Now everyone is hyped up about the Panthers 2018-19 campaign including me. Aleksander Barkov and co have finally emerged as full lethal threats and the defense is looking good. However there are still a lot of questions facing this team.
How will Goaltending be?
The Panthers got phenomenal goaltending from Roberto Luongo last year. Despite suffering numerous injuries, the 39 year old posted a .929 save percentage and a 2.47 GAA in 35 games. However there are a lot of questions. Can Luongo stay healthy? He is very injury prone at this point in his career and can he continue his solid play? That is a very important question. James Reimer is very inconsistent. Reimer often starts off the season shaky but in the second half is virtually impenetrable. The Panthers need Reimer to be solid all year long. Harri Sateri was solid when he had to come in but it is unsure whether he will stay with the Panthers and if he does can he keep that up in the worst case scenario? Another thing is that our #1 goalie prospect Sam Montembeault like Reimer is very inconsistent.
Can Barkov, Huberdeau and Ekblad stay healthy?
Last year was the first true year Aleksander Barkov stayed healthy. In a career high 79 games, the Finn put up a career high and team leading 78 points. Huberdeau coming off an Achillies injury played his 3rd 75+ game season and first 82 game season with a career high 69 points. Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad played his 3rd 75+ game season and first 82 game season last year. Ekblad has struggled with concussions and has missed 19 games in his career where the Panthers have gone a dismal 7-12-0. Ekblad often struggles for a while after each concussion so it is crucial that the Panthers protect him.
Can the Panthers get depth scoring?
A big problem last year was depth scoring. Only 5 Panther forwards and 2 defensemen (Yandle and Ekblad) passed the 30 point mark last year. 4 of those forwards (Barkov, Huberdeau, Dadonov and Trocheck) scored 65+ points. The Panthers need help from their depth this year. Mike Hoffman will help the top 6 and if Nick Bjugstad can stay healthy and he gets the right line he should continue his redemption story. However the bottom 6 this year has a lot of questions. The only surefire lock for the bottom 6 is Colton Sceviour who is great on the Penalty Kill and puts up consistent 20+ point seasons. The other 5 spots will be a fierce competition between rookies like Henrik Borgstrom and Owen Tippett as well as young guys like Frank Vatrano, Maxim Mamin, Dryden Hunt, Anthony Greco, Denis Malgin and Jared McCann competing. Add in grizzled vets Derek Mackenzie and Micheal Haley and possibly Connor Brickley and the bottom 6 is very competitive. However the bottom 6 needs to score more. Denis Malgin is very good in clutch situations but needs to score more consistently. Frank Vatrano must continue putting the puck in the net. It will be an interesting training camp, especially if Dale Tallon makes anymore moves for more top 6 forwards which will add another locked up position in Nick Bjugstad (if he isn’t traded) in the bottom 6.