Can Santorelli Rebound for Panthers Next Season?

In the span of two NHL seasons, forward Mike Santorelli has gone from promising young player to the waiver wire as his ice time, numbers, and shooting percentage dropped last season, falling from second in club scoring to 14th. While 2011-12 was a year to remember for the entire Panthers organization, it's one Santorelli would probably like to forget.

Is there still hope for the 26 year-old Vancouver native? Find out after the jump...

Santorelli was acquired from Nashville for Florida's fourth-round pick (Josh Shalla) in the 2011 Entry Draft. He played in all 82 games and scored 20 goals off a solid 10.4 shooting percentage. He was the fourth most used forward (behind David Booth, Marty Reasoner, and Stephen Weiss) and was lined up with David Booth and Stephen Weiss on the Panthers top powerplay, where he was second (third if you count Sergei Samsonov) in powerplay points.

In the AHL, Santorelli registered 579 shots, leading the Milwaukee Admirals in shots and points in his final two seasons (he had 204 in his first season, which was second). A career 0.83 point per game player in the AHL, Santorelli scored 171 points (career 74 goals and 97 assists) in 207 games. Using the NHLe formula, he's a 12.9 goal, 16.9 assist, 29.8 point player in the NHL, which isn't far off if average his two full seasons in the NHL (26 points).

So what happened that caused Santorelli to drop from 0.24 goals per game to just 0.15? His ice time was cut, for starters.

2010-11 16:41 12:36 2:41 1:22
2011-12 12:24 11:16 1:05 0:02

Santorelli went from 21.8 shifts per game to 17.6, losing all his shorthanded ice time. With the cut of his powerplay minutes, he went from 12 points to just three (tied for eighth on the team with Michal Repik), 28 on even strength to just eight. His GVT dropped from 4.0 to replacement player level (career AHLer) at -0.0.

His shot totals also dropped, from 193 (second on the team behind Booth) in 2010-11 to just 117 (eighth on the team), causing his shooting percentage to drop to 7.7% The Panthers were 15th in the NHL with 2433 shots (29.7 per game), scoring 197 non-shootout goals (27th in the NHL), and had a team shooting percentage of 8.1%, same as the New York Islanders.

With his ice time cut and shots decreased, his PDO was 974 at even strength last season, 12 among Panther forwards who played 40+ games, thanks to a team worst On-Ice Team Shooting Percentage of 4.56 (7.84 last season, second best on the roster), that not even a 929 On-Ice Team Save Percentage could save. If Santorelli does continue to play in the NHL, we can expect his PDO to crawl towards 1000 over time.

The 2012-13 VUKOTA Projections do expect Santorelli to bounce back, not as much as his 2011-12 Projections (71.6 GP, 18.1G, 19.9 A, 38.0 Pts), but he is ranked 469 in the NHL in projected GVT, which is a huge increase from finishing the season ranked 747th last season. Of course, he needs get out of the doghouse first.