The Florida Panthers have once again chased a few veterans to help carry the load of the team. Scott Gomez was signed earlier this summer to bring some experience and leadership. Without the hefty price tag, the lack attention should help him find his game again.
Most recently, the Panthers signed veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney to a one-year contract, a player who can help bring some of the same attrtibutes as Gomez to the blueline.
Lastly, the Panthers added Brad Boyes, a player who will help create some scoring as a top-six forward and more importantly, bring together the young duo of Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
During his Calder-winning rookie campaign, Huberdeau proved he can play a top-six role as a full time NHL player. He not only showed his skills as an offensive player but was occasionally dominant. He is a hard worker and is extremely confident in his abilities. If he can pass along some of his experiences and knowledge to Barkov, the tandem could develop a lot sooner than expected. Huberdeau has been vocal about his new linemate for the upcoming season.
“[Barkov] is going to be a great player and I’m glad we can start the season together. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Barkov has been praised for his offensive skills throughout training camp, which has earned him a spot on the second line with Huberdeau and Boyes.
Could the Huberdeau-Barkov duo finally bring a legitimate identity to the Florida Panthers?
Going back to the Luongo days in Florida, it has been quite some time since the organization has been able to call anyone a “franchise player”. Huberdeau and Barkov represent some of the most prolific prospects who have entered through the Panthers’ pipeline.
If they decide to spend their careers together under the sunbelt, the Panthers might have found themselves a “franchise duo”, which seems to be the status quo around the NHL.
With that said, how good will a line of Huberdeau, Barkov and Boyes really be?
It depends largly on how well Barkov transitions to the NHL. Huberdeau is well on his way to proving himself, while Boyes has become a reliable winger when healthy. Interestingly, Barkov spent his last season playing in Europe, where he was literally a boy among men. Playing for Tappara of the SM-iiga, Barkov scored 21 goals and 27 assists in 53 games as a teenager.
There is obviously a reason why the Panthers have such faith in their 2013 first round draft pick. He seems to be one of the most NHL-ready rookies and could produce well in his first season.
Huberdeau and Boyes will have to make his job as easy as possible, minimizing the pressure on the youngster. As it stands, the trio are the second scoring line, which will put a bit more pressure on the reigning Panthers’ duo Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg.
For now, the young pair can ease into their partnership with some help from Brad Boyes. This is only the start of the season, so if they fail to produce, the time may not be right to unite the two first round picks. However, with the opportunity presented, and the hard work both players have shown thus far, Huberdeau and Barkov should be poised to find success together in the coming season.
One of the biggest questions will be consistency, as with many young players in the NHL. Scoring 31 points in 48 games last season (about 53 points in 82 games), Huberdeau will be looked upon to score closer to the 60 point range in the upcoming season. If he can eclipse that mark with his current linemates, Barkov will surely have a major role to play, leading to his own success in the process.
Is success guaranteed for the the young guns? Certainly not. The NHL is a whole new ball game and it will be in Barkov’s hands to try and make an impact immediately. If he does, he has some very capable linemates in Huberdeau and Boyes to help him along the way.