The Panthers are an annomoly. How? Their draft record is pretty darn impressive, but their on ice product isn't. This year they are over-achieving, and why shouldn't they? They've done well to fight to a .500 record, and no team wants to play them. As I continue to argue that draft success = on ice success the Panther's vex me.
In 2001 they made the right pick taking Stephen Weiss fourth, and they managed another NHLer in the first round taking Lucas Krajicek 24th...then way back at 267 they selected Ivan Majesky. 2002 They took Jay Buowmeester 3rd, but missed an opportunity in the first round taking Petr Taticek 9th...they did however find Greg Campbell at 67th. This is where I realized the disconnect in the Panthers disproving my theory: none of these players are still on their team...well, Weiss is, what's left of him. Go down the list.... Nathan Horton, Anthony Stewart, and Kamil Kreps in 2003. Gone, Gone Gone!
2004 they bucked the trend drafting and to this day (for now) retaining Rostislav Olesz at 7th and made a great pick to take David Booth out of college at 53rd. 2005's only notable selection was Kendall McCardle, but he toils in the AHL and isn't looking like he'll pan out. Too bad...Tuuka Rask was taken with the next pick by the Leafs, but apparently they have the same retaining talent problem.
This is where things started to turn around however. In 2006 they too Mikael Frolik 10th overall, he's the team's current leading scorer. In 2007 they had a dandy year snagging Keaton Ellerby 10th, Mike repik 40th and Evgeny Dadonov 71. In three short season they've all reached the NHL.
2008 they had no first round pick but still managed to take two future NHLers, Coby Robak at 46th and future Vezina winner Jacob Markstrom at 31st.
2009 they rolled the dice on a Russian and won as Dimitri Kulikov became a starter his first season after being selected 14th overall; he's got 10 points in 38 games in his sophomore season with FLA. Second roudn selection Drew Shore is lighting up the Collegiate ranks with 25 points in 20 games in his sophomore season with Universit of Denver.
2010 is where Florida really earned their ranking, and explained the disconnect between their draft talent and on ice product. They stockpiled three first rounders taking Erik Gudbranson 3rd overall, Nick Bjugstad 19th and Quinton Howden 25th. They also landed uber-talented John McFarland who is finding his form after a trade, and Alec Petrovic, the towering D-man who has already bested last year's points totals.
The future is bright in Florida, now, hopefully they've learned to hold on to their assets by all means, put some fans in the seats and get some wins. This season seems to be an indication of the youth movement that is happening their, and if so then this team has a pool of young talent that really can be mentioned in the same breath as Chicago and Edmonton, and will bare fruit in no time.