What’s Next for the Florida Panthers Power-Play?

Florida Panthers power-play
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The Florida Panthers have rid themselves of long-time veteran and current iron man streak holder Keith Yandle. Because of that, the Panthers will have to find a suitable replacement for Yandle on that second power-play unit. In comparison, there are a few options on the current roster; but none of them are proven solutions thus far. With the start of the season just under two months away, the Panthers have time to find someone to quarterback the second unit. Do not be surprised to see Joel Quenneville trying out plenty of different combinations with the Florida Panthers’ power-play throughout the season.

Florida Panthers Gain Contender Status

They are coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history. And the Florida Panthers became even better during the offseason. Trading and signing for Sam Reinhart solidifies the Panthers’ top-six forward group. And now they have added future Hall of Famer ‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton. A player with over 1650 games played and over 1500 points does not join a team to join a group. Sure, Thornton has been in the league for 24 years and is most likely wrapping up his career soon; that doesn’t mean Thornton is here to mail it in. During an interview, Thornton mentioned this, “I love what they’re building, and I’m excited to be part of it. But everything is about ultimately winning the Stanley Cup, and the Panthers are right there, in my opinion. Thornton has accomplished a lot in his career, except for winning a Stanley Cup. Seeing ‘Jumbo’ Joe choose the Panthers of all teams is a pinch-me moment, no doubt.

NHL free agent frenzy

Yet, no matter how many Hall of Fame players the Panthers add. The Florida Panthers’ power-play is what needs some serious attention. In comparison, the first unit is everything you would need or want in a power-play squad. In contrast, the second unit has lost a pivotal piece.

Since joining the Panthers back in 2016, Yandle has been a staple on the power-play. In 371 games with the ‘Cats,’ he recorded a total of 231 points. Of those points, 114 of them came on the power-play. That is just 0.7 percent away from half of his points. HALF OF HIS POINTS. Now he is off to Philadelphia; the Panthers have a spot to fill.

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It is hard to argue with the picture above, no matter how you feel about Yandle or his defensive play. Despite his “drop-off” on the defensive side of the puck, Yandle still served a significant purpose for the Panthers, and he will not be easily replaced.  Someone has to do it.

Florida Panthers Power-Play Options

MacKenzie Weegar

First, on the list, we have MacKenzie Weegar. He is slated as the defenceman on the second unit, according to DailyFaceOff.com. The site also has Frank Vatrano, and Mason Marchment listed on the same unit as well.  Take that for what is it. Nonetheless, Weegar does have a legitimate shot at taking over on the second unit. Coming off the best season of his career, Weegar was one of the best five-on-five players in the league last year. Recording 36 points in 54 games, he doubled his point total from last year and finished eighth in Norris trophy voting.

Despite being given very little time on the power-play, Weegar has the skillset to pick up right where Yandle left off. As a smooth-skating defenceman, Weegar has the patience and poise with the puck that allows a player to lead a power-play charge. Please make no mistake; it will be rough sledding when he first starts as that quarterback. But after a brief adjustment period, Weegar will add another asset to his repertoire that will take him one step closer to winning a Norris trophy.

Gustav Forsling

Next on the list, and quite honestly the possible favourite to take on the role, we have Gustav Forsling. Rightfully earning “hidden gem” status after a monster year that took him from the wavier wire to a new contract in about six months. Forsling will undoubtedly be given a chance on the power-play. At the same time, his production numbers are not as high as Weegar’s. His advanced analytics are just as good, if not better, in certain situations, especially in both of their limited special team’s time.

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Given that this graph shows Forsling may be the better option right now; The sample size these two have played in is not enough to determine who’s better on the power-play. Not yet, at least. But this is an excellent problem to have for the Panthers. There will be fans and experts on both sides that swing either way. Yet, both will battle for the spot, and healthy competition within the room allows for teams and players to grow.

Chase Priskie & Matt Kiersted

Last but certainly not least, the Panthers have two prospects that could come in to steal the job. Even though both of these guys will have the uphill battle of making the roster as a whole, Chase Priskie and Matt Kiersted are two guys that could use this as their way on the team. Both guys have playmaker written all over them.

Coming off an injury that cut last season short. Priskie is a guy who could snag the job from out of nowhere. During his rookie season in the American Hockey League, Priskie did everything you could have asked of him. In 57 games, between the Charlotte Checkers and Springfield Thunderbirds, Chase scored eight goals and 27 assists for 35 total points. As impressive as that is, what is even more amazing is that 15 of those points came from the power-play. For those who have seen Chase play, you know he has an incredible high offensive IQ, good edge work, and knows how to move the puck. Praying he remains healthy for the whole year, Priskie will most definitely challenge for that second power-play spot. As well as a roster spot.

On the other hand, Kiersted is another rookie looking to make a splash early on. Kiersted played a total of seven games last season. In comparison, he averaged 15 minutes and ten seconds worth of ice time. But that is still not enough to say whether he is ready for the NHL. Let alone to be the quarterback on the Florida Panthers power-play. He does have some special teams experience in the past, though. During his last season at the University of North Dakota, Kiersted scored one goal and added eight power-play helpers. One of the higher power-play producers on the team. Now it is only a matter of waiting to see if that will transfer to the pro level.

Who Else?

If we are being honest, if the Florida Panthers are truly all in on a Stanley Cup this year. Then that severely hurt guys like Kiersted and Priskie’s chances of making the squad. Without the experience and proven track record, it is unclear how the Panthers will handle these test runs. For all, we know Bill Zito and the Panthers are following the waiver wire just as closely. They found Forsling off the waiver wire. Who’s to say they can’t find someone else. There are even possibilities of trades involving Vatrano or Noel Acciari that could result in bringing someone else? Regardless, nothing is official until it is official. As much of a fluid situation as this is, patience will be the key to proper results.

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