Sorting out the Panthers' Goaltending: Jacob Markstrom

Praised by many to be the best goaltender outside of the NHL, Florida Panthers prospect Jacob Markstrom appears to ultimately become the Panthers' future in goal. Though he may still be a long way from breaking the Panthers line-up in a developmental sense, Markstrom could find himself on the team by hierarchical default if starter Tomas Vokoun does not resign this summer. The quick move to the NHL could complicate Markstrom's development, meaning in all likelihood Markstrom will remain in the AHL for this season. More after the jump.

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Jacob Markstrom- Signed to an Entry Level Contract on June 1st 2010, 21 years old, 1 game played with the Panthers

Despite an unspectacular record with a sorry Rochester Americans club, Markstrom played well for a European goalie adjusting to a new style of hockey and the new culture of America. Splitting the season with Panthers prospect Tyler Plante, Markstrom had a few standout games which brought back memories of his last season with Brynas IF in the Swedish Elite League. Do not let his numbers deceive you, Markstrom is still learning the ropes in a new environment, and it is reasonable to speculate he will bounce back with the onset of a new season in the AHL.

Markstrom's season in review-

  • October 4-5-0, 3.33 GAA, .891 SV%
  • November 3-5-0, 4.05 GAA, .868 SV%
  • December 4-4-0, 2.37 GAA, .930 SV%
  • January 5-5-1, 2.32 GAA, .929 SV%
  • February 0-1-0, 3.04 GAA, .909 SV%/

On February 5th in a game against the Toronto Marlies, Markstrom suffered a knee injury that would require surgery. To this point in his season, Markstrom had been playing remarkably better despite his team's low offensive production. Though Rochester's record with Markstrom wasn't spectacular, the team surely felt his absence going 9-19 without him, 1-13 in their last 14 games (though much of their roster was filling in spots with the Panthers in that stretch).  Thankfully, Markstrom had a successful surgery and is expected to be in training camp this fall.

Markstrom's NHL Debut- After an undisclosed injury to Tomas Vokoun, Markstrom was recalled to serve as a back-up to Scott Clemmensen in a game against the New Jersey Devils on January 23rd. When Clemmensen let in 2 goals on 8 shots, then-coach Peter DeBoer gave Markstrom the nod to start the second period. Markstrom certainly didn't disappoint the eager Panthers fans in an unexpected sneak peek of his talent, though he did let in two goals on 14 shots. The first goal was on the powerplay, the second on a 5-on-3, proof that the team didn't exactly give him the best shot at a win in his first game on NHL ice. Markstrom took the loss but did make some good saves when called upon. Marky also showed some pure, unrestrained emotion in the early minutes before settling down. Give Markstrom due credit though, he was given his chance to shine with one periods notice, then faced a surging Devils team frantically gaining ground in the playoff race. Markstrom did all he could, and fans should be encouraged by what they saw from him.

The impact of Markstrom's debut- Though Markstrom was quickly reassigned to the Rochester Americans, the gesture made by DeBoer giving the 20-year old a chance to shine is commendable. Talk about a boost in confidence, first off; no-one would have raised an eyebrow if Markstrom was skipped over and the older, more experienced Tyler Plante was called up instead. But not only was Markstrom chosen, he was handed the reigns in his first ever stint with the Panthers. If that doesn't show the faith the organization has in Markstrom, I don't know what will. All it will take for Markstrom is to continue his stellar play and a little luck to see time with the big club once again. After his two periods against the Devils, Markstrom should have an idea what level of play is required to face action as a starter. Markstrom did have some trouble with rebound control, including one rebound that let to the Devils crashing the net and forcing the puck in. Luckily for Markstrom, the play had been whistled dead before the puck had crossed the line, but he must learn how to corral those rebounds before they're indicated on the scoreboard.

If Tomas Vokoun does not resign this summer, don't expect Markstrom to fill in an opening if Tallon doesn't pursue another starter. As said before, Markstrom is still learning the North American style and though his number have improved dramatically, he should still be given time to perfect his play in the AHL. There would probably be nothing worse at this point in Markstrom's career than to ride the pine behind Scott Clemmensen when he could be a starter in the AHL. With the Panthers affiliation with Rochester all but dead, Markstrom could find himself with a much more competitive team than the Americans, which is always a good thing. If the Panthers are not in dire need of a goaltending change-up, Markstrom should by all means take his time to develop in the AHL. If injuries occur and Marky finds himself in a similar situation to the one he was in last January, so be it, a temporary stint in the NHL can't be a bad thing, but be wary of rushing Markstrom into the league the way the Los Angeles Kings did with Jonathan Bernier. Markstrom has a bright future ahead of him, but it may be for the best that he stays with the farm teams, for now.

Up next: Tyler Plante and Marc Cheverie