Florida Panthers – Team of the Future

Last year the Florida Panthers accumulated only 60 points, ahead of only Columbus and Atlanta. Recently, Head Coach, Mike Keenan, signed a contract extension that will take him through the 2007-08 season. Why would he want to be tied down so long with such a team? The Florida Panthers have possibly the best young nucleus in the league. They could be cup contenders in years to come.

The main reason lies between the pipes. Roberto Luongo is their goaltender of the future. Classic butterfly goalie, Luongo is as big as Lalime, and moves like an Irbe or Richter. He is very confident, and strives in clutch situations. He could be the league’s top goalie in a few years.

Another reason, is their core of good young defenseman, most notably, Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester, is an extremely smooth skater, that makes an excellent first pass. He’s not overly physical, but will not shy away. He is Florida’s top dog on the blueline for years.

Among other young defensemen are Filip Novak, Branislav Mezei and Lukas Krajicek. Novak is a future quarterback, with tremendous offensive skills. He’s a smooth skater, with a good set of hands. Combine that with a good shot, good vision and hockey sense, you’ve got a future quarterback defenseman. Krajicek is the same type of player as Novak, but to a lesser degree. Mezei, is a different case though, more of a physical defenseman. He can land thunderous hits, and is strong on his skates. He shows great poise and should crack the lineup next season.

I’m sure you’ve all learned the name Kristian Huselius by now. He was a finalist for the Calder trophy last year, racking up 23 goals and 22 assists. A superb stickhandler, with good skating and passing, this winger should be a force on Florida’s left side for several years.

Their most notable young forward has to be Stephen Weiss. An all-around great offensive player, with a great scoring touch to top it off. The only thing that could possibly hold him back at this point, would be his small frame, at 5’11, 178 lbs. He played 7 games with Florida last season, notching a goal and an assist.

With such great young players under the age of 24, Florida could be Stanley Cup contenders sooner than you think.