Last season Marcel Goc established himself as a solid second line center for the Florida Panthers but Goc's role next season may be uncertain with the arrival of the Panthers' young prospect Jonathan Huberdeau.
In his seven year NHL career Goc has never been the kind of player who puts the puck in the back of the net very often but he's made his living primarily as a faceoff specialist. Last season, despite playing in only 57 games, Goc led the Panthers with 505 faceoff wins, which was especially important on the penalty killing unit.
Despite his performance last year, Goc may fall in the depth chart to the rookie Huberdeau.
Specialization vs. Special
Goc is a specialty player who is a huge asset to the Panthers, who were among the bottom of the league last season in faceoffs won and penalty killing. The Cats certainly had weaknesses last season and guys like Goc were there to help out.
Huberdeau is a different story; his only specialty is scoring points in high numbers. He had a great run in the QMJHL but I don't think it's time to throw him on the second line just yet. First off, despite his apparent talent, the "Q" is a juniors league. Huberdeau has never faced the kind of defense and goaltending that he will see in South Florida. Huberdeau, who is only 19 years old, will have a lot of growing up to do in his first NHL season.
Need vs. Speed
The Panthers didn't make many key moves this offseason that will improve last season's poor penalty killing and faceoff numbers. The need for a specialist like Goc is still very much there. Goc isn't the kind of guy who will fly down the ice and drive the net but his particular skill set is still important to the team.
Another important thing to remember is that Goc is a seven year NHL veteran. His experience in the league and knowledge of the Panthers' system gives him a distinct advantage over Huberdeau.
The Wild Card
One player who may be forgotten in all of this is Shawn Matthias who could possibly steal the second line position if coach Kevin Dineen likes what he sees in the preseason. Like Goc, Matthias has paid his dues in the NHL. He has played three full seasons in the NHL and his production has steadily increased every year. Matthias isn't a cinch for the position but he will certainly be battling for his spot in next season's lineup.
More from this contributor:
All statistics from Yahoo! Sports
Team contract details 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
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