percentage! What that means is that pretty much he’ll make one out of every four shots. That’s highest in the league as far as a player that’s played as many games as he did. Higher then Stamkos, Malkin, you name it. Glencross has talent, and I believe he has the potential to top 30 goals this year.
Lastly we have Taylor Hall. Another former first round draft pick was hampered last year with some injuries. He missed 21 games but still averaged about a point a game. Hall has seen top prospects coming left and right with Nugent Hopkins, Eberle and now Yakupov. It seems impossible to think that Hall won’t have a career year with these names playing with him every night. He should be somewhere around the 80-85 point range next year and I expect him and the Oilers to have one of the best offenses in the league for years to come.
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