With a growing crop of talented youngsters up front and the Barkov-Huberdeau combo leading the way, the Panthers can be an offensive force in the future. Netminding will also be a strength, while there is a nice mixture of skill sets to draw from on the blueline.
Henrik Borgstrom| Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images
Welcome to the Five-Year Plan. In this summer exercise, we forecast the rosters for all 31 current NHL teams for the 2023-24 season. Are we bound for folly? Sure, but the point of the exercise is to give some sense of where an organization is heading based on current long-term contracts and the prospects they have in the system.
Some ground rules: No trades will be made and no future draft picks will be included – so you won’t see the likes of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield on any roster, even though they will certainly be NHL stars in 2023-24. All current contracts are honored and most restricted free agents are projected to stay with their teams, unless it is determined the player will lose his spot or move on in the future. Some future unrestricted free agents will be kept on if the players are deemed integral and likely to re-sign. The Seattle expansion draft is not considered. With all that established, let’s take a look at Florida.
Honestly, if the prospects here develop to the full extent, the Panthers will have one of their most impressive collection of forwards ever in five years. Barkov and Huberdeau will still be drivers and Denisenko brings more speed and skill to the line. Borgstrom’s ascent gives Florida another ace scoring line while allowing Trocheck to function as a shutdown center with the skills of a second-liner. That bottom six has a nice combination of size (Noel and Schwindt), skill and grit, plus the requisite penalty-killers. Though Schwindt was just drafted, I believe he’ll be a great value pick in the future. The Panthers also have Jonathan Ang and Denis Malgin as options.
This is a pretty smart-looking blueline corps and there is a nice variety of skill sets throughout. Matheson and Ekblad are known quantities, but Stillman is a great defender while Gildon can provide plenty of offense (44 points in 67 games through two years at the University of New Hampshire). Kolyachonok loves the rush the puck and Brown is a big, defensive defenseman who can play off the young Belarussian. Now, only Matheson and Ekblad are established as NHLers so there is some risk here. If the Cats are worried about experience, they could always re-sign Keith Yandle to a one-year extension (his contract ends in the summer of 2023), but he would be 37 when the season begins.
This may be one of the most clear-cut forecasts in the entire league. Bobrovsky just signed his mammoth free agent deal with the Panthers and he’ll be one of the top goalies in the NHL from now until 2023-24. Knight is one of the best netminding prospects of his generation and enters his first NCAA season with Boston College this fall. He will likely leave early (based on how good he is already), then spend at least a full season in the AHL getting reps. After that, he can make his NHL debut and apprentice under Vezina winner Bobrovsky. It’s a great situation for all involved.
Overall, this is a pretty sweet-looking roster for Florida, assuming prospects such as Tippett and Denisenko pan out. Barkov will still be a top center in the league in five years (he may even have a Selke or two by then) and the Panthers have excellent depth and a wide array of skills available to them. The defense corps is unproven right now but should be good to go by 2023-24. Goaltending will be a strength. With Joel Quenneville behind the bench, this is a Florida team to be reckoned with.
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