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Countdown 29: Will A Rookie Make An Impact?

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
The Panthers 2010-11 season is fastly approaching and with that, is taking a look at the top ten questions, players to watch and games of the season on a countdown to the home opener on October 16th against Tampa Bay. We'll unveil one of the top ten on a rotating basis each day to help fans get ready for what hopes to be an exciting season.

In today's topic, we take a closer look at wether or not a rookie will have an impact this season in our Top 10 Questions Of The Season.


Season Player Stats
09-10 Dmitry Kulikov* 68 games, 16 pts
09-10 Shawn Matthias 55 games, 16 pts
09-10 Jason Garrison 39 games, 8 pts
09-10 Victor Oreskovich* 50 games, 6 pts
08-09 Michael Frolik* 79 games, 45 pts
07-08 Kamil Kreps 76 games, 25 pts
06-07 David Booth* 48 games, 10 pts
05-06 Rostislav Olesz* 59 games, 21 pts
05-06 Gregory Campbell 64 games, 9 pts
03-04 Nathan Horton* 55 games, 22 pts
02-03 Stephen Weiss* 77 games, 21 pts
02-03 Jay Bouwmeester* 82 games, 16 pts
01-02 Kristian Huselius* 79 games, 45 pts
01-02 Niklas Hagman* 78 games, 28 pts
00-01 Dennis Svidki* 43 games, 16 pts
00-01 Serge Payer* 43 games, 6 pts
99-00 Ryan Johnson 66 games, 16 pts
98-99 Mark Parrish* 73 games, 37 pts
98-99 Oleg Kvasha* 68 games, 25 pts
98-99 Jaroslav Spacek* 63 games, 15 pts
98-99 Peter Worrell 62 games, 9 pts
97-98 Steve Washburn 58 games, 19 pts
96-97 Nemirovsky 39 games, 14 pts
95-96 Radek Dvorak* 77 games, 27 pts
95-96 Ed Jovanovski* 70 games, 21 pts
93-94 Jesse Belanger* 70 games, 50 pts
93-94 Rob Niedermayer* 65 games, 26 pts
93-94 Paul Laus* 39 games, 2 pts
* Played in NHL in first professional season
It seems to happen every single season with the Panthers; a rookie makes an impact that season with the squad.

The Panthers have had a rookie in NHL terms (whether they be a first year pro or a third or fourth year pro) step up and play considerable minutes and contributing both offensively in 15 of 16 seasons (at least 35 plus games). From Jesse Belanger and Rob Niedermayer during the inaugural season to Radek Dvorak and Ed Jovanovski during the Stanley Cup run year to David Booth, Michael Frolik and Dmitry Kulikov most recently, players who weren't counted on, surpassed the expectations and helped the team.

While some players might have been rushed into the league due to a lack of talent on the squad to begin with, others have earned that spot.

"We've put a lot of young guys in the lineup over the last two or three years," said head coach Peter DeBoer. "Frolik has not only stepped in the lineup but played big minutes for us. Kulikov stepped in the lineup and played big minutes."

This year's crop of hopeful first year rookies are impressive. From the likes of number three overall pick Erik Gudbranson on defense along with Colby Robak and Adam Comrie to forwards Quinton Howden, John McFarland, AJ Jenks and Scott Timmins and goaltender Jacob Markstrom, there's plenty of players that could become the next Frolik and Kulikov. That doesn't even include the rookies who are in their second or third years professionally but haven't played enough NHL games and are still considered NHL rookies. There you have the likes of Michael Grabner and Evgeny Dadonov among others.

"I think I can play in this League," said Markstrom. "Every day I want to go there and I want to practice hard and I want to be between the pipes instead of Vokoun. That's the goal. That's why I'm here. I want to play in the NHL."

"I think that I'm in a position where I have an opportunity to make the National Hockey League," said Gudbranson. "That's what I want to do, but I also understand that's a big jump from junior. If I did go back, that's not necessarily the worst thing ever. Another year of development in junior isn't bad. Nonetheless, my goal is to make the National Hockey League."

This year could be tough for the rookies to make an impact. There are nine forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders all on one-way contracts which means they'll have to earn the job and take it away from someone else.

"I think as we get more depth in the organization, it's going to be tougher to do that," said DeBoer of young rookies stepping in. "I think that's a good thing.

"If a guy's obviously ready and obviously earns a job, Dale's made it clear that he'll be here but we're not going to force any body in and I know we're not going to be in a position where we need to because we need that spot. We've got enough depth now that I think guys are going to have to earn their spot."

So will a rookie make an impact this season? With the injuries and young players adjusting to the pro game quicker, the crystal ball says yes. But then again it's hard to say in an 82-game season.
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