Panthers’ biggest question: Can the old guys hang on while the young guys get better?
The Florida Panthers are a bit of an odd team, in terms of their mix.
They have Jaromir Jagr, who at 43 is the oldest player in the NHL by a considerable margin. They also have a couple of 38-year-olds in Willie Mitchell and Shawn Thornton, plus a couple of 36-year-olds in Roberto Luongo and Brian Campbell.
Yet you can’t call the Panthers an old team. These aren’t the New Jersey Devils we’re talking about here.
Not with 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad, the league’s reigning rookie of the year, and 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau, who received the same honor in 2013.
Also, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, and Dylan Olsen. All of them under 25 years of age.
Oh, and don’t forget Lawson Crouse, the 18-year-old winger that could make the team. And Rocco Grimaldi, the 22-year-old forward who had 42 points 64 AHL games last season.
You get the point.
“We’ve got young players that are very capable of playing for us next year,” said GM Dale Tallon. “We don’t want to shut the door on that. We want those guys to get every opportunity to be on our team. I want to be the youngest team in the league and the best team in the league at the same time.”
The key next season will be for the old guys to hang on while the young guys get better. If that happens, the Panthers have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, and even making some noise once they get there.
On the other hand, if key veterans like Jagr, Campbell and Luongo start showing their age and/or the youngsters experience too many growing pains, they could stumble.
Related: Roberto Luongo is under pressure