In today’s NHL, a team must consist of a rock solid defense group if they want to compete in the playoffs. Everyone talks about how good the defensive cores are in Nashville, New York, Chicago, St.Louis, etc etc. While teams such as the Florida Panthers get absolutely no love in that department(or any department for that matter). Well here is some love. The Panthers have the most underrated defense in the NHL. But it won’t stay that way for long as this team continues to win and more people begin to actually take notice of the hockey team that plays in South Florida.
Hiding Out in Florida
The truth is, the Florida Panthers don’t get much exposure whatsoever. These guys play in one of, if not THE smallest markets in the NHL. That is also why they don’t get the recognition they deserve most of the time. They are a team that is on the brink of success after so many years of failure.
Dale Tallon is doing a great job piecing this team together, and now they are slowly seeing it all fall into place. The Cats are right behind the Boston Bruins, trying to make the playoffs in that last wild card spot. If no one is noticing the promise and potential coming from this team, they will soon enough, and one day they will actually be talked about like the bright team they are.
Young stud Aaron Ekblad, at age 19, is already playing well beyond his years. It was no mistake that he went 1st overall in last year’s draft. Currently Ekblad is 4th on the team in scoring with 11 goals, 23 assists, and is a plus 7 so far on the year. VERY impressive numbers for a 19-year-old defender logging big minutes in the NHL. Ekblad should be the front-runner for this years Calder Trophy, but since he is a defenseman, he isn’t going to be on the highlight reels like we have seen with rookie forwards such as Forsberg and Gaudreau.
Though that is exactly why he SHOULD win the Calder Trophy, because he IS a defenseman at age 19 in the NHL, and executing extremely well. Sadly however, Ekblad will probably lose out to one of the forwards who have scored some flashy goals instead. If Aaron Ekblad played on the Toronto Maple Leafs, he would be getting non stop coverage and praise. This kid is incredible to watch, you just wouldn’t believe it’s his first year as a professional. Aaron Ekblad will be anchoring the Panthers’ blueline for many years to come, you can count on that.
Nice Mix of Youth and Experience
The Panthers defensive group contains a very nice mix of youth and experience. Experience in the form of Stanley Cup champions, Willie Mitchell and Brian Campbell. Mixed with youth in the form of Dimitri Kulikov, Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, and Steven Kampfer, who are all under the age of 26.
Plus, even more promising talent in the pipeline that we will be seeing sooner rather than later. Top prospects like Mike Matheson, Ian McCoshen, and MacKenzie Weegar will be knocking on the Panthers door in the near future, making this defense even more impressive and dangerous.
In the modern NHL you need a mobile defense for the most part, capable of playing top-notch defense, while also being able to skate, pass, and shoot. The Florida Panthers have this recipe on their back end with a great mix of toughness and skill. They are the most underrated defense in the NHL. But not for much longer.
Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble