The Florida Panthers have had an injury riddled season, which has helped them to the leagues worst record for the shortened 2013 NHL season. With key players from last year’s South East Division Championship squad missing considerable time, such as Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, Sean Bergenheim and Ed Jovanovski and countless others throughout the season. Florida has called to its youth to fill the roles to get them through the season, potential Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Petrovic, along with many more callups from their AHL affiliate. The Cats have had eight players make their NHL debut this season and it’s showed with inconsistency, shaky starts to games and some struggling to become adjusted to the new system quickly.
Finishing 30th in the league will mean that Florida can draft no lower than second overall at the NHL Entry Draft (barring a trade) and will look to add another key piece to the puzzle for its future. Much speculation says Seth Jones, a talented young defenseman will be the first overall selection for whoever holds that pick. The question is, do the Florida Panthers need another defenseman currently? With drafting Mike Matheseon in 2012, who had a solid freshman season at Boston University, along with Alex Petrovic, Erik Gudbranson, Colby Robak and Dmitry Kulikov, all recent picks have already seen NHL ice time. Offensively the Panthers rely on Huberdeau, mixed with veterans already in the lineup who may not repeat their output from this season (Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias specifically).
Nick Bjugstad, a prized draft pick from 2010 has played in a handful of games and while he looks to be finding his game, one may wonder if he can turn into that first line player some expect him to be. If he doesn’t and the Cats select Jones, where does that leave the Panthers offensively? Over their 19 season history the Panthers have always struggled offensively, even in the days of Pavel Bure (55 points seperated Bure with second on the team Viktor Kozlov, who had 37 points.)
If the Panthers win the draft lottery and keep the first overall pick, my suggestion would be to trade it to the Colorado Avalanche, who have a huge desire to draft Seth Jones. I’m obviously not an NHL GM, but why not trade from first to second and gain some assets in return? Such as 32nd overall and surprising young player Tyson Barrie. Many times I’ve spotted Huberdeau on the ice, calling for a pass in which his linemates never seem to notice, a player such as Jonathan Drouin could fix this in the future. He’s also been seen making unbelievable moves around opposing defenders and make a pass to a streaking linemate, only to have it bobbled or missed completely. Could Nathan MacKinnon be the solution to this issue? In the end I feel the Panthers can do no harm with whomever they draft, the question is whether or not they’ll make their choice based on needs or best player available.