Florida Panthers by the numbers: Number 8
Eleven Cats have worn this digit - choose your favorite
The number eight has been worn by a total of eleven Florida Panthers in franchise history, Its original holder was defenseman Dallas Eakins, who is now the head coach in Anaheim, and it was most recently sported by forward Jayce Hawryluk before he was poached off waivers by Ottawa in February. Let’s take a look at Florida’s group of eights.
Dade City, FL native Dallas Eakins was the first Florida-born player to lace ‘em up for the franchise, as well as the first Cat to sport the number eight, and he liked it so much he came back and wore it a second time. Eakins played one game during Florida’s expansion season and then 17 more in 1994-95, where posted his first point (an assist) with the second-year franchise. After short stints with the St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers, Eakins returned to Florida to play 23 games for the Panthers during the 1997-98 season, picking up one assist and 44 PIM.
Veteran Swedish defenseman Magnus Svensson played a total of 46 games with the Cats spread over his only two NHL seasons. In 1994-95, he scored his first two goals in the league and set up five others in 19 games while sporting the number 28. He donned the number 8 during the 1995-96 campaign, when he put up two goals and nine assists in 27 games. He returned to Europe for good after that season, playing in both his home country and Switzerland, as he did prior to joining the Panthers organization.
Long-time minor-league forward Craig Martin played in one game for the Panthers during the 1996-97 season and made a statistical mark with 5 PIM, thanks to a fight with Buffalo Sabres tough guy Rob Ray. That was the last time Martin, who played 20 games for the original Winnipeg Jets in 1994-95, suited up in the NHL. He played in 44 games for Florida’s AHL affiliate, the Carolina Monarchs, that season and produced one goal and two assists.
The Panthers selected a then 24-year-old Spacek in the fourth round of the 1998 NHL Entry. After quickly adjusting to North American ice by putting up 12 points in 14 games with the AHL’s Beast of New Haven, Spack was recalled and played 63 games (3G/12A) for the Cats as a rookie during the 1988-99 season. He played in all 82 games of the 1999-2000 campaign and scored a career-high ten goals and added 16 assists. Spacek, now wearing number 28, appeared in 12 games (2G/1A) with the Panthers to start the 2000-01 season before he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for fellow blueliner Anders Eriksson.
A seventh-round (166th overall) choice of the Cats in 1995, Worrell went on to quickly beat the odds and enjoyed an NHL career that spanned parts of seven seasons. After a final run with the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques, Worrell played 50 games for the Beast of New Haven and made 19 scoreless appearances with the Panthers while wearing the number 28 in 1997-98. Worrell played in 62 games the next season and scored four times and contribute 5 assists. He swapped numbers with Spacek and played in just 48 games during the 1999-2000 season due to injury and again put up nine points. Worrell produced two career-highs in 2000-01, finishing with seven assists and a ten points. The next season saw Worrell rack up a club-record 354 penalty minutes. That record still stands today. In his final season with Florida, Worrell played in 63 games and scored two goals and three assists to go along with 193 PIM. On July 18, 2003 he was traded, with a second round pick in the 2004, to the Colorado Avalanche for Eric Messier and Vaclav Nedorost. He played 49 games for the Avs in his final NHL season and retired after 37 games with the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers in 2004-05. Worrell, one of the game’s most feared enforcers, got into coaching locally (FAU, North Broward Prep) after his playing days ended.
On June 24, 2001, the Panthers acquired Bure, along with Jason Wiemer, for original Panther Rob Niedermayer and a second round draft pick. Bure played his first two seasons with Florida wearing the number 20, and hampered by injuries, produced just 13 goals and 44 points in 77 games before he was traded to the St. Louis Blues on March 11, 2003 for defenseman Mike Van Ryn. He returned to Sunrise the next season after being claimed on waivers and donned the number 8. He piled up 20 goals and 45 points in 55 games before the out-of-contention Cats sold high and sent him to the Dallas Stars for Drew Bagnall and a second-rounder in 2004. Bure finished out the 2003-04 season with the Stars, but never played again, first due to the 2004-05 lockout and then subsequent back and hip surgeries.
Like Bure, Kwiatkowski sported both the numbers 20 and 8 in his brief time in Florida. After signing an as a free agent and spending the lockout season with San Antonio Rampage, the defenseman played 73 games for the Cats in 2005-06 and produced four goals and a NHL career-high eight assists. Kwiatkowski put up five goals and five assists in 41 games the next season before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 27 for a fourth round pick in the 2007 draft. After a single game with the Penguins and 18 more with the Atlanta Thrashers, Kwiatkowski had a successful run in Europe to finish out his career.
Acquired from the New York Rangers, along with a third round pick, on February 26, 2011 in exchange for defenseman Bryan McCabe, Kennedy would appear in six games, and pick up one assist, with Florida to close out the 2010-11 campaign. He played in 27 games with the Cats in 2011-12 (1G/1A) before he was traded to the San Jose Sharks for Sean Sullivan on January 26, 2012. Kennedy played in a total of 162 NHL games and was an accomplished scorer at the AHL level.
Looking to add scoring depth for the playoffs, the Panthers acquired the veteran Wolski on February 25, 2012, sending the New York Rangers prospect Michael Vernace and a third round pick in the 2013 draft. After the trade, Wolski produced four goals and five assists in 22 regular season games, but appeared in just two of Florida’s seven-game, opening-round loss to the New Jersey Devils. After the season, Wolski signed with the Washington Capitals and when that didn’t work out, headed to Europe for the remainder of his career. Wolski scored 99 goals and 267 points in a fairly productive 451-game run in the NHL.
Like Wolski and Kennedy, the Cats got McIlrath in a trade with the New York Rangers, dealing for the hulking defender on November 8. 2016 with Steven Kampfer and a conditional seventh round pick going back the other way. After just five games, that included a goal, with the Panthers, and stints in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds, Mcllrath was traded for a second time within the season, along with a conditional third-round pick in the 2017 draft, to the Detroit Red Wings for Thomas Vanek on March 1, 2017. The 28-year-old McIlrath is still active and played 16 games for the Red Wings during the current season.
A high second round pick (32nd overall) in 2014 that appeared to be in danger of busting, Hawryluk earned a spot on the Panthers in late 2018 and ended up scoring seven goals and five assists in 42 games to close out the 2018-19 campaign. Injury and new head coach Joel Quenneville limited Hawryluk to just 15 games (1G/2A) with the Cats this season before was claimed off waivers by the Ottawa Senators on February 27. Hawryluk produced two goals and five assists after being claimed by the Senators and may have found a home with the rebuilding club.
Who is your favorite number 8?