Hey guys, Sven here with my analysis of the Florida Panthers for 31 in 31! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.
Aleksander Barkov – 79GP 27-51-78. In his fifth NHL season, Barkov broke out last year for 78 points in 79 games, and has solidified himself in my books as a top playmaker in the league. He will look to once again headline a Florida top-six that has become even better this offseason, and will likely continue to be an assist machine. I expect Barkov as well as the next player to be taken anywhere from rounds three to five.
Vincent Trocheck – 82GP 31-44-75. Trocheck, the 2011 third-round pick also enjoyed a breakout year last season, but is ranked fairly high by ESPN’s top 300 (27th). Trocheck will be good for 70 points regardless of his wingers at #2C, and will continue to receive big PP minutes. I personally would prefer Barkov as he is the larger of the two and will likely be given the stronger of the two LW/RW options in the top six. However, Trocheck is still a safe pick.
Evgeny Dadonov – 74GP 28-37-65. After a few years finding his game in the KHL, the 2007 third-rounder exploded back onto the North American scene with a 65-point season in 2017-18. Dadonov is a 75-100 ranked player that I believe can really improve his stock this year at #1RW with Barkov down the middle. If he is still available in rounds 7-9, Dadonov has the potential to be a great sleeper pickup.
Jonathan Huberdeau – 82GP 27-42-69. After a frustrating 2016-17 campaign in which he was limited to just 31 games, Huberdeau had a nice bounce-back season which featured a new career-high point total. Likely to compete with the next player I will talk about for the #1LW spot, the 2011 third-overall pick is a guy that may fly under a lot of people’s radars. He is likely to put up a minimum 60 points with the ice time he should get in Florida’s top-six, so I see no problem with taking him mid-draft.
Mike Hoffman – 82GP 22-34-56. In four NHL seasons with the Sens, Hoffman was able to average around 55 points. Now given a change of scenery on a team with tons of firepower, Hoffman should have no troubles repeating these totals. He will either play the wing with Barkov or Trocheck, and will likely have his fair share of PP time. Similar to Huberdeau, I feel as if Hoffman is another guy that will fly under some drafter’s radars but at 28 years old, he is showing no signs of slowing down.
Nick Bjugstad – 82GP 19-30-49. Rounding out this magnificent top-six, Bjugstad is a towering 6’6” power forward that enjoyed a new career-high of nearly 50 points last season. Though he will likely bring up the rear in scoring among the five guys mentioned above, his top-six minutes may make him worth taking a look at in deeper leagues. My only warning with the 2010 first-rounder is if he is struggling, there are a few rookie forwards that could easily catch fire and nab his spot in the top six.
Aaron Ekblad – 82GP 16-22-38. Four seasons into his NHL career, the former first overall pick has found his groove as Florida’s top minute muncher. Though he is only 22, it is my belief that his point totals will tend to float right around where he is now for the majority of his career, much like Cam Fowler in Anaheim. With his PIMs going up last year and seeing some #2PP time, Ekblad is a solid pick mid draft for your third or fourth defenceman.
Keith Yandle – 82GP 8-48-56. Yandle is the type of guy that you never hear a ton about, yet he continues to low key rack up points year in year out. He nearly reached his 2011 career-high of 59 points last season, and at 31 years old he’s got a lot of miles left. He is an offensively gifted guy that will be able to take chances in the offensive zone knowing his partner Ekblad will back him up, and he will continue to quarterback Florida’s star-studded PP#1. Ranked 19th among defencemen, he would be a lock as a #2D guy on my fantasy team if I can get my hands on him.
Michael Matheson – 81GP 10-17-27. I’ll be honest with you guys, until Matheson notched that highlight-reel spinnerama goal last season I didn’t know much about him. At 24 years old, the Boston College program grad is steadily improving going into his third NHL season. He is slowly proving his offensive capabilities in his second-pair role, and some more PP time could give him a points boost this season. The 2012 first-rounder is worth taking a look at if you’re in a deeper league like mine and have 12 guys each picking five or six defencemen.
Roberto Luongo – 35GP 2.47GAA 929SV%. Going into his fifth (full) season in his second stint with Florida, the 39-year-old Twitter star has proved he can still play. If he is able to stay healthy and consistent, this Florida team can easily compete for a wildcard spot in the East. If he has inconsistent patches like any other goalie, he has a more than capable backup behind him. I am not sure what the split will be like between Luongo and Optimus-Reim, but it is likely that Reimer will see a good chunk of starts. For that reason, I would shy away from drafting Luongo but take a look at him if Florida catches fire.
James Reimer – 44GP 2.99GAA 913SV%. Much like Luongo, Optimus-Reim was able to prove he could still play last season. He played well during Luongo’s absence, and helped get Florida into the playoff hunt. Though it is likely Luongo’s crease when healthy, don’t be surprised if Reimer sees a lot of starts again this year. However, from a fantasy perspective, I would again shy away but take a look for hot streaks.
Henrik Borgstrom – NCAA: 23-29-52. After two seasons at the University of Denver and being a Hobey Baker finalist, Borgstrom appears ready for the big leagues. At 6’3”, the 2016 first rounder is a flashy player with a quick release to his shot that helped him read the 20-goal mark in both NCAA seasons. In four games last season, he was able to net his first career goal with Florida and will hopefully fit in nicely on their third line. As he is a rookie, Borgstrom is a guy I would gamble on late in a draft to hopefully catch fire, however it is likely he won’t receive big minutes much this season.
Owen Tippett – OHL: 51GP 36-39-75. In a seven-game stint with Florida last season, the 2017 first-rounder was able to notch his first career NHL goal and will look to play full-time this season. He is known by scouting as a pure goal scorer, and if he finds his touch early on he could benefit from a current top-six guy getting off to a slow start. Like Borgstrom, he is also rookie-eligible and worth taking a look at if he transitions to the NHL smoothly this season.
Jonathan Ang – OHL: 65GP 25-45-70. A 2016 fourth-round pick, Ang will transition from major-junior to the AHL this season after four solid seasons in the OHL with Peterborough and Sarnia. Given the depth at centre Florida currently has with their main club, it is unlikely we will see Ang anywhere other than Springfield for this season. I predict it will take him a year or two to find his game much like it did for him in the OHL, but his breakaway speed should help him compete at the next level.
Patrick Bajkov – WHL: 72GP 33-67-100. After two great veteran seasons with Everett in the WHL, Florida signed Bajkov, the 6’0” winger to play in the AHL this season. With the ability to lock defenders up with his quick hands and knack for finishing, I am confident that Bajkov can blossom into quite the player in the pros. Much like Ang he will need time to transition and find comfort, however he will be a treat to watch in Springfield if he is able to pick up where he left off last season.