With the opening of Florida Panthers training camp, goaltender Jacob Markstrom was expected to transition from prized prospect into a franchise goaltender. Considering he started 15 of the team's last 18 games last season, his place as the team's No. 1 goaltender coming into camp was never in doubt.
But Florida's goaltending picture shifted with the announcement that two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas had accepted a professional tryout (PTO) and would be attending camp. In his first comments regarding Thomas' arrival, Markstrom sounded eager to learn from the decorated goaltender who took a year off from the game to spend more time with his family.
"He's been through a lot. He played in Europe and was successful there and was very successful in Boston and won the Cup there," Markstrom said. "He's got a lot of experience. So hopefully I can learn a lot from him."
Markstrom should be fairly familiar with Thomas' exploits, which include being named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after leading the Boston Bruins to a championship in 2011. Before coming to the NHL, Thomas starred in net for a number of teams in the Finnish and Swedish Elite League. At the time, Markstrom was a young boy growing up in Gavle, Sweden.
Thomas is not expected to suit up for the Panthers in a preseason game for at least another week. Upon his arrival, Florida coach Kevin Dineen laid out a plan to take his time integrating Thomas into camp. But regardless of how far along Thomas is in his return to game action, Markstrom is looking forward to the challenge.
"It's the best league in the world. It's not supposed to be easy. It's going to be a fun experience and I'm really excited," said Markstrom, who still plans on being the team's No. 1 goaltender in the 2013-14 season. "The goal is still the same. I want to play most of the games this year. It doesn't matter who they bring in. But competition is good."