The 2013 NHL season is a little more than halfway done, and the Florida Panthers sit dead last in the Eastern Conference standings with a 7-16-6 record and 20 points. While they aren’t technically eliminated from playoff contention this season, their continued awful play makes the chances of a postseason trip incredibly slim. The Panthers would be wise to continue to give their young talent a chance to shine the rest of the season, and start to turn their focus to what their needs will be in this summer’s draft and free agency.
The Panthers have gotten a great season out of Jonathan Huberdeau, who leads the team with 12 goals and has 18 points. The Panthers drafted Huberdeau third overall in the 2011 draft, and based on his performance this season someone in the Panthers scouting department know what they are doing. That’s also good news considering the Panthers are in prime position to have one of the top three picks in the 2013 draft as well. Drew Shore has two goals and 11 points and has been a positive addition to the team after starting the season as a “bubble” player. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom has had some great moments, and the Panthers might as well play him as much as possible the rest of the season and see what he can do. Markstrom, their second round pick in the 2008 draft, is slated to be a free agent at season’s end.
One of the biggest needs for this team is defense. The Panthers have the worst goals-against in the league, and should give prospects like Colby Robak a decent amount of ice time the rest of the season. The addition of T.J. Brennan from the Buffalo Sabres this week was a great move, but chances are most fans have already begun looking at the upcoming draft and a defenseman (Seth Jones) being widely considered the consensus number one pick. With this season all but lost, the Panthers might as well see what they have in the pipeline, and start looking ahead.