Now that we are a quarter of the way through the season, the Florida Panthers have been among the most surprising teams in the league so far. Bill Zitocame to Sunrise with a fresh breath of air. Changing the whole structure of the organization, both on and off the ice. With that, the Panthers haven’t played this well in a long time. During free-agency, Zito brought in a plethora of new faces to the Panthers organization. With most of them being forwards, the Florida Panther’s top line has seen the most significant impact from their new arrivals.
Florida Panthers Top Line’s Impact
Heading into the abbreviated season, very few experts saw the Panthers as one of the top teams in their division, let alone the entire league. Yet, as we sit here 18 games into the season, The Panthers find themselves in the lead of the central division and second in the whole league.
Aleksander Barkov, Anthony Duclair, and Carter Verhaeghe are playing some of their best hockey yet. These three are a significant reason why the Panthers have done so well this year. When you look at all the best forward lines from across the league, the combination of Barkov, Duclair, and Verhaeghe sits at the top of the list. The Florida Panther’s top line is up there with at least 130 minutes played and in multiple other categories. For instance, this trio has the most minutes played with 190, the highest Expected Goals percentage at 64.0 percent, and Expected Goals For of 9.8 according to Moneypuck.com. But that’s not all; this top Panthers line plays very well defensively too. At the time this is written, this line is third in Expected Goals Against Per 60 with only 1.67. Overall, they are simply a dominating line night in and night out. All three of these players have a Corsi For percentage of 57 and combine for 42 points in 53 games.
To make things even better, the Panther’s second line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Patric Hornqvist, and Alexander Wennberg is just as good. All three add an excellent supportive secondary role while being more productive. The Panther’s second line has 47 points in 54 games, taking some of the pressure off the ‘Cats’ top line.
Barkov’s Bounce Back
On pace to be over a point per game, at least, by the end of the season. Barkov has returned to the future Selke-winning player we all saw him as. Second, on the team in points, Barkov controls the pace of the game every time he is on the ice. Averaging the third most time on the ice for his team and first for all forwards. Barkov is proving why he is not only a second overall pick but also the team’s captain. Through these first 18 games, Barkov leads the Panthers in Expected Goals, Expected Goals Per 60 Minutes, and Shooting Talent Adjusted for Expected Goals. He is also second in Shooting Talent Above Average. Barkov is the best player for the Panthers right now despite the points category.
Regardless of Huberdeau’s team-leading 23 points in 18 games. Barkov is looked at by Coach Quenneville to lead the Panthers to the promised land. Don’t believe me? Well, considering in Barkov’s last ten games, he has consistently been one of the best on his team in Expected Goals in all situations; why wouldn’t he? With that, Barkov’s bounce-back season is topped off nicely by his current 7.59 Total individual expected goals. Overall, it comes as no surprise to say that Aleksander Barkov is a frontrunner for the Selke Trophy once again.
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