Roster Thoughts: Just Having Some Fun
Hope you guys have been enjoying the playoffs so far. It's always fun when they don't go as predicted, and thus far, this first round has not disappointed!
Makes me wish that much more there was some skin in the game from Florida's side. Hopefully next year!
Speaking of which...I know we're all eager to see how Q and Tallon structure this team and who they bring in, move out, call up, etc. As such, I had some fun looking at the current roster and speculating who might be "Q guys" and who might be on the outside looking in.
Keep in mind, as with all my writing, I'm not an expert (nor do I claim to be), I just enjoy and love the game of hockey and have a lot of fun discussing it and the Panthers with you. I subscribe to the same idea that the guys over at Talkin' Hockey - The Hockey Talkin' Show (solid/fun podcast) do; I'm just here to have some fun talking about the best game on Earth.
So with that in mind, I put together the below thoughts based on Q's time in Chicago and the different things I observed, read, etc. during those years and what I noticed about the various styles of players the Panthers have.
I didn't take into account contracts (current, expiring and all that jazz). It's just meant to be a fun way to look at things from kind of a high-level.
What Q leaned towards in Chicago: Complete, responsible 200-foot game. Veteran presence. Young guys that were responsible and played the system right.
Q Guys [Forwards]:
Barkov: No surprises here. Q said so himself that this guy stood out as someone he wanted to coach. Who wouldn't want to coacch one of the best in the league. He's an unbelievable talent and plays a solid two-way game with ridiculous hands and skill. His two-way game reminds me of Toews, only bigger.
Dadonav: Top six guy that is a great compliment to Barkov and Huberdeau. Good hands/shiftiness and who goes to the net a lot - always a good thing and something Q stresses.
Hawryluk: This is the Shaw of the Panthers and Q loves him some #65. It's always good to have an agitator and its' a bonus when that guy also has some skill. I feel like Jayce brings just that. This roster desperately needs some sandpaper and he's the man for the job.
Hoffman: Hard to argue against a guy that put up 70 points (36 goals, 34 assists). He went off this year for Florida. Defensive game can probably use some tweaks, but putting up serious offense and being a major cog of the top six more than makes up for it (right now). Speed, unreal shot and nasty on the PP - I feel like Q doesn't really have much to do here.
Huberdeau: Sort of the same thing here as with Barkov. Gifted player with good size and incredible chemistry with Barky. Dominate top line guy who brings the offense and is also responsible defensively. He showed he can possibly possess a little bit of nastiness (as seen in some games towards the end of the year). never a bad thing to have some old school hockey in you when Q's behind the bench.
Hunt: Energy and nice, simplistic mentality and likes to "Hunt" (pun intended) around the net. Could see Q liking the North-South aspects of his game and potential to get bigger/stronger.
Sheahan - Hard working guy (personal favorite on the team). Goes into corners, battles along boards, defensively strong for a forward and is the driving force of that third line (also my favorite line). I think Q likes his "work boots and lunch pail" mentality.
Sceviour - Another hard working guy. Strong as a PK-killing specialist that might remind Q a lot of Marcus Kruger (which is a good thing).
Trocheck - Probably the "heart and soul" of the Cats. This was on display when he returned from injury and provided a big spark for the team. Small, but makes up for it in big way with his hands, speed and overall skill. Thinks the game out well and is a solid playmaker. Why wouldn't Q like him? Sorry, Harvey :)
Vatrano - Embodiment of the "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality. This guy never wastes an opportunity to get pucks to the net and it pays off for him frequently. Smaller in stature, but has such a knack for getting shots on (from all angles), he's a great compliment on the third line with Brouwer and Sheahan. Q can get frustrated when players try to be too cute with passes, or don't take advantage when opportunities arise. Don't think Vatrano will have that problem.
Q Guys [Defense]
Brown - The closest thing to a stay-at-home defensemen the Cats have. Has good size and plays a nice, simple game on the blueline (something which a lot of FLA defensemen don't do).
Ekblad - A veteran at 23, has great size and skating ability. Obviously strong offensively, but needs to throw the body around more with the frame he has and make opponents think twice before coming into the Panthers' zone. I think his skills struggled a bit under Boughner because it seemed he was tasked to rush the puck up and get involved too deep, too often. I think Q will have him play a more reserved game on the backend, which would probably help his defensive positioning and game.
