The New York Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers on Friday by a score of 5-1. Because of this, the Panthers will be entered into a lottery for the first-overall selection. Alexis Lafreniere is the best prospect in this draft class, and it’s not close. Lafreniere has won the CHL Player of the Year award for the past two seasons. The only other player to win the award twice is fellow Rimouski Oceanic alumni Sidney Crosby. Any team that is lucky enough to win this lottery will have the chance to draft Lafreniere and change their franchise trajectory for the next 20 seasons.
The Florida Panthers are coming off of a disappointing season. They were included in the Qualifying Round but were eliminated in four games by the Islanders. This is very frustrating for ownership, as they finally spent lots of money this offseason just to underachieve again. The Panthers spent big money on Sergei Bobrovsky, Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari, and Anton Stralman. They also signed polished Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville. Florida finished as the #10 seed in the Eastern Conference despite looking like a force in the Atlantic before the season. The Panthers need help, and the slim shot they have at Alexis Lafreniere is exactly that.
Why Do the Panthers Need Alexis Lafreniere?
The Panthers are commonly known as a stagnating, hopeless franchise. They don’t bring in much revenue, and their attendance is consistently near the bottom of the NHL. Florida had the third-worst average attendance in the NHL during the 2019-20 season. The only teams worse than the Panthers were the New York Islanders, who have issues with their rinks, and the abysmal Ottawa Senators. The Panthers have the second lowest value in the NHL due to the lack of interest created by a poor on-ice product. Lafreniere would help Florida on the ice and help them create money off the ice as well.
Florida will have holes in their roster soon as well, as their limited cap space will make it hard to sign Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. This leaves no support for the Panthers’ true stars Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Adding Lafreniere would immediately fix this problem, as his rookie contract would also provide cap relief. Lafreniere would be able to step into a second-line role with the Panthers, and immediately provide secondary scoring behind Barkov and Huberdeau. As Lafreniere ages, he would be able to take over and be the main force in Florida. Adding Lafreniere would help Florida immensely, and force them out of mediocrity.
How Would Lafreniere Make the Panthers Money?
Adding Alexis Lafreniere to the Florida Panthers would immediately increase their revenue. The Panthers would be able to create merchandise for Lafreniere that would skyrocket their sales. People from Canada would want to support their homegrown superstar, and kids across North America would ask their parents for Lafreniere jerseys. Lafreniere jersey sales would easily be top ten in the NHL, something the Panthers haven’t ever had. Hockey fans around the world would be wearing Florida Panthers jerseys all because of Lafreniere. The Panthers would be able to market Lafreniere to their fans as well and create promotions consisting of bobble-heads, posters, towels, etc.
Lafreniere would fix the Panthers’ attendance problem as well. People all across Florida would pay to see Lafreniere play, similar to how people pay to see Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, and Nathan MacKinnon play. Hockey fans pay to see the superstars play, and that’s exactly what Lafreniere will be. Adding Lafreniere would allow the Panthers to compete in the Miami market. The Panthers already compete with the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Marlins, and the Miami Heat. All three of these teams have championship histories, something the Panthers don’t have. People all around Florida would hear about the Panthers’ addition of Lafreniere, which would draw immediate interest.
The Panthers would draw national attention along with their local attention. Fans all across North America would watch the Panthers just to see how the kid is doing. Coaches and players would watch Lafreniere and learn from him. Scouts would watch Lafreniere and see his development. Normal hockey fans would watch Lafreniere and see what all the hype was about. Fans of other hockey teams would want to watch their team play the Panthers because they would like to watch the young star.
Where Does Alexis Lafreniere Fit in the Panthers’ Lineup?
Although Lafreniere comes with a lot of promise, he won’t be a superstar year one. He will be a part of a young core that contains Grigori Denisenko, Owen Tippett, Henrik Borgstrom, and Aleksi Heponiemi. The Panthers would be smart to shelter these players behind their veterans and slowly incorporate them into the lineup. Lafreniere could start by replacing Hoffman or Dadonov and play a middle-six role. This would allow Lafreniere to get acclimated to NHL hockey before going up against the league’s best. The Panthers also have plenty of veteran forwards who would protect Lafreniere from the game’s pests.
Although Lafreniere won’t be a superstar right away, he will soon develop into one. Lafreniere would be the centrepiece of a forward group that already consists of Barkov and Huberdeau, and that group will grow with the young forwards coming in. This sets the Panthers up for a wonderful future, as this forward core will mesh well with the goaltending that Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight will bring them. The Panthers also have a solid defensive core, led by Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad.
In conclusion, Alexis Lafreniere would be the best thing to ever happen to the Florida Panthers. He would help increase revenue, generate interest, and put a fantastic product on the ice. It would help jump-start a franchise that has always been mediocre at best and give them a new identity in Miami. The Panthers can only hope that the lottery balls land their way on Monday, a possibility that would change their franchise for decades.
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