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Panthers Draft Preview

Because of a strong 2011-2012 season the Florida Panthers find themselves in unfamiliar territory at this year’s National Hockey League entry draft, at the back of the room. The Panthers will select 23rd overall in round one when the draft begins tonight from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, unless GM Dale Tallon decides to make a trade between now and then. No matter what happens Tallon and Co. must choose carefully when using their picks, especially in a draft that is not considered “deep” in terms of NHL ready talent. With that in mind let’s take a look at some of the best players available for the Cats later in the first round as well as other important information for tonight in our Panthers draft preview.

Watch Parties:

The Florida Panthers are hosting official watch parties for the 2012 NHL entry draft at the Duffy’s in Fort. Lauderdale and the Duffy’s in Coconut Creek. Erik Gudbranson will be making an appearance at the watch party in Fort. Lauderdale. The addresses for both locations are:

Duffy’s Fort. Lauderdale
1804 Harbor Shops Road
Fort. Lauderdale, FL, 33316

Duffy’s Coconut Creek
4800 W. Hillsboro Blvd.
Coconut Creek, FL, 33073

Be sure to arrive early to get a good seat.

Picks:

Florida currently holds a total of five picks for this weekend’s entry draft. We expect Tallon to secure a few more but for now here is what the Panthers have to work with.

Round 1: 23rd overall
Round 2: 53rd overall
Round 3: 84th overall
Round 4: 114th overall
Round 6: 174th overall

Available Players:

Walking up the the podium to make a top 5 selection at an entry draft is easy. It takes a skilled general manager and scouting staff to find a good player later in the first round and beyond. The Panthers will need Tallon and his group of scouts to be at their best when deciding on who to choose with the draft picks listed above. Here are a couple of names that Cats fans might hear called by their team during round one tonight.

1. Brady Skjei, D, USHL
2. Martin Frk, RW, QMJHL
3. Mike Winther, C, WHL
4. Phillip Di Giuseppe, LW, CCHA
5. Slater Koekkoek, D, OHL
6. Scott Kosmachuk, RW, OHL
7. Tanner Pearson, LW, OHL

Rumors:

Trades are a huge part of the NHL entry draft, especially since all 30 general managers are in one room. The only major rumor involving the Florida Panthers thus far has to do with a former goaltender possibly looking to come “home”. TSN reported yesterday that there are two known teams involved in trade talks with the Vancouver Canucks for netminder Roberto Luongo, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Panthers. Darren Dreger, TSN’s hockey insider, thinks that Florida is a “long shot” as a destination for Luongo, but only time will tell for sure. Either way it is always interesting to hear the trade rumors on draft day, especially those that include the Florida Panthers.

Links:

For even more great coverage of the 2012 National Hockey League entry draft click through the following links.

Prospect Rankings, North American Skaters

Prospect Rankings, European Skaters

Prospect Rankings, North American Goalies

Prospect Rankings, European Goalies

TSN Draft Ranking

TSN Mock Draft

SouthEast Division Draft Preview

Be sure to tune in to the 2012 NHL entry draft tonight beginning at 7 PM EST on the NBC Sports Network to see who the Florida Panthers select with their 23rd overall pick.

Source(s): NHL, TSN

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Photos From Game Seven

Sorry for the delay with posting these photos from game seven between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers, we just had to take a couple days to recharge our batteries. The following gallery contains pictures taken by Sunshine State Hockey while the link will lead those who click it to the Panthers official game seven photo page.

Enjoy.

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– Florida Panthers Game Seven Photo Gallery

Thank You Panthers

I am not going to bother writing a game recap or summary because we all know what happened. The Florida Panthers, a team that was suppose to finish dead last in the Eastern Conference based off opinions of the NHL media, forced game seven into double overtime before losing to New Jersey. That same National Hockey League media also called the Panthers a bunch of outcasts. Well those outcasts, the 2012 SouthEast Division Champions, certainly did well for themselves, right Mike Milbury?

This article is not intended to be all about how the talking heads were completely wrong abut this team, even though they were. This post is being made to personally thank each and every member of the Florida Panthers organization, except for Michael Yormark, for making this the best season of hockey I have ever witnessed. I have been around this team for a very long time, since 2001 to be exact, and have seen just how poorly they used to play. Dale Tallon, Kevin Dineen, and the rest of the management and coaching staff built a team that, win or lose, worked hard every single night. Tallon and Co. put together a team built around character and we witnessed that during every game, practice, and event that the players were involved in.

The most important thing to remember after tonight Panthers fans is that this is just the beginning. Florida has one of the best prospect groups in all of the National Hockey League with youngsters like Jonathan Huberdeau, Jacob Markstrom, and Nick Bjugstad fine tuning their skills in the minors while waiting for their shot to crack the lineup. The Cats will also welcome back the majority of this year’s SouthEast Division winning team for the 2012-2013 NHL season. Barring any major trades that means players like Tomas Fleischmann, Erik Gudbranson, and “Mr. Panther” Stephen Weiss will be on the roster when the puck drops for game one of next season.

