NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Florida Panthers.
[PANTHERS 31 in 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Replacing lost scoring
The Florida Panthers lost four of their top six scoring forwards from last season: Jonathan Marchessault (51 points), Jaromir Jagr (46), Reilly Smith (37) and Jussi Jokinen (28). To replace them, Florida signed the highest-scoring free agent forward, Radim Vrbata, who had 55 points (20 goals, 35 assists) in 81 games for the Arizona Coyotes. The Panthers also signed two of the highest-scoring forwards in Europe from last season, Henrik Haapala, who led Finland's SM-liiga with 60 points (15 goals, 45 assists) in 51 games, and Evgeni Dadonov, who was fifth in the Kontinental Hockey League with 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) in 53 games.
Will Haapala and Dadonov be able to translate that success to the NHL? Based on the average change in scoring from those leagues to the NHL, players are expected to retain 45.8 percent from SM-Liiga and 76.7 percent from the KHL.
That means Haapala could score 42 points in a full NHL season (82 games), and Dadonov could score 78. Consider that a best-case scenario for Dadonov, whose previous KHL best was the equivalent of 48 points in the NHL.
Video: 31 in 31: Florida Panthers 2017-18 season preview
2. Offensive defensemen
In terms of player deployment, Florida's most interesting choice is on defense. Most teams use at least one of its top two defensemen in a shutdown role, or in a prominent two-way fashion, but the Panthers employ Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle predominantly in the offensive zone and against secondary opponents.
In Ekblad's first three NHL seasons, he has started 1,408 of his 5-on-5 shifts in the offensive zone and 999 in the defensive zone, for a zone-start percent of 58.43. That ranks 10th among the 198 defensemen who played at least 100 NHL games in that span; Yandle ranks seventh at 59.62 percent.
Ekblad has averaged 2:48 per game on the power play and 0:39 shorthanded. Yandle has averaged 3:17 and 0:37.
Video: CAR@FLA: Yandle's pass attempt deflects into the net
3. Penalty killing
Despite assigning most shorthanded duties to secondary defensemen Mark Pysyk (2:50 per game) and Michael Matheson (2:35) and forwards Derek MacKenzie (2:15) and Colton Sceviour (2:00), Florida was among the League's most effective at killing penalties last season.
The Panthers killed 85.3 percent, second behind the Boston Bruins (85.7 percent).
Florida allowed 85.61 shot attempts per 60 minutes, which ranked third behind the Carolina Hurricanes (77.74) and Washington Capitals (82.22), according to Natural Stat Trick. The Panthers' shorthanded save percentage of .899 was second to the Anaheim Ducks (.901).
Video: FLA@TBL: Pysyk buries blistering shot through traffic