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Another New Florida Panthers Number Game: Who Wore it best?

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The Florida Panthers have numerous new players for the 2022-23 NHL season which means they have new numbers. Which players wore those numbers in franchise history — and who wore them best? // Photo graphic courtesy @FlaPanthers

This was quite a momentous offseason for the Florida Panthers with some of their top players leaving — and quite a few new ones coming in.

With the new players come new jersey numbers.

From Matthew Tkachuk to Colin White and Eric Staal, the Panthers have handed out a bunch of new digits since July.

We look at the new numbers and who else has worn them in the history of the Florida Panthers.

Although some numbers have not been used very much over the years, others have been worn by some of the biggest names in franchise history.

With only one player number retired — Roberto Luongo’s No. 1 — just about everything else is up for grabs.

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Well, two other numbers are hanging from the rafters in Sunrise: No. 37, which is retired to honor founding owner H. Wayne Huizenga and No. 93 which is for original president and team patriarch Bill Torrey.

Jonathan Huberdeau’s No. 11 was not given out this year and we think that’s a good idea.

Leave that one alone for a while.

On Sunday, the Panthers put a number of players on waivers — and have not officially signed Eric Staal to a contract and have to jump through some salary cap hoops to do so — but we will include some players who may not actually be with the Panthers come Opening Night.

On to the (new) numbers!

No. 3: Matt Kiersted

Kiersted is not new to the Panthers but when Ben Chiarot joined the team last year at the deadline he wanted No. 8. Kiersted was in Charlotte at the time and, well, Chiarot got the number he wanted. 

Truth is, Kiersted was cool with getting a new number. The No. 3 was taken by Keith Yandle when he signed with the Panthers in 2020 out of North Dakota but was open in 2022 upon Chiarot’s acquisition. So he took it. “That’s the number I wore in college,” he said.

And, with Lucas Carlsson surprisingly being waived on Sunday, Kiersted remains on the team as one of its six defensemen. He only played 10 shifts on Saturday so we’ll see what happens in the coming days — or hours.

Panthers to wear No. 3: Paul Laus, Karlis Skrastins, Clay Wilson, T.J. Brennan, Steven Kampfer, Keith Yandle

Which Panther wore it best? With 1,702 penalty minutes, Laus owns a franchise record which may never be broken. Peter Worrell is the only one close and he is over 300 minutes back — and currently coaching North Broward Prep.

Yandle, with the NHL IronMan streak and his power play quarterbacking skills, comes in second when it comes to wearing No. 3.

Keith Yandle

Keith Yandle of the Florida Panthers. — Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

No. 4: Michael Del Zotto

The Panthers are the ninth NHL team for Del Zotto, a defenseman who was battling with Kiersted for a final roster spot on this year’s squad but was waived Sunday.

After a strong 2021 season with the Blue Jackets, Del Zotto signed a two-year deal with Ottawa — only to find himself playing much of the year in the AHL and getting bought out this offseason. 

Panthers to wear No. 4: Keith Brown, Per Gustafsson, John Jakopin, Bret Hedican, Jay Bouwmeester, Dennis Seidenberg, Keaton Ellerby, Dylan Olsen

Which Panther wore it best? Although he did not like playing for the Panthers all that much, Bouwmeester played 471 of his 1,240 games with Florida and scored almost half of his 424 NHL points here. In six seasons, Bouwmeester was an All-Star in 2007.

No. 6: Colin White

A shoulder injury in the preseason last year kept White out of the Ottawa lineup until the playoffs were way out of reach but he came back and played well.

White did not live up to the six-year contract he signed with the team and the Sens saved some big money by buying out the final three years of it. He is expected to get a new lease on life with the Panthers.

Panthers to wear No. 6: Greg Smyth, Peter Andersson, Jason Woolley, Jeff Norton, Peter Ratchuk, Dan Boyle, Andreas Lilja, Noah Welch, Magnus Johansson, Ville Koistinen, Dennis Wideman, Mike Duco, Ryan Whitney, Alexander Petrovic,
Chris Wideman, Anton Stralman

Which Panther wore it best? White will be the 16th player in the history of the Panthers to wear this number — and only five spent more than a season with Florida at the NHL level. Although he started out wearing No. 72, Petrovic wore this number longer than anyone else.

Woolley, however, may not have been an original member of the Panthers but he play in three of their most formative seasons and was a part of the 1996 Stanley Cup finalists.

No. 12: Eric Staal

Staal remains with the Panthers on a PTO but it looks like he is going to make the team — salary cap space TBD — and play on the team’s bottom-6. Staal is a veteran presence who appears to still have something left in the tank based on his play this preseason. 

With almost 1,300 games played, over 400 goals and close to 600 assists with a Stanley Cup championship, Staal is headed to the Hall of Fame when he finally does call it a career.

Panthers to wear No. 12: Jody Hull, Chris Allen, Dwayne Hay, Marcus Nilson, Ryan Johnson, Alex Hicks, Olli Jokinen, Byron Bitz, Jack Skille, Jimmy Hayes, Ian McCoshen

Which Panther wore it best? If you are a Panthers fan who has been around for a while, you may laugh thinking of Staal wearing Olli Jokinen’s number in Florida.

Those two did not get along back in the day when the Hurricanes were rolling the Panthers in the old Southeast Division. Jokinen ended his run with the Panthers as the franchise’s all-time leader in points and held other records as well.

Florida panthers

Vincent Trocheck, foreground, and Olli Jokinen speak with Steve Goldstein as they model the new Florida Panthers jerseys at BB&T Center in 2016. — Photo @GeorgeRichards

No. 18: Marc Staal

Following a couple of rough seasons with the rebuilding Red Wings, Marc Staal jumped at the chance to play for a winner in South Florida — and perhaps do so with his older brother Eric. 

