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Florida Panthers Top-10 Moments of the 2016-17 Season

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

SUNRISE, Fla. - The season is over, but plenty of still memories remain.

From the continued excellence of a 45-year-old, mullet-sporting legend to the emergence of a new 30-goal scorer, the Florida Panthers certainly had their fair share of surprises this past season. There were ups and there were downs, but through it all the team stuck together, plucking the positive from the negative as they prepare to once again take the NHL by storm in 2017-18.

"This is some of the best young talent that I've ever had an opportunity to play with," Panthers Captain Derek MacKenzie said. "Not only are they great players on the ice, but they're great people off the ice. Through all of the ups and downs and the things that went on this year, it was the young guys that kept things together and kept us rolling. 

"The Barkovs, the Ekblads, the Trochecks -- I know I'm forgetting a bunch of the young guys -- but all those guys are going to be good players. I know they're going to come back in and be ready to go. We just need to be ready to go when the puck drops in October."

But, before we can move ahead, we must first look back.  

With that in mind, here are the top-10 moments from Florida's 2016-17 campaign.

10. MacKenzie Named Captain at West Point

The Panthers scored three second-period goals on just eight shots to secure a big 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils in their final tune-up of the preseason at Tate Rink in West Point, New York, on Oct. 8.

The biggest news, however, came the following day, as veteran center Derek MacKenzie, who signed a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2018-19 season over the summer, was named the ninth captain in franchise history during a special private ceremony at the historic military academy. 

"Derek embodies the type of character and work ethic we want a Florida Panther to possess," Panthers president of hockey operations Dale Tallon said. "He is a respected leader both on and off the ice in this organization and within the South Florida community. We are very excited to move forward with Derek as our team's captain."

Video: Derek MacKenzie named captain

9. Franchise-First Fathers Trip 

The Panthers had plenty of proud papas in tow during their two-game road trip to New York and New Jersey in January, as 15 players were able to bring their dads along for the ride as part of the franchise's first-ever Fathers Trip.

"My dad's been a big part of my life," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "Not only in my daily life outside of hockey, but inside of hockey he's taught me just about everything I know, despite not having the experience that some guys have had playing some higher levels of hockey. He taught me quite a bit and it's got me to this point I think."

In addition to attending practices and workouts, the fathers also watched their sons capture a big pair of victories -- a 3-0 shutout win against the New Jersey Devils and a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders - during a perfect 2-0-0 road trip under their parental supervision.

"It's been an interesting, enlightening experience to see what they go through," said Ekblad's father, Dave. "The routine, the regimen, the video and the whole process, it's been very, very interesting. I met a lot of great guys, great kids with great parents. It's been a lot of fun."

Video: Fathers Trip Feature

8. Sceviour ends Florida's hat-trick drought

Colton Sceviour scored three goals -- one at even strength, one on the power play and one short-handed - to lead the Panthers to a 5-2 victory over the Red Wings on Oct. 30.

"That was exciting; I can't even remember the last hat trick I scored," Sceviour said. "I can't take too much credit, though. I think all three goals were shots from the blue (the crease)."

An under-the-radar signing during the summer, Sceviour's hat trick was the first by a Panthers skater since Tomas Kopecky in February of 2013 and the first without the aid of an empty-net goal since Nathan Horton in December of 2009.

"All three of my goals came inside the blue [crease] when I ended up shooting it,'' Sceviour said. "A great play by Trocheck gave me a wide-open net and the other [goals] were also great plays. I just happened to be the guy in front of the net who benefitted from them.''

Video: FLA@DET: Sceviour tallies first career hat trick

7. Huberdeau Returns to the Lineup

After sitting out the first 51 games of the season, Jonathan Huberdeau returned from injury to score the game-winning goal in Florida's 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 3.

Huberdeau, who had a game-high six shots on goal, gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead with 4:58 left in the second after taking a pass from Aleksander Barkov and firing it past Ducks goaltender John Gibson.

"I had a lot of fun out there. It wasn't my best game. I was a little tired at the end,'' said Huberdeau, who was the game's team-appointed MVP. "For first game I'm pretty happy for myself and the team. That's a good team on the other side. [James Reimer] made some huge saves at the end. It felt good to be back with the guys.''

Huberdeau, 23, went on to finish the season with 26 points (10-16-26) in 31 games.

Video: ANA@FLA: Huberdeau scores in season debut

6. Olli Jokinen Retires as a Panther

Olli Jokinen, who spent seven seasons in Florida and four of them serving as team captain, signed an honorary contract to officially retire as a member of the Panthers on March 7, giving one of the franchise's all-time greats a fitting end to what was certainly a formidable career.

"My heart has always been with the Panthers organization and now I feel like my career has come full circle," Jokinen said. "I am extremely grateful that I had the chance to play hockey in South Florida and help the sport grow. 

"I want to thank my family - my wife Katerina and my daughters Alexandra, Emma and Keira - and all of the fans, teammates, coaches and staff who have supported me throughout my career."

Originally selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round (third overall) of the 1997 NHL Draft, Jokinen was acquired by the Panthers along with goaltender Roberto Luongo from the New York Islanders on June 24, 2000 in exchange for forwards Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha.