Keeper - Not sure why we only saw one game with this guy, but I think (hope) he has some real upside. In the game against Ottawa, he played smart and didn't try to do too much or anything outside of his ability and earned the third star for it. At 22, this fella carries himself like a seasoned pro. He's humble and well-spoken for being so young. Certainly feels like he has wisdom beyond his years. Let's see what he can do, Q!
Pysyk - One of the guys most fans seem to pile on, I think Pysyk has some value if used correctly. I don't think he worked well with Matheson because I think there was some difficulty covering for Matheson when he would take off. I liked the Brown-Pysyk combo and I think if paired correctly, he can be someone that helps eat minutes (while being responsible) for the higher-skilled defensemen to rest their legs/lungs and stay fresh. Chicago were masters of this with their D corps for a long time. High end talent that was complimented by guys that could just do their jobs and eat minutes.
Weegar - Solid energy and grit. Seems unfazed by anyone and sticks up for teammates. Has a good shot and while probably a bottom pair guy, has some toughness this team needs.
Yandle - I'm not the biggest fan, but he's stellar on the PP. Him or Ekblad can both quarterback it and he's a veteran (which Q likes). Hopefully Q tightens up his defensive play - especially turnovers, because those do not fly in the Joel system.
Not Sure: Maybe they stay or maybe they're moved for pieces that might better fit the plan?
Borgstrom - His game reminds me a lot of Teravainen's when he was in Chicago. Although, I believe Teravainen's fate with the Hawks was sealed by the front office/media before he even had a chance. He was (unfairly) billed as the second-coming of Patrick Kane. While TT is a very talented guy, Kane is a legit prodigy and it always seemed wrong to put that kind of pressure on a young, unproven player like TT. When he struggled, like so young guys do, fans became split, with a lot seeming to lose patience with him. There's no doubt he struggled the system Q had in place at the time.
I think the move to Carolina was the best thing for him. Playing in a smaller market, not under a microscope and a place that allowed him to play to his strengths right away, and let the rest of his game develop, turned him into the guy he is today.
Like TT in a Hawks sweater, I feel like we see flashes of brilliance from Borgstrom. I wonder if Q will have patience and let Borgy develop and play to his strengths, or if Q executes a scheme like like he did before, will Borgy be able to play that type of game? I love watching the guy and what he can bring with his hands, puck-handling, elusiveness and shooting.
Brouwer - Perfect veteran fit on that third line and a true power forward with the ability to score. However, I remember when rumors surfaced about him and Q being at odds and not particularly fond of one another; possibly resulting in Brouwer's exit from Chicago. Could be nothing to the rumors, but interesting to think about.
McGinn - As a 10-year veteran (but only 30), I thought he looked good in the small sample size of games (19) he played this year. Nice size/style for the fourth line and could realistically work his way back up higher IMO. Feel like the back injury could be a question mark - but hopefully it's behind him for good and he continue moving forward.
Matheson - A lot of fan frustration was taken out (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly) on this guy. While he fits the bill of "new age" defensemen, he struggled in his own end and coughed the puck up quite a bit. His skating ability is pretty off the charts, though. I wonder if Q sees him as someone he can work with, or another flighty blueliner who could be better suited as a trade/package deal (where he could go to a system he would better compliment) and return something more appropriate for what he might try to do. With today's NHL and potential upside between his age, skating and offensive ability, I could see teams having serious interest in him. I also think he showed a willingness to sell out and get in front of shots. That's kind of a lost art and can be a nice thing to find in a guy. I know Q appreciates that, so I'm curious to how Matheson is handled.
McCoshen - Q's size, but we saw a limited sample size of 19 games. I don't mind his game and maybe he sticks around as a depth defensemen. I don't think that's a bad idea.
Malgin - A lot of fans seem split on him. Small, but I feel like he has good wheels but is hot-and-cold with scoring. Maybe Q sees him as a Hinostroza/Schmaltz type? There's certainly some similarities there...but they could be not in his favor.
I mean...what can we say? I think this one comes down more to what happens in the offseason in regards to the blue paint. I fell like Q has always worked a scheme that was all about having strong defense, with the idea that having legit defense affords you the luxury of being able to get a way with a "lesser" goalie and/or take the pressure off your netminder. Strong defense can gives the ability to have a guy just need to make routine saves and not have to stand on his head every night.
The awesome thing about looking at this roster is that everyone is so young and with a lot of potential talent to be unlocked. It's seriously crazy!
Oh...and I'm also psyched and curious about Tippet. Does he come up this year? Where does he slot in? So many possibilities with this team...