My Take: Why Erik Gudbranson Should Start The Season In The AHL

Rookie D Erik Gudbranson had a bad start to his NHL career: he was sixth among team defensemen in ice time, averaged 47 seconds on special teams, and finished the season with the worst plus/minus on the roster. At even strength, he was the second-worst defensemen in Relative Corsi Quality of Competition (behind linemate Ed Jovanovski) and had the Florida blueline's worst On-Ice Team Shooting Percentage.

The recent 2012-13 VUKOTA Projections have Gudbranson projected to be the worst defenseman on the Panthers roster (even career AHLer Nolan Yonkman is slated to have a better season) and projected to be one of the worst players in the NHL (he's ranked 874 in projected GVT). If the Panthers are serious about not rushing prospects, then Erik Gudbranson needs to start the 2012-13 season in the AHL.

Read on after the jump for my reasons why Erik Gudbranson should be a member of the San Antonio Rampage.

1. Keaton Ellerby is better than Erik Gudbranson

Here's the chart that shows why:

Player GP ES/TOI ES Corsi Rel QoC SH TOI/G
SH Corsi Rel QoC
Keaton Ellerby 40 14:24 0.139 0:52 0.327 15:23
Erik Gudbranson 72 13:23 -0.991 0:18 0.024 14:11

2. Gudbranson gets ice time he would never receive in the NHL

If Gudbranson stays in the NHL, unless injuries effect the roster, he'll play third-paring minutes and receive minimal special-teams time. In the AHL, Gudbranson would be the Rampage's number one defensemen; he'll average top line even strength minutes, quarterback the powerplay, and kill penalties. And unlike the NHL, he wouldn't have to face elite level talent while playing 20 minutes a night.

And the Rampage need it. They finished the season 27th overall in PK% and 28th overall in PP%. If Gudbranson wants to live up to his potential as a number one, all situations defensemen, he can start off by proving it in the AHL. And according to the current CBA, he is exempt from waivers.

3. It's not a lifetime sentence

If Gudbranson is ready for the NHL, then he should dominate the AHL and force the organization to call him up. With 35+ defensemen Filip Kuba and Jovanovski on roster, Gudbranson will get plenty of chances - and soon - to play in the NHL.