The 2015 NHL entry draft is just days away, and the Florida Panthers have the privilege of playing host to one of the most anticipated drafts since Sidney Crosby was selected first overall by Pittsburgh in 2005. Another superstar is about to emerge, with center Connor McDavid being touted as the obvious first choice by the Edmonton Oilers. Of course, as most people know, there is a lot more to the draft than just young men realizing their lifelong dream. The following is everything fans need to know to prepare themselves for the festivities that will take place on Friday and Saturday.
The Top 30
First, let’s talk about the prospects. McDavid is already a household name, but what about the other 29 prospects that could hear their names called in the first round? Here is the complete list of the top 30 North American skaters available:
To see the full list of skaters and goaltenders from North America and Europe, click here.
Round 1 Draft Order
One of the most exciting parts of any draft day are the trades. Every year at least one team pulls the trigger on a blockbuster deal in hopes to improve their team. Last year it was Anaheim who bolstered their lineup on draft day by acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver. His contributions helped his new team reach the Western Conference finals before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fast forward to this weekend’s draft and there are plenty of big names available for the taking. The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to unload their two biggest stars, Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, while the Chicago Blackhawks need to shed salary, and they may look to do so by trading Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell. Other names being mentioned in trade talks include Cam Talbot (NYR), Milan Lucic (BOS), and Eric Staal (CAR). TSN has compiled an entire list of players that are rumored to be up for grabs this weekend, which can be seen here.
Schedule of Events
Finally, the Florida Panthers are doing their best to provide a fantastic weekend for everyone attending the 2015 NHL entry draft. From autograph signings to trading card shows there will be something for everyone on Friday and Saturday. For the entire schedule of events just look below.
For any other questions about the draft fans can refer to draft central, a web portal created by the Florida Panthers. Round one of the 2015 National Hockey League entry draft takes place this Friday, June 26th, at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.
Today Florida takes to the ice to play their final game of the 2014-2015 season. In honor of their much improved year we have been counting down the top five moments from this campaign. From a night honoring a 43 year old legend to the first NHL goal of a 19 year old’s career, this season has been full of memorable moments. While all the events on the top five list were impressive none of them come close to the historical 20 round shootout that took place against the Washington Capitals on December 16th, 2014.
#1 – A Shootout For The Ages
The Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers entered the game on December 16th thinking it was going to be just another typical contest against former SouthEast Division foes, boy were they wrong. After regulation ended tied 1-1, with goals from forwards Troy Brouwer and Darek MacKenzie, the teams would head to overtime and eventually the shootout. Florida sent out their SO regulars, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, and Brad Boyes, while Washington used Eric Fehr, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. The first three shooters for each team could not get the job done, so the shootout went to sudden death, for a record breaking 20 rounds.
Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad would get his second chance in the SO after both teams used all of their players. With the game on his stick Bjugstad came in and fired the puck past Washington goaltender Braden Holtby, giving Florida a win in the longest shootout in National Hockey League history. Don’t take our word for it though, just click the video below and enjoy the full length SO, courtesy of the NHL YouTube channel.
We cannot wait to see what memorable moments the Panthers create during the 2015-2016 season. How about a 30 round shootout? Florida is game if Washington is.
Making a statement against top tier clubs is important in the development process of any young team. The Florida Panthers made many of the NHL’s elite clubs take notice to the fact that they are a group on the rise. Florida beat plenty of the league’s top teams this season, but moment number two on the countdown focuses on two identical victories against the same organization.
#2 – Panthers Roast The Ducks x2
The Anahiem Ducks will finish 2015 as one of the top teams in the National Hockey League heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. While their regular season was a successful one they have two large blemishes on their record, thanks to the Florida Panthers. Anahiem was defeated by Florida 6-2 at home on November 16th and 6-2 at the BB&T Center on February 10th. Two identical scores against one of the best clubs in the West.
Nick Bjugstad stole the show in Anahiem, registering two goals and two assists for his first career four point game. At home in February it was Jonathan Huberdeau’s time to shine, picking up three assists in the second 6-2 victory against the Ducks. The more glaring stat is that Florida as a team outscored Anaheim 12-4 in these two games. As long as the Panthers continue to improve and can build off their success they will start to be mentioned in the conversation of elite clubs.
Moves like Jagr
Maybe the fountain of youth is in Florida after all. Jaromir Jagr, The 43 year-old “Kid from Klando” has gone above and beyond the expectations that many set for him when he first arrived in south Florida just days before the NHL trade deadline. Though he was held of the score sheet in his Panther debut on February 28th against Buffalo, Jagr immediately made a tangible impact on Florida’s young core. He hasn’t looked back. In the 14 games he has played so far, he has 12 points. More importantly, in those same 14 games, his young line mates have benefited from his wisdom both on and off the ice. Jonathan Huberdeau (4G, 12A – 16P) and Alexander Barkov (5G,5A – 10P) both look like completely different players, and most of that is due to the sheer presence that a player of Jagr’s caliber brings.
399 and counting….
Roberto Luongo returned to the ice last week after a six game absence due to an upper body injury. He has picked up points in four out of his five starts (going 3-1-1) and has looked solid throughout most of those games. His most recent outing against Toronto earned him his 399th career victory, putting him one shy of the 400 mark. Roberto would like nothing more than to hit the 400 mark, and he couldn’t have picked a better time to do it, as what many are calling the single most important game of the season (thus far) looms large in Boston tomorrow night.
Nick Bjugstad has been a workhorse this season for the Florida Panthers; spending time on the top 2 lines and seeing regular shifts on the power play. He’s matched up against top-tier talent a nightly basis and has posted career highs in goals (24 – team high) and points (43 – second on team). Unfortunately, those numbers will both stay where they are at as it was announced earlier this week that Bjugstad underwent successful season-ending surgery to repair a nagging lower back injury. His presence will be sorely missed as Florida makes its final push to the playoffs with just six games remaining in the regular season.
The Road Ahead
As the season winds down, the points only become more valuable. Losing in overtime or the shootout, and beating teams you are chasing in extra time no longer suffice. Florida (85 points, 10th place) picked up a big win on Sunday against Ottawa (86 points, 9th place), winning in regulation 4-2. It will need to carry that same momentum into this week against division rival Boston (89 points, 8th place). Though the Panthers clawed their way to a 2-1 shootout victory over the Bruins in a thriller at the BB&T Center in Sunrise last week, they will need to take both points home in regulation if they want to gain any ground in the frenetic race for the final wild card spot. The puck drops tomorrow night at 7:00.