Finally I would like to thank everyone, even the bandwagoners, for coming out to the BankAtlantic Center and making our house rock for games one, two, five, and seven. The atmosphere inside the BAC was absolutely electric, especially in game seven, and it is all because South Florida believed in their hockey team again. Now remember, those of us who have been there for years expect each and every one of you to come back for the 2012-2013 season, so do not let us down.

Be sure to keep coming back to Sunshine State Hockey throughout the rest of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs and during the off-season. We will continue to share our opinions and report the latest news about the National Hockey League and more importantly the Florida Panthers.

Panthers Win

Game 3 will take place tomorrow night in New Jersey. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM EST.

Keep believing red South Florida.

#3 Florida Panthers Vs #6 New Jersey Devils

The fans in South Florida have been waiting a very long time for their hockey club to make another trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The last time the Florida Panthers were involved in the post-season Bill Clinton was President of the United States, Sony released their highly anticipated PlayStation 2, and yours truly was 12 year’s old. Thanks to General Manager Dale Tallon, rookie Head Coach Kevin Dineen, the entire Panthers staff, and the 2011-2012 roster no one has to wait any longer to see the Cats play some extra hockey.

While the Panthers fan base has every right to be excited they should also be worried about their teams’ first round opponents. The New Jersey Devils are one of the most balanced teams in the National Hockey League. They have a quick striking offense, a shutdown defense that can trap any club in the neutral zone, and one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, Martin Brodeur. Florida will definitely have their hands full in this series and it will take a complete team effort to even have a legitimate shot at making it past the well structured Devils.

Offense:

The Florida Panthers were led offensively by the top line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, and Tomas Fleischmann until their opponents began to figure out how to shut the trio down. After that, around the halfway point of the season, it was up to everyone else on the roster to provide balanced scoring. That is exactly what happened as Florida got offensive help down the stretch from players such as Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, and Marcel Goc. Shockingly Fleischmann was the only one from the former #1 line to stay consistent throughout the entire 2011-2012 season, registering 27 goals and 61 points, while Versteeg and Weiss did very little in the final two months. The Panthers will need their top three forwards to produce at the level they did before and the rest of the club will have to keep up the balanced scoring if they want to keep up with the powerful New Jersey offense.

The Devils enter the first round match-up against Florida with three 30 goal scorers on their roster. Ilya Kovalchuk (37 goals), Zach Parise (31 goals), and surprisingly David Clarkson (30 goals) all had a great 2011-2012 regular season offensively and look to carry that success over into the post-season. New Jersey, much like the Panthers, also had balanced scoring outside of their big three led by the resurgence of Patrick Elias who picked up 78 points in one of his best seasons in the last three year’s. Put Elias together with Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus and the Devils have six forwards that are going to keep the Florida defense very busy.

Advantage: New Jersey

Defense:

When the Panthers entered the 2011 off-season they already had a fairly impressive defensive core that included veteran Mike Weaver and youngster Dmitry Kulikov. Add them together with All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell, former Panther Ed Jovanovski, and rookie Erik Gudbranson and Florida has one of their best D-core’s in franchise history. Of course when discussing the Cats defense it is important to mention the biggest surprise on the 2011-2012 Panthers roster, Jason Garrison. #52 had a major breakout season, finishing third in goals amongst all defensemen in the National Hockey League with 16. Florida’s D-men will have to jump in offensively all series long if they hope to continue the success they had in the regular season.

The New Jersey defense was anything but offensive this year, and that is going to be a problem for the Florida Panthers. The Devils have one of the best shutdown groups in the Eastern Conference, playing opponents into the classic NJ trap that the team has been famous for. This stingy style of play certainly helps an aging Martin Brodeur since he doesn’t have to face many shots on a nightly bases. Let’s also not forget that a solid defensive group plays an important role on the PK, and New Jersey has one of the best in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Devils react to Florida’s offensive minded defense and how the Cats handle going up against NJ’s shutdown crew.

Advantage: Florida

Goaltending:

When the Panthers began the season everyone thought that their weak point would be in net. Thankfully all of those people were dead wrong. Florida got strong goaltending all year long from surprise starter Jose Theodore, veteran backup Scott Clemmensen, and even rookie Jacob Markstrom when Theo went down with an injury. Truthfully if Florida did not have the good goaltending they would have lost a lot more games. The netminders, especially Theodore, absolutely need to stay solid between the pipes in this series.

It’s strange to think that the Devils have a question mark in net going into the post-season but age will do that to a person, even if it is Martin Brodeur. The legendary keeper hasn’t played his best post-season hockey in recent year’s and that’ll definitely be an issue for the Devils if that trend continues. Marty will have to stay strong in net and rely on his defense to keep the Panthers from getting to him.

Advantage: Even

The members of Sunshine State Hockey predicted that this series will be a long one with Florida coming out on top. Will the Cats be able to hold off the powerful Devils offense? Will Broduer live up to his legendary status? Will Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann return to early season form? All of these questions and more will be answered when the Panthers host New Jersey at the BankAtlantic Center tonight for game one of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Puck drop is 7:00 PM EST.

Believe Red.