As is no secret whatsoever at this stage, Panthers rookie Nick Bjugstad will don number 27 for the Cats in his NHL debut Saturday night vs Washington, a number he's worn for several seasons with the Golden Gophers, having accumulated 54 goals and 44 assists in 109 appearances with Minnesota (and 9 multi-point games in 2012-13).
Good stuff of course, but exactly what is the history of "27" with Florida? A seemingly random number: not so high as to be rookie-ish, and not so low as to be translated as arrogant for a player new to the pros. Whatever his desire to wear it, here is every Panthers player to sport the digits:
- Scott Mellanby (1993-01): Not much needs to be said here, as Mellanby remains a longtime legend within Panthers fandom, and for good reason...3rd overall on the club in points (354), 2nd in goals (157), 4th in assists (197), 3rd in penalty minutes (953), 1st in power play goals (66), 5th in games-played (552), and 4th in gamewinners (22). Solid stuff for a second-rounder from 1984. Dude remains a serious candidate for jersey-retirement, so keep a 1-A on deck, Nick.
- Jaroslav Bednar (2002-04): A right wing drafted by Los Angeles in 2001, Bednar played 65 games for the Cats between stints with San Antonio and Omsk. His 6 goals and 14 assists with Florida remain forgotten.
- Christian Berglund (2003-04): 10 games and 4 points (3G) for the Devils' 1997 7th-rounder while with Florida. For the record, he tied Darcy Hordichuk in points for the club that year.
- Noah Welch (2007-09): Better known as what the Panthers received in exchange for Gary Roberts, Welch was considered a significant defensive prospect - by that laugh-a-minute Jacques Martin bunch - that busted out...and into Vaxjo of the Swedish Elite League, where he plays today. Roberts completed his probable Hall Of Fame career within a year of the deal.
- Steven Reinprecht (2009-11): Jay-Bo is now in St. Louis. Josh Birkholz remains a mid-level prospect for the Cats while shuffling between the Rampage and ECHL Cincinnati. Reino has 28 points (9G) in 33 games with Nuremburg of the DEL. Tough fall for the Big League career .500 PPG player.
- Michal Repik (2008-12): 20 points (9G) in 72 NHL contests for the exceptionally skilled forward who just couldn't step up. Ever. A true second-round "bust", Repik collected 4 goals and 10 points for Prague of the KHL in 2012-13.
- Alexei Kovalev (2013): 2 goals and 3 assists in 14 games for the Panthers in his final NHL campaign. Longtime National League winger nabbed 1,029 points (430G) in 1,316 games with the Rangers (twice), Penguins, Canadiens, Senators, and Panthers (big thanks to LBC community member sbarbera for the call here; completely missed it myself).