Welcome back to another workweek, and your Monday morning edition of the Panthers All-Time Countdown. If you're the type of guy (or gal) who watches Mythbusters, y'know, just to see how things work, you can get the details on the countdown here.
On Friday, we took a trip down Florida Panthers Memory Lane for a peek at defenseman Per Gustafsson (58 games, seven goals, 22 assists), left winger Gary Roberts (108 games, 27 goals, 42 assists), and center Chris Gratton (157 games, 30 goals, 44 assists). Today, we'll take a look at a Swedish defenseman, a center from Ontario, and a defenseman from Alberta.
Click below to read on.
66. Andreas Lilja
A 6'3" defenseman from Helsingborg, Sweden, Lilja was a six year veteran with the Swedish Elite Malmo IF when selected in the second round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft with the 54th overall pick by the Los Angeles Kings. During his time with Malmo, he totalled 10 goals and 19 assists in 191 games.
Lilja opened the 2000-01 season with the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters (61 games, seven goals, 29 assists), appearing with the NHL Kings for two games in December. 2001-02 would see him spend four games with the Manchester Monachs in the AHL (one assist), also playing 26 games with the Kings (one goal, four assists).
In 2002-03, Lilja opened the season for 17 games with the Kings (three assists). Los Angeles traded him to the Panthers with Jaroslav Bednar for Dmitry Yushkevich and a fifth round pick on November 26. After joining Florida, he skated in an average of 19:11 in 56 games for the Panthers, scoring four times on 59 shots while pitching in eight assists, a team leading plus-8 rating, and 56 PIM. A prototypical stay-at-home defenseman, Lilja is a grade-A penalty killer.
2003-04 would see Lilja appear in 79 Panthers contests in Florida's second pairing defensive unit, at a 19:34 clip per game. Still not much of an "offensive" weapon, he scored only three goals on 26 shots, assisted on four others, posted a minus-8 rating and finished with a team second most 90 minutes in the "character" box.
When the 2004-05 NHL season became a lost cause, Lilja took his talents across the pond, signing with Mora IK in the Swedish Elite League, scoring three times with eight assists. When NHL play resumed the following season, he signed on with the Detroit Red Wings, playing in 298 games over the next five seasons. He scored seven goals and 40 assists while with the team. He then joined the Anaheim Ducks in 2010-11 (52 games, one goal, six assists) and the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12 (46 games, zero goals, six assists).
All-Time Statline: Two seasons, 135 games, seven goals, 12 assists, 19 points, even rating, 146 PIM, 6.2 APS.
65. Joe Nieuwendyk
Nieuwendyk was a 6'2" left handed center from Oshawa, Ontario. He was originally selected in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft after his freshman season with the Cornell Big Red by the Calgary Flames. They spent a second round pick on him, 27th overall. In three collegiate seasons, he scored 73 goals and 78 assists in 81 contests, graduating with the Class of 1987. He made his professional debut later that year with the Flames, scoring five goals and an assist in nine games.
Niewendyk would enjoy his first four full NHL seasons in the league top ten in goals scored, with 51 in each of his first two seasons and 45 in each of his next two (winning the 1987-88 Calder Memorial Trophy). Eventually, he spent his first nine NHL seasons with the Flames, ranking third on the all-time franchise leaderboard in goals scored with 314. He ranks first among Flames with at least 300 games played with a shooting percentage of 20.5%. He appeared in four All-Star games with the team, and scored 32 goals with 28 assists in 66 postseason contests, helping the Flames to the Stanley Cup in 1989. The Flames traded him to the Dallas Stars on December 19, 1995 for Corey Millen and Jarome Iginla.
Nieuwendyk spent parts of the next seven seasons with the Flames, scoring 178 goals and 162 assists in 442 games, adding a plus-7 rating and 211 penalty minutes. He would add 25 goals and 15 assists in 61 postseason matchups, including an NHL leading 11 goals scored, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy on Dallas' way to the 1999 Stanley Cup. The Stars eventually traded him to the New Jersey Devils with Jamie Langenbrunner for Jason Arnott, Randy McKay, and a first round draft pick (eventually Daniel Paille) on March 19, 2002.
