NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some construct their clubs via free agency, while others do it through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL Draft. Most years have maybe one or two players make the roster, but some years the general manager gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey is doing the best draft class for each team, with the exception of the Seattle Kraken. Today we look at the Florida Panthers best draft class.
Florida Panthers Best Draft Class: 2010
Despite their lack of success over the years; The Florida Panthers have had better luck drafting players. As mentioned before, the draft is the premier way to build any NHL roster. Looking at the best teams in history, nine times out of ten, they have a ton of homegrown talent in their line-up. While the Panthers have not been able to piece it all together. They have been able to draft NHL calibre players, no matter their positions. Looking back at all of the Florida Panthers draft classes, you may be surprised how many of their draftees have had the honour of playing at least one NHL game.
While Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall headlined this draft, the Panthers came in with Erik Gudbranson third overall to start a great 2010 draft class. Of the 13 players the Panthers drafted, eight of them played in the NHL. Of those eight players, five of them have played over 250 NHL games. Even better, four of those players have played over 300 NHL. With the average NHLer plays 323 games throughout their career, to have five players within the same draft class makes it a 2/3’s of those games and counting is impressive enough.
Erik Gudbranson, First Round, 3rd Overall
The Florida Panthers had a stretch of draft classes in the late 2000s and early 2010s that panned out well. Part of that was heavyweight defenceman Erik Gudbranson. A cornerstone piece of the panthers’ franchise for most of his career. Playing in 563 NHL games, 309 of those came with the Panthers. While with the team, Gudbranson played some of his best and most productive hockey. As a punishing defenceman, Gudbranson used his size and strength to his advantage. During his time with the team, He averaged 17:46 of ice time, blocked 344 shots, laid 754 hits, and scored 43 of his 77 career points. Yet, he may be known better as one of the guys who helped lead the Panthers organization into their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in 11 years.
Nick Bjugstad, First Round, 19th Overall
Drafted out of High School, Nick Bjugstad played another pivotal role for the Panthers. Drafted 19th overall, Bjugstad was the Panthers’ centreman of the future. At six feet, six inches, Bjugstad had the size and the ability to put the puck in the net. Playing most of his career with the Florida Panthers, Nick wore the leaping cat for 394 games. As a considerable part of the Panthers rebuild in the early 2010s. Bjugstad was one of the top scorers on the team for a few seasons. Despite his injury proneness, Bjugstad also played a role in bringing the Panthers back to the Playoffs. Maybe traded too soon; you must give him credit for what he did for this team.
Quinton Howden, First Round, 25th Overall
The last pick for the Panthers in the first round of the 2010 draft; The team selected high flying forward Quinton Howden. As a two-way star in the Western Hockey League, Howden brought a lot of promise. While he did not pan out to be almost a point-per-game player like he was in juniors. Howden did what any successful player does; he adapted. In fact, he adapted well enough to play 97 games in the NHL. Ninety-two of them with the Panthers. Transferring to a bottom six-player, Howden used his speed to his advantage. Capable of playing a more physical role, Howden could spark his team whenever they need it most.
John McFarland, Second Round, 33rd Overall
Ask any coach or player, past or present. They will all agree it is a blessing to be drafted into the NHL. They will also tell you how much of an honour it is to play at least one NHL game. To play three of them is even luckier. Even though he only last a few games. John McFarland was able to do something that every young hockey player dreams of—playing in the National Hockey League.
Alexander Petrovic, Second Round, 36th Overall
Continuing with the Florida Panthers best draft class, we have Alexander Petrovic. Taken in the second round, Petrovic is another big, wide defenseman that did his best to punish opponents in the corners. So much so that even during the 2017-18 season, Petrovic finished eighth in penalty minutes. Petrovic is another significant player on the Panther back end, has played in 263 NHL games and counting. Petrovic played some of his best hockey while with Florida. Recording 49 of his 50 career points and 358 penalty minutes with the team. Petrovic did everything he could to bring the team to the next step.
Connor Brickley, Second Round, 50th Overall
Historically speaking, second-round picks usually do not work out as well as you would think, with two out of three of them making a significant impact in the NHL. It shows how well Dale Tallon and his team did with this draft—playing most of his 81 career games with the Panthers. Connor Brickley is another guy who did his best for this organization. Able to play all three forward positions, Brickley scored 17 of his 21 career points with the Panthers. As mentioned before, it is hard enough to play in this league. Do it 81 times; major kudos to you!
Joonas Donskoi, Fourth Round, 99th Overall
Unable to develop while a Florida product, Joonas Donskoi shows that sometimes patience is key. Playing 399 NHL games and counting, the Panthers have may have moved onto soon from this guy. Scoring at least 31 points in five of his six seasons. Donskoi is a sleeper pick from the 2010 draft. A native of Finland, Donskoi has no issues finding the net. With over two-thirds of his points coming from goals, he also has the size to go along with it. Donskoi is everything you could want in a middle-six player.
Zach Hyman, Fifth Round, 123rd Overall
Deemed the one that got away. Zach Hyman is arguably one of the best steals of the 2010 draft. Playing in 345 NHL games and has no signs of slowing down. Hyman has become a big name in the forward market. At the same time, you could argue that most of his success comes from playing with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Regardless, you have to be good to play with good players. And that is precisely what Hyman has turned out to be. An outstanding player, in fact. Unfortunately, the Panthers were not in a better position when they were drafted. Nonetheless, to be a fifth-rounder and play over 300 NHL games, someone saw something in him most people did not.
The draft is for teams to find their future NHL stars. With 2,234 combined games and more to come. It is easy to say this is the Florida Panthers best draft class in team history.
You can not have first without a second or third. And with that, we have two Florida Panthers draft classes that deserve recognition. To start, the 2002 Panthers draft class is another remarkable one as well. Despite only going four for ten on their draftees, two of those ended up being Stanley Cup Champions. Two players from the same teams’ draft class end up with Stanley Cup rings… You can call it coincidence or even luck. Regardless, it is impressive nonetheless. From the Panthers 2002 draft class, Jay Bouwmeester, 1240 games played, and Gregory Campbell, 803 games. Both ended up going to win the greatest trophy in all of sports. Most draftees do not even see a single NHL game, but some go on to do this, ha!
Last but certainly not least. The Florida Panthers 2011 entry draft class is another one worth remembering. Another “passing” draft class, the 2011 class, went seven for ten on NHL players, with five of them playing over 125 games. However, they had another draft class with a high amount of NHL-caliber players. This draft class brought the team Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck. Two incredible talented players, Trocheck and Huberdeau, both can be found all over the franchise leader boards.
In comparison, Huberdeau is one of the franchise’s best players, the leader in assists and points, and third in goals. Trocheck was not far behind him. He is currently sitting at 11th in goals, 9th in assists and points. It will be a while until anyone caught him. Other notable names from this draft class include Logan Shaw, Rocco Grimaldi, Kyle Rau, and Iiro Pakarinen, who all played a decent number of NHL games.
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