As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. Fantasy-relevant players are listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. Today, we look at the Florida Panthers.
[PANTHERS 31 in 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the numbers | More team fantasy previews]
Aleksander Barkov, C -- Many believed Barkov would have a breakout season in 2016-17. Unfortunately, injuries had other plans. Barkov was productive when healthy, scoring 52 points (21 goals, 31 assists) with 14 power-play points and 142 shots on goal. The problem is he played 61 games. Heading into this season, the Florida Panthers have a lot of questions at forward after the departures of Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokinen. Barkov doesn't cover enough categories to be a viable pick among the top 50, so only draft him if he free falls.
Video: 31 in 31: Florida Panthers 2017-18 season preview
Vincent Trocheck, C -- Despite not making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Panthers found out that Trocheck's breakout 2015-16 season was no mirage. He followed it up by setting NHL career highs in points (54) and SOG (230), finishing with 23 goals, 31 assists and 12 PPP in 82 games. He exceeded his ADP (161) by finishing 112th in Yahoo, even with a minus-13 rating. His linemates may be different, but you should expect the same type of production this season, making Trocheck a decent bench filler.
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW -- Following two straight seasons of at least 54 points, a leg injury forced Huberdeau to miss 51 games last season. However, his pace was encouraging. Had Huberdeau played a full season, he would have finished with around 68 points and 227 SOG, each being NHL career highs. The Panthers' roster overhaul hurts, but Huberdeau should still play with Barkov and newcomer Evgeny Dadonov on the top line and PP unit, and has plenty of sleeper potential as a bounce-back candidate.
Video: BUF@FLA: Huberdeau finishes PPG from inside the net
Keith Yandle -- The consensus on Yandle heading into last season was the move to Florida would do wonders for his fantasy stock. That didn't come to fruition because of injuries to the Panthers roster, and Yandle finished with his lowest point total (41) in a full NHL season since 2009-10 with the Phoenix Coyotes. Yandle's shooting percentage has declined the past four seasons (2.9 percent combined on 811 SOG). Be careful when selecting Yandle, but realize he has top 15 potential at his position.
Aaron Ekblad -- A big reason why Yandle had a down season is because of Ekblad, who outside of his shot volume was among the biggest busts in Yahoo in 2016-17. After being drafted 79.9 on average, Ekblad finished 291st overall (53rd among defensemen). But there's reason to believe he'll bounce back. Ekblad had 10 goals on 225 SOG (4.4 percent) after averaging 7.65 percent shooting in his first two seasons. If that number deviates back to the mean, Ekblad has the potential to finish top 5 in goals among defensemen.
Video: NYR@FLA: Ekblad wrists home PPG to cut into deficit
Roberto Luongo -- He isn't getting any younger. Luongo, 38, appeared in 40 games (39 starts) for the Panthers last season, his lowest total in a full season since he was a rookie in 1999-00. He missed chunks of 2016-17 because of a lower-body injury and it's unlikely he'll start 60-plus games this season. Florida doesn't seem to be trending in the right direction, so avoiding Luongo may be the best course of action.
Video: FLA@PHI: Luongo turns away Weal's drive to the net
James Reimer -- Should Luongo get injured (and even if he doesn't), Reimer will likely play an increased role this season. He was signed to a five-year contract last offseason to be the goalie-in-waiting behind Luongo and played well in his place, finishing 18-16-5 with a .920 save percentage and three shutouts in 43 games (39 starts). Reimer is a necessary handcuff to Luongo and has plenty of upside should Florida improve.
Others to consider: Evgeny Dadonov (LW/RW), Radim Vrbata (RW), Michael Matheson (D), Nick Bjugstad (C), Denis Malgin (C/RW)