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Over/Under: Grading ESPN Point Projections for Florida Panthers D

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Florida Panthers defenseman Gus Forsling celebrates his goal with Anton Lundell, Eetu Luostarinen and Matthew Tkachuk during the second period of Game 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 4 at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire)

The Florida Panthers are just over a week from reporting to training camp and ESPN recently came out with point predictions for most players in the NHL.

Last week, we looked at how ESPN thinks what kind of numbers Florida’s forwards will put up; today, we look at the Panthers’ defensemen.

While ESPN did not break down every d-man on the team — Josh Mahura and Niko Mikkola were left off, for instance — most of whom Florida will count on this season were included.

How did ESPN do?

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Well, aside from Aaron Ekblad, it does not look like injuries are taken into consideration — either that, or they think Brandon Montour will be out there on Day 1.

Which he will not.

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The Panthers are aiming for a December return for both Ekblad and Montour after both had shoulder surgeries following the Stanley Cup Final.

Montour is believed to be on track to return as early as November, however; Ekblad may be out until January.

Anyway, to the Over/Under:

Aaron Ekblad

Projection: 11 goals, 31 points (60 games played)

FHN’s Prognosis: Under

IF Ekblad is able to return from his injury by Dec. 1, he would miss 23 games allowing him to play 59 games. For a 60-game season, we think Ekblad would go over his point total but do not think he will play that many games. When he does return, does he go back to getting power play time? If the answer is yes, his numbers will be close to his averages at least when pro-rated.

Brandon Montour

Projection: 16 goals, 75 points (81 games played)

FHN’s Prognosis: Under

Again, Montour is not going to play 81 games this season which his going to affect his points total. ESPN does have Montour actually eclipsing last year’s numbers — 16 goals, 73 points — which not only was a career-best but the most points put up by a d-man in franchise history. It was a fantastic year. If he was there all season, yeah, Montour could make a run at passing those numbers. When he does come back, he will be a big part of Florida’s offense regardless of when that is.

Gus Forsling

Projection: 12 goals, 39 points (81 games played)

FHN’s Prognosis: Over

With Ekblad and Montour out, Forsling is going to get a bigger opportunity to become part of the offensive rotation especially on power play where his numbers could soar. Either Forsling or Oliver Ekman-Larsson could run the top power play unit (we think Forsling gets first crack at it) and that could lead to an offensive explosion. Just look at what happened when Montour was put back there last season.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Projection: 3 goals, 24 points (56 games played)

FHN’s Prognosis: Over

OK, so, OEL has had it rough the past few years. We get it. He also only played 54 games last season — so to project he will play 56 is really undermining what the Panthers hope from the veteran defenseman this season. Just playing 70-something games — not to mention getting some power play time, even if it is on the second unit — is going to give him the opportunity to show he can still play. Both he and the Panthers are gambling that Ekman-Larsson can bring it and, well, it is not like this bar is especially high.

Dmitry Kulikov

Projection: 1 goal, 11 points (61 games played)

FHN’s Prognosis: Over

Kulikov is back with the Panthers after a little NHL sojourn and, while he is not expected to get 82 games this season, he could get more than 61. Regardless, the way this team is set up is conducive to points from the blueline and Kuli may just flourish the second time around with Florida. Thing is, what happens when Ekblad and Montour return to the rotation on a nightly basis? Kulikov may be one of the odd d-men out. He will need a strong start to stay in the mix.

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