Near the end of last season, Florida’s man advantage struggled mightily after the loss of defenseman Aaron Ekblad for the rest of the season. Even with a power-play specialist in Keith Yandle last season, it just couldn’t get done. However, this upcoming season, it’s going to look very different from last season. With the addition of offensive firepower in Sam Reinhart, and the return of Ekblad, the Panthers’ power play is going to be one of the strongest in the NHL.
The Trigger Man in Ekblad
Just before getting injured, Ekblad was having a Norris-caliber season. This was in large part due to his strong offensive prowess on the man advantage. Last season, he was third on the team in power-play goals with six, and tallied 11 power-play points. Half of all 22 of his points (11 goals, 11 assists) piled this season came on the power play.
He’s looked great in both training camp and this preseason so far, registering one assist against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, October 5. He is expected to be good to go come Oct. 14.
Forward Owen Tippett truly developed his game this past season by getting his feet wet in the playoffs against Tampa. His wicked one-timer could be a problem for opposing penalty kill units this season. In the preseason, the former first-round selection in 2017 led the team in points with six (three goals, three assists). After coming off of a somewhat breakout performance last season, he’s more than eager to get back out there on the man advantage.
A Set of Elite Playmaking Forwards Lead the Charge
Other than Tippett, Florida’s set of talented forwards is enough to salivate a fan. Now, imagine that elite forward core on the power play. Florida has the scoring ability of captain Aleksander Barkov, who was second on the team in power play points with 19 (seven goals, 12 assists) and was second on the team overall in points with 58 (26 goals, 32 assists).
Furthermore, the Cats have forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who lead the team in power-play points with 24 (five goals, 19 assists), and points overall with 61 (20 goals, 41 assists). In addition, the Panthers have Patric Hornqvist, who is known for getting into those dirty areas and being a screen for opposing goalies, led the team in power-play goals last season with eight. Additionally, they have the speed and shooting ability of Anthony Duclair, who had 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) last season. Lastly, they have a great center in Sam Bennett, who had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in his first 10 games with the Panthers.
Florida’s set of forwards is more than enough to ensure production on the man advantage. Penalty kill units across the league might have their hands full.
Puck Moving Defenseman Provide Exceptional Quarterbacking for the Unit
While Ekblad is also great on the power play, Florida has a few other candidates who could quarterback the unit. For example, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar led all defenseman in points with 36 (six goals, 30 assists) through 54 games. Furthermore, Gustav Forsling showed the offensive side to his game as well, as he put up 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) through 43 games. This includes four power-play points (one goal, three assists). In addition, general manager Bill Zito brought back Brandon Mountour after acquiring him at the deadline. He is well known for his puck movement and should be great for Florida’s back end on the man advantage.
Even though Yandle was bought out, Florida is in good hands with this defensive core and can make up that production with ease this upcoming season.
Time to Put it to the Test
Florida may get their first crack at it and have it count this week on Oct. 14 when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the success from last season, the talent brought in this past offseason, and the development of prospects this most recent preseason, the Panthers have the tools they need to succeed. It all depends if this potential translates into immediate glory this season. Because if it does, it could spark a deep playoff run and a dangerous team for years to come.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!