Niewendyk scored 19 goals and 37 assists in 94 regular season games in New Jersey, earning his third Stanley Cup victory in 2003. He scored 22 goals and 28 assists in 64 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2003-04. When the NHL cancelled their 2004-05 season, so did Niewendyk, signing a free agent contract with the Panthers when play resumed for 2005-06.
Nieuwendyk averaged 16:23 TOI for Florida that season. He teamed up with longtime Flames teammate Gary Roberts to lead the Panthers with a combined 78 years of life. He posted 12 multiple point games during the course of the season, including a hat trick (along with an assist) on April 11 in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs. He ranked third on the Panthers with 26 goals scored on 195 shots, pitching in 30 assists for a team second-best 56 total points.
2006-07 would see Nieuwendyk open the season with two goals and an assist in a 8-3 Florida win over the Boston Bruins. He played in 15 games for Florida, scoring five goals on only 30 shots with three assists before announcing his retirement on December 7, a victim of chronic back pain. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame with the Class of 2011 (along with fellow Florida and Dallas alum Ed Belfour). He is currently the General Manager of the Stars.
Joe Nieuwendyk career retrospective (via NHLVideo)
All-Time Statline: Two seasons, 80 games, 31 goals, 33 assists, 64 points, minus-6 rating, 50 PIM, 6.5 APS.
64. Brian Benning
Benning, a native of Edmonton, was a 6' defenseman with the WHL Portland Winter Hawks when chosen in the second round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues, 26th overall. In parts of five seasons with the Blues he put up 30 goals and 94 assists in 232 games.The Blues traded him to the Los Angeles King on November 10, 1989 for a third round draft pick (Kyle Reeves).
Benning played in parts of three seasons with the Kings, scoring 14 goals and 72 assists in 162 contests. On February 19, 1992, the Kings sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins with Jeff Chychrun and a first round pick (Jason Bowen) for Paul Coffey. He was immediately traded to the Philadelphia Flyers with Mark Recchi and a first round pick for Rick Tocchet, Kjell Samuelsson, Ken Wregget and a third round pick (Dave Roche).
Benning played in parts of two seasons with the Flyers in just under a calendar year, scoring 11 goals and 29 assists in 59 games. The Flyers sent him to the Edmonton Oilers (18 games, one goal, seven assists) on January 16, 1993 for Greg Hawgood and Josef Beranek.
Benning signed a free agent contract to be an original Panther in 1993-94. He scored two goals for the Cats in a 4-4 tie with the Dallas Stars on December 12. Later in the season, he posted a three assist game in a 5-3 win over his former Flyer teammates on March 20. Eventually, he scored six goals on 112 shots along with 24 assists in 73 contests. He ranked fifth on the team with 107 penalty minutes (the significance of this figure is to illustrate the difference between then and now, as there were seven Panthers who would have finished with more PIM than did this seasons leader, Krys Barch with 81).
In 1994-95, Benning was slowed by injury, appearing in half of Florida's contests through the strike-shortened 48 game season. He posted one goal on 26 shots, making seven assists and finishing with a minus-6 rating and 18 PIM. He retired following the season.
All-Time Statline: Two seasons, 97 games, seven goals, 31 assists, 38 points, minus-13 rating, 125 PIM, 6.5 APS.
Thank you for taking the time out to read today's article. I hope you are enjoying reading these as much as I like writing them. Make sure to check back here tomorrow for a look at a Finnish left winger, a defenseman from Edmonton, and another defenseman from British Columbia. Let me also put a shout out about our Wednesday's Litter Box Chats, going live for the first time at 9PM EST, where your very own LBC crew get together to talk about all things Panther related!