The Florida Panthers will need all the offensive power they can muster next season if they want to repeat as Southeastern Division Champions.
Despite several offseason moves, the Cats will likely skate onto the ice next season with the same personnel at the right wing position that they had last season. The Panthers' right side offers several seasoned NHL veterans. The major concern heading into the new season is if the right wingers will be able to keep up the pace.
Fleischmann had a great season last year. In fact, he had a career season. Last year Fleischmann led the Panthers in goals (27) and in total points (61). Prior to last season the most points Fleischmann had ever scored in a single season was 51. Hopefully his increased production was the result of chemistry with his line mates Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg. A key to the Panthers' success in the upcoming season will be consistency with last season and Fleischmann will have to have a good year.
Consistent scoring has never been a problem for Bergenheim but consistent health has been. Bergenheim has only played one full season in the last four years. Last season Bergenheim put up 23 points in only 62 games and missed most of January. His performance on the ice isn't an issue; it's keeping him on the ice that's so important to the Panthers.
Like Fleischmann, Kopecky showed Panthers fans what he could do last year. Last season Kopecky was a well balanced offensive threat with 10 goals and 22 assists. Last season was Kopecky's first year with the Panthers and he proved that he fits in well with the team. Kopecky skated in 80 games last season and was a rock on the right side for the Panthers. If coach Kevin Dineen likes what he sees in training camp, Kopecky could skate on the second line next season.
If you want a proven veteran, look no further. Upshall is a 12-year NHL veteran and a proven scoring asset. Upshall's downside, like Bergenheim, is his health and resilience. Last season Upshall only played 26 games with the Panthers and has never skated over 70 games per season in his career. Upshall has the ability to put the puck in the net but I don't count on him to be around for the entire season.
The Panthers don't have a depth problem at the right wing position but they do have a problem with consistency. The Cats signed right winter Casey Wellman in the offseason. Wellman will probably start the season with the Panthers' AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, but I would keep my eyes open because there's a good chance that Wellman will make an appearance in South Florida next season.
More from this contributor:
All contract and free agent information and from FloridaPanthers.com
Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein