CALGARY, AB -- Dead last in the East a season ago, the Florida Panthers have reason for cautious optimism this season.
The team continues to see development from young prospects like Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Erik Gudbranson while sprinkling in first round pick Aleksander Barkov and free agent signings Brad Boyes and Tim Thomas -- who returns to the NHL after a year’s absence.
That optimism has yet to translate on-ice, though. The Panthers have earned just 16 points in 23 games and sit seventh in the Atlantic Division and 28th in the overall standings.
This Season: 6-13-4, 16 points (15th in East)
Last season: 15-27-6, 36 points (15th in East)
Notable Additions: F Brad Boyes, RW Bobby Butler, RW Joey Crabb, C Scott Gomez, D Tom Gilbert, D Matt Gilroy, C Jon Matsumoto, D Mike Mottau, RW Steven Pinizzotto, G Tim Thomas, D Ryan Whitney, C Jesse Winchester
Notable Subtractions: RW Jack Skille, D Tyson Strachan, G Jose Theodore, C Stephen Weiss, D Nolan Yonkman
Flames Season Series Record: 0-0-0
Upshall scored Florida’s lone goal against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night, pushing his point streak to three games. The 30-year-old has amassed two goals and six points in his past five contests, too. Upshall, who’s in the third season of a four-year, $14 million pact with the Panthers, has four goals and 11 points in 20 games.
Though he’s not known as an offensive force, Goc has still underwhelmed of late in the scoring department. After starting the year with two goals and seven points in 17 games, the 30-year-old former first round pick has failed to record a point in each of his past six outings -- his longest slump of the season.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Barkov, the second overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, has acquitted himself well to the NHL. The 18-year-old has four goals and 10 points in 23 games -- placing him among the top-10 in scoring among all first-year players.
Though he’s not a big point producer, Gudbranson is considered a cornerstone of Florida’s future. The 21-year-old defenseman is averaging close to 20 minutes of action a night and leads the Panthers with 56 hits. He was originally selected in the first round (3rd overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
The third in Florida’s collection of early first rounders, Huberdeau continues to develop after being selected 3rd overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The reigning Calder Trophy winner has five goals and 11 points in 22 games to start his sophomore season.