Over the past 10 years, Stephen Weiss has become the face of the Florida Panthers. Drafted by Florida fourth overall at the 2001 NHL Expansion Draft, which coincidentally was held at the Bank Atlantic Center, Weiss has spent his entire career with the Panthers. Through the early parts of his career, there wasn’t much to work with on Florida’s roster and he was seen to be a late bloomer. But now he’s a consistent 20 goal scorer and used on both sides of the ice for key face-offs, penalty kills and power plays. Florida has never had a franchise type player because the turnaround has always been high. Weiss has changed that and has stated he wants to stay in Florida to see everything get better.
On most other teams, Weiss may be seen as a second line center, but with the Panthers, he does so much for the team that doesn’t have the same assets or willingness to spend money on assets. I believe if Weiss had the players to work with, he could excel and take his game to the next level. In this past season alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg, Weiss had fun and enjoyed being on the ice with them. If Weiss had a top scoring wing on his side, he may be seen as more of a top line guy around the league and gain more attention, which is why I believe he could have been higher on this list had that happened.
Weiss’ play style is very smooth: his skating and stick-handling are above average and he can use them to create chances against even the best defenses in the league. He has been known to throw a hit here and there, but for the most part works on getting positioned and creating plays.
During the 2011-2012 season, Florida qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2000 and the first time in Weiss’ career. His teammates said that they were not only pushing to make the playoffs for the team and its fans, but because of Weiss and how much he deserved it. In the playoffs for the first time in his career, Weiss recorded three goals and two assists for five points in seven games of the first round, which would see the Panthers lose to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils in double overtime of a seven-game series.
Fans of the Panthers have been hoping for Weiss to become the team’s next captain for a few years, and perhaps when Bryan McCabe was named captain, Weiss simply was not ready. However, this past season, Weiss did and said all of the right things to make fans support him more than ever, and as the playoffs returned to south Florida, fans had made up their mind completely. He has one year left on his current contract and it’s been reported that Dale Tallon has spoken to his agent briefly to begin talks on an extension that would see Weiss return as a Panther and possibly take over as captain.
T.V. spot aired by the NHL leading up to the 2012 NHL playoffs featuring Weiss and the long journey he’s taken to finally make it to the league’s post season.
Weiss undressing Zdeno Chara and scoring a beautiful coast to coast goal late in the 2009-2010 season.
Weiss has the talent to make it in the league as a top center and would do nothing but benefit as talent is built up around him. Thankfully, the blueprint Tallon has laid out for his team will to do just that.
The Rant Sports Top 100 NHL Players series will examine the top 100 players all across the league. Look for more from the top 100 soon.