NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has announced a few days ago that the NHL will return to play with a 24-team tournament-style format. Located in two different “hub cities” everyone is patiently waiting for the return of sports. Kudos to Mr.Bettman, as the NHL is the first professional sports league in North America to announce a plan to return to play. With the return of the Stanley Cup Playoffs also means the return of the distinguished “black ace.” In this article, we will take a look at the Florida Panthers’ possible “black aces” that will join the team for the playoffs.
There has been nothing like this, and hopefully, there never will be again. Yet, with this new format, there are going to be some new rules. While the minor details are still being sorted it out, we all have something to look forward too.
Who are the Florida Panthers Black Aces
The term “black ace” is not a common one, yet in the hockey world, it’s significance has grown exponentially over the years. This term is known more commonly through international tournaments. Former NHLer Eddie Shore has been credited with establishing this term. A black ace originally was someone who has fallen out of favour with the head coach. Not enough to be cut or traded, but enough where they won’t dress for games and have a lot more to prove.
Moving forward, as the years have gone on the black aces definition has changed. Nowadays, a black ace is a prospect whose season has ended and they have been called up; to join the team during a Stanley Cup Playoff run.
Possible Black Aces
Without any real concrete information on how these playoffs will take place, along with new rules and regulations. One would think each team will have somewhere between five to seven, possible, black aces. As you continue reading, we will look at some of the players that will most likely receive the distinguished title.
Not too long ago, there were rumours that the young Fin Henrik Borgstrom was looking to return to Finland to play with Jokerit in the KHL. Since then, these rumours have been put to rest. Regardless, the fact that they even came out in the first place makes you wonder. After some fantastic seasons with the University of Denver. Borgstrom was looking to have a very high ceiling in his development. With his entry-level contract running it’s course, the Panthers organization has to make a decision quickly.
If Borgstrom is to become an official black ace, this could be a real turn around for him. Give him a sense of confidence to create some pep in his step. With 23 points in 49 games, he finished tied for eighth in points for the Panthers former minor league team, the Springfield Thunderbirds. The quick and elusive forward seems to have all the tools to take him to the next level. This incident has brought the Panthers whole development system into question. In 58 NHL games, Borgstrom has scored nine goals and ten assists for 19 points, along with six penalty minutes. With a Corsi For of 47 percent, it is obvious Henrik needs some time but has plenty of potential.
One of the Florida Panthers black aces that could have the most impact in the line-up is Owen Tippett. Drafted tenth overall in the 2010 Entry Draft, Tippett has shown he has the ability to find the back of the net. With only 51 games played in the AHL, Tippett has recorded 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points. Most of those points have come from his season while in the AHL. Leading his team in points with 40 through 46 games, Tippett is already making a case for himself to join the Panthers full time come next season. He will mesh well with the Panthers’ high-flying, run-and-gun style of offence that has landed them as one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. Showing signs of becoming a “pure goal scorer” this extra boost in the offence could help the Cats make a deeper run.
After two years at the University of Maine, the Panthers signed Brady Keeper to a two-year, entry-level deal. Keeper is a strong two-way defenceman, he has great ability at moving the puck up the ice and is very sound defensively. The big defenceman has a nice and tidy two-way game that will translate well into the playoffs. With only one game played in the NHL, it is hard to say how he will handle himself moving forward. With that being said, in 61 games played in the AHL, Keeper has recorded 18 points with 108 penalty minutes, this is something that could translate well. Especially in a chase for the Cup.
Moving on down the list, another defenceman that could receive a call-up is the south Florida native himself. After being traded to the Panthers in the Vincent Trocheck deal, Chase Priskie has enormous amounts of upside coming into Sunrise. After a stellar career at Quinnipiac University, Priskie is primed for an NHL career. The offensive-defenceman has great skating ability along with fantastic vision on the ice. Not only does he have the shot to match, but also the hands as well. With only 57 AHL games played, Chase has scored 35 points with no signs of slowing down. Don’t be surprised to see Priskie replace Keith Yandle as a quarterback on the power-play in the years to come.
There is not a whole lot to say about goaltender Sam Montembeault that we haven’t already seen. Now that Sergei Bobrovsky is healthy again, we will see Montembeault drop to that third goalie position that could be one of the Florida Panthers black aces. Through 23 games played in the NHL, Monty has a 9-8-3 record with a .892 save percentage. If Bob can get back to ways in Columbus and Chris Driedger keeps his calming presence in net. The Panthers shouldn’t have much to worry about in their own crease.
Now that we know there will be a return to play this season. One good thing the stoppage has caused, injured players are able to return to full health right before the hardest part of the season. With Brian Boyle back, the Panthers will surely throw him back into the rotation. With 114 playoff games played, the big-bodied forward will be a must for the cats if there are to make any noise during the playoff race. That could leave Aleksi Saarela as the odd-man-out joining the other Florida Panthers black aces in the stands.
Two other names that could be on the Florida Panthers black aces list are Grigori Denisenko and Dryden Hunt. Densienko just signed his entry-level contract with the Panthers earlier this month. The Russian forward has been looked at as one of the Panthers more promising prospects. Sometimes deemed as a “late bloomer” Denisenko has everything needed to make the jump to the NHL. Currently unaware of his travel restrictions, there hasn’t been any confirmation on if Denisenko will get the call. On the other hand, Dryden Hunt has had his fair share of games with the Panthers and could be called on to provide a few more.
The Panthers will face-off against the New York Islanders in the play-in round. In a best of five series, with the Isles defensive structure in place, this will be a real test for the Panthers. Yet, nothing they cant handle.
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