The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps opening soon, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Florida Panthers.
Coach: Paul Maurice (first season)
Last season: 58-18-6, first place in Atlantic Division; lost to Tampa Bay Lightning in Eastern Conference Second Round
1. Tkachuk’s grit
The Panthers acquired forward Matthew Tkachuk in a trade with the Calgary Flames for forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar on July 22. Tkachuk had 104 points and Huberdeau had 115 points last season, but general manager Bill Zito said July 25 that Tkachuk’s hard-nosed, edgy style of play is what the Panthers need. “It’s not a secret that some of the attributes that Matthew brings are areas of the game that we could use collectively in our group.”
2. Maurice’s effect
Playoff success has been an issue for the Panthers, and they’re hoping that changes with Maurice, who was named coach June 22, replacing Andrew Brunette, who led the Panthers to a 51-18-6 record after he replaced Joel Quenneville seven games into the season. Maurice is 775-680-130 with 99 ties in 25 NHL seasons. He led the Winnipeg Jets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs four straight seasons from 2017-21, including reaching the 2018 Western Conference Final. He resigned Dec. 17, saying the Jets needed a new voice. The Panthers have plenty of talent in place. Perhaps Maurice’s experience puts them over the top in the postseason.
3. Bobrovsky returning to form
Sergey Bobrovsky went 39-7-3 with a 2.67 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and three shutouts in 54 games (53 starts), his best season with the Panthers since signing a seven-year contract July 1, 2019. That’s the Bobrovsky the Panthers need more of going forward.
making the cut
There could be openings on the second, third and fourth forward lines following the departures of Huberdeau, and free agents Claude Giroux (Ottawa Senators), Noel Acciari (St. Louis Blues), Mason Marchment (Dallas Stars) and Maxim Mamin (Kontinental Hockey League). Forward Anthony Duclair will also be out until midseason after having surgery to repair an Achilles tendon injury in July. Nick Cousins, Colin White and Rudolf Balcers, who each signed as a free agent, are in the mix. On defense, there are openings left by Weegar and free agent Ben Chiarot (Detroit Red Wings). Lucas Carlsson and Marc Staalwho signed with Florida on July 13, are possibilities.
Most intriguing addition
Tkachuk said he wanted to come to Florida for the chance to win not only now but in the future, and he’s going to be counted on to bring the big numbers he had with the Flames. It should help that he’s familiar with several forwards, including Ryan Lomberg and Sam Bennett, each form Flames. The question is can the left wing find the same chemistry with center Alexander Barkov and right wing Sam Reinhart (assuming he’s on the top line) he had with Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau last season in Calgary.
Biggest potential surprise
Can Carlsson become a more consistent presence in the lineup? The 25-year-old had nine points (three goals, six assists) in 40 games with Florida last season. He has played in 58 career NHL games with the Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks.
Ready to break through
This is a tough one with the Panthers, considering the experience on the roster, but forward Anton Levchi could get a good look in training camp. The 26-year-old, who signed with Florida on June 14, led Liiga, the top league in Finland, with 61 points (26 goals, 35 assists) in 55 games for Tappara. The Panthers lost some scoring with their offseason moves, and if Levchi has a good camp, perhaps he makes a splash.
Carter VerhaegheLW (fantasy average draft position: 175.0) — He led the Panthers with 12 points (six goals, six assists), all at even strength, in 10 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. Verhaeghe was tied for third in the NHL in even-strength points through the first two rounds of the playoffs behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and remains a fantasy sleeper with likely exposure to at least one elite forward in Barkov and/or Tkachuk. — Anna Dua
Matthew Tkachuk — Aleksander Barkov — Sam Reinhart
Carter Verhaeghe — Sam Bennett — Patrick Hornqvist
Ryan Lomberg — Anton Lundel — Colin White
Nick Cousins – Eetu Luostarinen — Rudolf Balcers
Gustav Forsling — Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal — Radko Gudas
Lucas Carlsson– Brandon Montour