Despite a deep stable of young talent it looks like the Florida Panthers will likely hit the ice next season with a veteran team. The Cats have a few young prospects that are probably ready to take their game up to the NHL level but the Cats appear to be ready to give them time to develop.
One of the most notable rookies is center Jonathan Huberdeau who is fresh off an amazing stint with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. I expect to see Huberdeau on the ice in South Florida at some point next season but I'm not sure if he'll be there all season. The Cats currently have four centers on their active roster, all of whom have NHL experience.
There is a chance that during the course of the season either Mike Santorelli or Shawn Matthias will sit the bench for a few games to give Huberdeau some ice time but it probably won't be significant unless coach Kevin Dineen sees something he likes in the young man right away.
Between the Pipes
Another prospect that the Panthers have been waiting on is goaltender Jacob Markstrom who has been in the system for two years now but hasn't seen much ice time at the NHL level. The Panthers selected Markstrom 31st overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and he is the heir-apparent to Jose Theodore.
The writing was on the wall for Markstrom when the Cats re-signed backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen to a new three-year contract in the offseason. Markstrom played seven games with the Panthers last season and it looks like he'll get about the same number of games in the coming season.
The Cast have quite a few options for defensive help including young hot shots Colby Robak and Alexander Petrovic but it appears that Tyson Strachan will get the nod for the upcoming season. As of August 29 Strachan is listed on the Panthers' official website as being on the active roster.
Strachan has never played a full season in the NHL but he's not exactly a rookie either. He was originally drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003 and since then has been bouncing between the NHL and AHL. Strachan played 15 games with the Cats last season and is obviously Dineen's choice among the young defensive corps.
The Panthers have a solid pool of prospects but the team doesn't seem ready to hand over the reins to the youngsters quite yet. One of the advantages the Panthers have is that there are skilled veterans at every position that can help mentor the young players and bring them along as they're ready. Even if the Cats don't start the season with any of the young prospects on their roster don't be surprised to see young faces on the ice in South Florida as the season moves along.
More from this contributor:
All statistics from Yahoo! Sports
All player roster and contract information 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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