The shortened 48 game NHL season has begun, and already the Florida Panthers find themselves in a hole. With five games played, the Panthers are 1-4 and rank among the worst in the league in goals scored and goals allowed.
After an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, it is time for the Panthers to take action with their goaltending before the season gets out of hand. Waiting in line behind Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen remains the prized prospect Jacob Markstrom. Theodore (1-3) and Clemmensen (0-1) are simply not cutting it and both have goals against averages of over 3.00.
Markstrom was drafted by the Panthers with the 31st overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. Since that time, Markstrom has dominated the Swedish Elite League and the American Hockey League. Markstrom is currently playing for the Panthers AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage, where he holds a 13-14-2 record on a horrible offensive team. Markstrom has two shutouts and boasts a 2.64 GAA and .920 save percentage.
Markstrom has gotten into eight NHL games, where he holds a 2-5-1 record. In the 2011-2012 season, Markstrom had a 2.66 GAA and .923 save percentage, which is better than both current Panthers goalies.
On the international stage, Markstrom has also impressed and showed that he can compete with the best players his age. In 2009, Markstrom played in six games in the Under-18 world tournament. Markstrom posted a 4-2 record. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, Markstrom helped Team Sweden win a silver medal and two bronze medals while posting an overall record of 11-2. Two of the years saw Markstrom post sub-2.00 GAA and .943/.944 save percentages.
The Panthers staff has said that they want to be patient with Markstrom and allow him to get another year of experience in the AHL due to injuries. Markstrom is a restricted free agent at the end of the 2012-2013 season and could end up playing somewhere else. Are the Panthers simply keeping him in the minors to ensure no one else offers him a contract? Wise up Panthers management, the answer to your goaltending problems is right in front of you.