Over the course of his short career Kris Versteeg has been criticized at times for being lazy and unmotivated, however if you glance at his stats one would notice instantly that there’s consistency.
In each of his first four seasons Versteeg has averaged 21 goals and 28 assists, which on most teams is a decent output. Keeping in mind he’s also been known to play injured, like most NHL players, and has had consistent hernia and hip issues that may have held him back during play. Prior to this past season Versteeg underwent double hernia surgery to fix issues he faced the season before that limited his ability and output on the ice.
Almost immediately following the Florida Panthers first round exit in the playoffs Versteeg was scheduled for surgery to fix an issue he had with his hip, the same injury that caused him to miss 11 games in the 2011-2012 season. Despite missing 11 games Versteeg still managed to set career highs in goals (23) and points (54) and if he can remain healthy can easily top those numbers.
It’s expected Versteeg will start the season on Florida’s top line alongside Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann, the three managed to create a nice chemistry in a short time and you would imagine that will only get better. If Versteeg can stay healthy one would think he could easily top the 23 goal mark, especially with the flashes of brilliance he showed this past season, including his first career hat trick.
I feel the only thing that would hold Versteeg back would be a plague of injuries, an issue he has fought through in the past but could eventually catch up with him. With Florida getting bigger and nastier with the addition of George Parros, it could mean other teams would think twice before attempting to bully Florida’s top line.
Along with Erik Gudbranson who has a year on his resume and added confidence heading into his second season, Florida is looking to be a tough team to play against and if they don’t win they’re still going to make it hard on the other team. But overall the added toughness will also wear down other teams, potentially opening holes for players like Versteeg to work to make plays or put pucks in the net.
Also look for the additions of Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller to boost Versteeg’s stats as well, as he could see ice time with the second line in an attempt to spark more offense through the lineup. Both are highly skilled play makers and seem to make everyone on the ice with them better, something Versteeg could greatly benefit from.
I see no reason why Versteeg couldn’t score 30 goals in the league, David Booth did it with Florida a few years ago and the two are very similar; with Versteeg possibly having better stick skills. Time will tell in the end, but hopefully the injuries are a thing of the past and Versteeg does nothing but move up from here.