With the NHL season just one month away, there are many important milestones for Florida Panthers fans to look forward to. With a roster boasting three of the greatest players in franchise history in Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aleksander Barkov (who was named the greatest player in franchise history in our Den of Honor bracket), it’s no secret that several of these players are on the brink of making Panthers history.
Aleksander Barkov: All-Time Goals Record, Longest-Serving Captain
Once Aleksander Barkov hits the ice on Oct. 14, he will become the longest-serving captain in franchise history, as this will be the fifth season where he will don the “C” on his chest. He previously shared the record of four seasons with Brian Skrudland and Olli Jokinen. He’s also seven goals away from passing Jokinen for the all-time goals record in Panthers history.
Sitting at 181 goals as a Panther, Barkov needs eight goals to pass Jokinen to become the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer. On top of that, 19 more goals will give him 200 goals for his career and make him the first player to score 200 goals in a Panthers uniform.
It isn’t foolish to think that Barkov will score at least 19 goals this season. After all, he’s coming off of a 26 goal season in a year he only played 50 games due to a shortened season. He scored at least 20 goals in each of the last six seasons. A 20-goal season will make Barkov the only player in franchise history to reach the 20-goal mark seven years in a row.
Related: Florida Panthers 2021-22 Season Preview Content
With the 26-year-old set to hit the free-agent market in the offseason, this is a big year for Barkov to set his price for his next contract and solidify his spot in Panthers history. That is unless he chooses to sign a contract in Florida before the season starts, which is possible considering a contract extension is in the works.
Jonathan Huberdeau: 500 Points
Jonathan Huberdeau already owns the Panthers’ all-time record for points after passing Jokinen for that honor with his 420th point on Jan. 13, 2020, but he is on the brink of hitting a mark that nobody else has ever done in a Panthers uniform: 500 points. Sitting at 498 points, he is just two points away from becoming the first player in franchise history to score 500 points while in Florida.
Huberdeau could likely hit that 500 point mark on opening night, or at the very least the opening week of the season. The Panthers play three of their first four games on home ice, so it’s very likely he’s able to reach that milestone in front of the home crowd in Florida. If he doesn’t reach it by the end of the Panthers’ Oct. 16 matchup with the New York Islanders, Cats fans might want to make the trip to Tampa Bay on Oct. 19.
Huberdeau has been a crucial part of Florida’s success for years now, scoring at least 50 points in each of the last seven seasons and scoring on a point-per-game clip for each of the previous three. With two years left on his current contract, there’s no doubt he could also become the first Panther to score at least 600 before he inks his new deal in July 2023.
Aaron Ekblad: Most Points By A Defenseman
If it were not for a leg fracture in late March, Aaron Ekblad would be a lot closer to breaking this record than he is now. However, the 2014 first overall pick is just 57 points away from passing Robert Svehla to become the highest-scoring defenseman in Panthers history. If he adds another 10 points, he could also be the first defenseman to score 300 points in a Panthers uniform.
What makes this even more impressive is that he is doing this before reaching his 500th career game. Svehla, the previous record holder, played 573 games before hitting his 290 point mark. Now, Ekblad has the chance to reach that mark at a faster pace, as he currently has 234 points in 493 games.
On top of that, Ekblad is 18 goals away from becoming the first defenseman in Panthers’ history to hit the 100 goal mark. He already owns the franchise record in goals and if he stays healthy, there’s little to no doubt that he could reach 100 this season. He had 11 goals in 35 games last season and boasts an incredible slapshot from the point that the Cats will utilize the power play a lot.
Barkov, Ekblad, and Huberdeau are three of the greatest players in franchise history and the 2021-22 season could do wonders in furthering their case for a spot on the Panthers’ Mount Rushmore and eventually seeing their jersey numbers in the rafters alongside Roberto Luongo’s.