After arriving to the Panthers, Jokinen evolved from a 20-point player into one of the league's top offensive threats, accumulating a franchise-record 419 points (188-231-419) in 567 games, while also recording the most game-winning goals (36), overtime goals (10), power play points (153) and shots (1,837) in Florida's history.

Video: NYR@FLA: Panthers celebrate Jokinen's career

5. Trocheck Named to All-Star Game

Vincent Trocheck made himself right at home in Hollywood, recording a goal and three assists while proudly representing the Panthers at his first-career NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles on Jan. 29.

"It's been a blast," Trocheck, 23, said of All-Star Weekend. "Never in a million years did I think I'd be here right now. It's kind of fun watching everybody; I'm kind of in awe; a little bit starstruck. It's nice to be a fan every time I was on the bench even in the skills competition as well I was watching everybody go out there and do the thing they do. It's pretty exciting.''

At the time of his nomination, Trocheck, who signed a six-year contract extension over the summer, had been nothing short of speculator for the injury-plagued Panthers, leading the team in goals (12), hits (104) and faceoff wins (453), while also averaging the most ice time (21:35) among the team's forwards.

"A lot of times this game just comes down to work ethic," said Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad, "and (Trocheck's) got it. ...We're really excited for him and we're grateful to have a player like that. We should all try to match what he brings every night."

Video: 2017 NHL All-Star Interview: Vincent Trocheck

4. Marchessault Scores No. 30

After playing just 49 games over his first three seasons in the league, Jonathan Marchessault's story officially went from feel-good to phenomenal when the 26-year-old forward tallied his 30th goal of the season in a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on April 4.

"It's great," Marchessault said after the game. "I've played with great players here."

One of the best bargains in the entire NHL, Marchessault, who signed a two-year, $1.5 million contract over the summer, became Florida's first 30-goal scorer since David Booth tallied 31 in 2008-09.

"I'm confident," Marchessault said. "I'm happy with what I did this year. I'm not the kind of guy that takes a year off. I'm going to come ready to play next year and do the same thing."

Video: MTL@FLA: Marchessault stays patient to pot 30th goal

3. Luongo Wins No. 448

Roberto Luongo earned the 448th win of his career in a 3-0 shutout victory over the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 9, moving the 38-year-old goaltender past Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk for sole possession of fifth place on the NHL's all-time list.

"I love the game and I still feel like I can play at a high level," Luongo said after cleaning out his locker at the BB&T Center in April.

Luongo, who went on to finish the season with 453 victories, will enter the 2017-18 season needing just two more wins to once again move up the ladder and supplant Curtis Joseph, who sits fourth all-time at 454.

Video: FLA@NJD: Luongo becomes fifth in all-time wins 

2. Jagr Passes Messier

Jaromir Jagr made history once again when he passed Mark Messier to claim sole possession of second place on the NHL's all-time scoring list, earning the 1,888th point of his legendary career with an assist in Florida's 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Dec. 23.

The historic point came with 6:40 left in regulation, when Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson fired a shot towards Boston's net, with the puck clipping Jagr's rear-end and hitting Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask before bouncing onto the stick of Aleskander Barkov, who scored Florida's lone goal of the game.

"I feel it," Jagr said of the play. "During my hockey career, even if (the puck) hits you, they don't give it to you. I'm not the guy that's going to tell (the referees) 'it hit me,' so we have to wait for everybody to say it's ok. It would have been kind of embarrassing if we celebrated and then have them say it didn't hit him."

After a short review, play was stopped and Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie presented Jagr with a golden stick to commemorate his amazing achievement.

"I was dreaming about something else," said Jagr, who has six goals and 15 assists in 37 games this season. "I thought I was going to score a beautiful goal, beautiful assist."

A veteran of 23 NHL seasons, Jagr recorded point No. 1,888 in his 1,663rd game. Messier hit his total of 1,887 in 1,756 games. Wayne Gretzky holds the NHL's all-time points mark with 2,857, which he accomplished in just 1,487 games played.

Video: Jagr takes over second all-time in NHL points (1,888)

1. Panthers Wallop West Coast

While both Luongo and Jagr's individual milestones could be considered more important in the grand scheme of things, let's not forget that hockey is, first and foremost, a team sport. So, keeping that in mind, it's only fitting that the best moment from the 2016-17 season recognizes a team achievement.

With their season on the line, the Panthers were able to claw their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture by cruising through what was expected to be an extremely difficult five-game swing out West in late-February.

The Panthers began their trek by scoring a total of 20 goals in wins over Nashville (7-4), San Jose (6-5 OT), Anaheim (4-1) and Los Angeles (3-2) before edging St. Louis on a last-second goal by Vincent Trocheck to complete the franchise's first-ever 5-0-0 road trip.

"We knew going in the game it would be a 5-0 road trip. We knew how big these games were for us with the playoff race so tight,'' Trocheck said after the game. "We played great all five games and I think we're hitting our stride now. … It's always nice to go undefeated.''

Video: FLA@STL: Trocheck tallies late go-ahead goal

What were your favorite moments from 2016-17? Let us know!

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