The Florida Panthers started the 2016-17 season with high hopes after finishing atop the Atlantic Division last season. The team remained optimistic coming off a first round playoff disappointment in which the New York Islanders sent the team packing early. Following an outstanding regular season after finishing near the top of the league can be tough. In addition to an extensive blue line overhaul, the Panthers complimented their depth by adding some younger, less expensive talent at forward.
A key signing which occurred back in March, and went somewhat under the radar outside of the Panthers fan base, was the addition of Dryden Hunt. Hunt was signed to an entry-level deal and started the season with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds, who are in their inaugural season in the Massachusetts city after relocating from Portland, Maine. The team has something to cheer about with Hunt, as he has proved to be productive in the first few weeks of the season. Hunt has shelved the puck three times and assisted on three goals in 12 games. He has showcased his scoring talents that were heavily featured during his years in the WHL. As a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Hunt registered a whopping 116 points last year, yet remained unsigned until this offseason. Many teams over-looked this young prospect and he fell straight into the lap of the Panthers.
This scoring winger fits right into the mold the team looks to shape their future with. They have successfully built through the draft and through key signings of talents just like this. Getting these players in the Panthers development system truly helps them find their own individual game. The leadership that the professional team possesses in players like Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo has helped these individuals tremendously. Having the all-time leading scorer for active players doesn't hurt when it comes to administering beneficial tips to these young players.
With the Panthers seemingly in total win-now mode, with a Stanley Cup championship as the goal, the team will probably not be able to give Hunt much meaningful playing time at the professional level yet. It is in his best interest to continue to develop his game at the AHL-level. As Hunt is a potential candidate to fill in for Jagr once his storied career comes to an end or he simply decides to continue it elsewhere, It might be wise for the team to bring him up prior to Jagr's departure in order to gain some advice from this future Hall-of-Famer. Hunt's choice to sign with the Panthers is truly panning out to be a win-win for both parties and it will be exciting to see his talents utilized on the big stage shortly.