Last week, commissioner Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League announced some juicy details in the Return to Play protocol. In addition to confirming a 24-team postseason format to be played in just two 12-team hub cities. the league told its general managers that clubs will be allowed to bring up to 28 skaters and as many goaltenders as they’d like to whatever locale they are assigned.
Let’s take a look at what a maxed out Florida Panthers lineup could look like.
The Panthers have five keepers under contract and I would expect that they would take at least four of them to the hub. Sergei Bobrovsky, Chris Driedger and Sam Montembeault have all won games for the Cats and I would fully expect that trio would be joined by 24-year-old Philippe Desrosiers, who went 16-10-2 for the Springfield Thunderbirds this season. Ryan Bednard is the fifth goaltender on the depth chart. I’m not sure that Florida needs to bring him along, but it couldn’t hurt. My feeling is that they will opt for four.
When the season was put on pause back in mid-March, the Panthers had 21 skaters on the active roster. Those players were forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov, Erik Haula, Mike Hoffman, Brett Connolly, Lucas Wallmark, Frank Vatrano, Noel Acciari, Colton Sceviour, Brian Boyle, Dominic Toninato and Aleksi Saarela and defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Anton Stralman, Mike Matheson, MacKenzie Weegar, Riley Stillman and Josh Brown and then the hybrid, Mark Pysyk.
Last week general manager Dale Tallon mentioned three prospects who seem like locks to be on the expanded roster, forwards Owen Tippett and Henrik Borgstrom and defender Brady Keeper. That would up the roster count to 24 players, leaving four slots open if Florida were to bring the max.
Who else would by worthy of a spot?
If healthy, one would think Dryden Hunt would be included. CapFriendly still has Hunt listed as being on IR for bookkeeping purposes, but I am not sure of his actual injury status. By the time training camp starts, four months would have passed since the last regular season games were played, so I’d think there is a pretty good chance he’ll be healthy and available six weeks from now. So, let’s make Hunt the 25th man on the roster.
The other forwards the Panthers could choose from are Paul Thompson, Eetu Luostarinen, Aleksi Heponiemi, Rodrigo Abols, Serron Noel, Mason Marchment, Patrick Bajkov, Jonathan Ang, Cliff Pu, Jack Rodewald, Joel Lowry, Danick Martel and Ryan Haggerty.
On defense the Cats have Chase Priskie, Emil Djuse, Vladislav Kolyachonok, Ethan Prow, Tommy Cross, Thomas Schemitsch and Jake Massie to select from.
My final three in addition to Tippett, Borgstrom, Keeper and Hunt would be Luostarinen, Priskie and Marchment.
Luostarinen and Priskie, the other pieces of Trocheck trade, are talented players on the cusp on being regular NHLers and Marchment provides that toughness factor and can score the occasional goal. If Hunt is still injured I’d give Serron Noel the nod.
You can weigh in with your “final four” roster choices in the comment section.
Happy June! We’re one month closer to the return of NHL hockey.