The majority of the Florida Panthers' star players have been acquired in the most recent drafts. Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad have all been drafted as top a three pick in the last five seasons.
Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad have all been drafted as top a three pick in the last five seasons.
Three big changes have caused the Panthers’ recent success. The first is Aaron Ekblad coming in as a ready-made pro. He’s only 19-years-old but plays like a seasoned veteran.
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Then they acquired super keeper – and ex-Panther – Roberto Luongo late in 2012-13. He is their first top class keeper since losing Tomas Vokoun at the end of 2010-11.
Towards the end of last season, Florida also traded for Jaromir Jagr who, despite now being 43-years-old, has been a breath of fresh air for the Panthers.
The veteran’s effect
Luongo has been providing a very strong presence between the irons, and still plays as eccentrically as he did in his younger years.
The biggest influence has come from Jaromir Jagr's behind the scenes work with Florida’s young and aspiring players.
Speaking on Prime Time Sports, general manager Dale Tallon explained how the Czech veteran has been helping his team’s young players:
"He's been fabulous. Our young guys are really following [his lead] in conditioning and training and preparation. It's been a real positive for all of us.
"Our players kind of hang around [Jagr]. He's not been aggressive [in mentoring]. It's not like he's in their face all day long trying to change them. It's just been a natural progression."
He’s exploded onto the Florida scene this season, scoring 21 points in 28 games and stands as the team’s leading points and goals provider.
The ever-youthful Jagr equaled the fourth-highest goal scoring tally in NHL history with his score against Washington last Thursday.
He tied Marcel Dionne’s record of 731 NHL goals and is only 10 goals away from third place Brett Hull. To put his incredible tally into perspective, the next highest ranked goalscorer, who is still playing in the NHL, is 38-year-old Jarome Iginla on 597 goals, in 19th place.
The Florida Panthers have looked much stronger since bringing in Luongo and Jagr, and stand a great chance of making the Wild Card playoff spots, after narrowly missing out last season.