With the way things look right now, Marc Staal with start the season on Florida’s second pairing with Brandon Montour although things will most certainly change as the year rolls on.

Panthers to wear No. 18: Mike Hough, Alex Hicks, Cam Stewart, Marcus Nilson, Ville Peltonen, Shawn Matthias, Reilly Smith, Micheal Haley

Which Panther wore it best? A hard-nosed left winger who came to the Panthers in the expansion draft, Hough was part of Florida’s first two playoff teams and scored in double overtime of Game 5 against the Flyers in the 1996 east semifinals — which turned out to be the final NHL goal scored in the famed Philadelphia Spectrum.

No. 19: Matthew Tkachuk

There was a thought Matthew would request the No. 7 famously worn by his father Keith and currently worn by his brother Brady in Ottawa, but he ended up keeping the No. 19 he wore in Calgary prior to this summer’s blockbuster trade.

There is not a whole lot more we can add to Matthew Tkachuk’s blurb here that y’all don’t know.

Panthers to wear No. 19: Andrei Lomakin, Brad Smyth, Radek Dvorak, Len Barrie, Serge Payer, Stephen Weiss, Byron Ritchie, Dominic Moore, Marty Reasoner, Scottie Upshall, Mike Matheson, Mason Marchment, Joe Thornton

Which Panther wore it best? We would have to say Stephen Weiss since he was one of the franchise leaders in just about everything when he left for Detroit in 2013. But he only wore No. 19 for a short time before rolling with No. 9 for the vast majority of his career in Florida.

Radek Dvorak also wore this number during his best seasons in his first stint with the Panthers, going to No. 14 in his second. Others had good seasons in these digits including Dominic Moore, Scottie Upshall and Mike Matheson.

Truth is, the Panthers hope to retire this number someday due to Tkachuk doing some very special things over the course of his eight-year contract.

Matthew tkachuk

Matthew Tkachuk of the Florida Panthers pictured during a preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes. — Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

No. 21: Nick Cousins

Depending on what happens with Eric Staal, Cousins may find himself being the new center of the fourth line in Florida. 

He brings a tough-minded style of play and can bring a little scoring to a line which does not traditionally bring much as he scored nine goals for the Predators last season.

Panthers to wear No. 21: Tom Fitzgerald, Mark Parrish, Denis Shvidki, Alexei Semenov, Cory Murphy, Krys Barch, Vincent Trocheck, Alex Wennberg

Which Panther wore it best? Fitzgerald was an original member of the Panthers and a big part of their first two playoff teams. But Trocheck spent two more seasons in Florida before being traded away and twice as many goals and points. Trocheck gets the edge here.

No. 34: Alex Lyon

Lyon being waived on Sunday was always coming what with the Panthers having Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight on the roster.

But as the No. 3 goalie within the organization, we’re including him since we may see him in Sunrise sometime down the road.

Panthers to wear No. 34: John Vanbiesbrouck, Mathieu Biron, Alexander Salak, Patrick Rissmiller, Nolan Yonkman, Tim Thomas, James Reimer

Which Panther wore it best? The first player to wear No. 34 for the Panthers was by far the best — and some say should have been the last.

Vanbiesbrouck was the first goalie the Panthers took in the 1993 expansion draft and gave them instant credibility. A few years later, he did more than just help the Panthers put on a good show as he helped carry the third-year franchise to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final.

Florida panthers

No. 38: Rudolfs Balcers

Balcers was bought out by the San Jose Sharks after scoring 11 goals with 23 points in 61 games last season.

He may get a better shot with the Panthers as he has been seen playing in the top-6 during training camp — although he may end up playing on Anton Lundell’s third line which is not bad. 

Panthers to wear No. 38: Stephane Richer, Eric Beaudoin, Janis Sprukts, Shane Harper

Which Panther wore it best? Beaudoin was drafted by the Lightning but spent the entirety of his NHL career with the Panthers — and although that only lasted 53 games over the course of a couple seasons, it is more games than the other three (31) played in Florida combined.

No. 71: Chris Tierney

Tierney was one of the six players put on waivers on Sunday but could return if the Panthers had a rash of injuries within their bottom-6. 

He had 17 goals for the Sharks five seasons ago and may end up being a solid depth piece as the season rolls along.

Panthers to wear No. 71: Kenndal McArdle, Radim Vrbata, Lucas Wallmark

Which Panther wore it best? McArdle did not have a memorable career in Florida and was part of a rough stretch of Florida drafting when he was the 20th overall selection in the 2005 draft.

That draft is best known for being the Sidney Crosby draft, a sweepstakes of which the Panthers were all but locked out of due to having the overall pick twice before — although they never picked No. 1 in those drafts as they traded them away to slide down in the 2002 and 2003 drafts.

Still, for spending his draft with Crosby at the Ottawa Westin, we’ll give this one to McArdle.

No. 76: Anton Levtchi

The 26-year-old forward led all Liiga players with 26 goals and 61 points for Sasha Barkov’s Tampere Tappara squad earning league MVP honors. This is his first season in North America and was an early demotion to Charlotte. 

But Levtchi has a ton of upside and was brought to the Panthers for a reason. If he shows out in Charlotte, he could be here sooner than later especially if Aleksi Heponiemi is claimed off waivers later today.

Panthers to wear No. 76: Eric Selleck, Anthony Greco

Which Panther wore it best? Selleck played in two games with the Panthers and Greco got into one. Flip a coin.

PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS

  • When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: UBS Arena; Elmont, N.Y. 
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM/SiriusXM
  • Last season: Florida won 3-0
  • All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 54-32-11, 8 ties
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