It’s appropriate because there are clearly better days ahead for this franchise, spurred on by some of the talented youth you saw on display in Tampa on Saturday evenings.
Jonathan Huberdeau had three assists, Nick Bjugstad scored his first NHL goal, Jacob Markstrom had 28 saves and the win. Drew Shore notched an assist, and Alex Petrovic had a fighting major and nearly 20 minutes of ice time.
As Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde wrote in his column, it was a bit of a trial by fire for many of our young players. But there is no doubt they will learn from this season’s challenges, and grow in to the players, and the team, we all expect them to be.
There is a reason that major media outlets have ranked the Panthers’ youngsters as the best crop of talent in the NHL, and we saw those reasons on full display on Saturday night.
So now it is time to turn the page, to look forward, and it’s certainly not too early to get excited about next season. We got our first chance to look forward last night, when the NHL Draft Lottery told us we will be picking second in June’s extremely deep and talented NHL Entry Draft.
It was a packed house as Panthers fans got to enjoy the Draft Lottery amongst their fellow supporters, as well as Erik Gudbranson, Stanley C. Panther and Billy Lindsay, at Duffy’s Plantation that included specials, giveaways, and more.
While it was unfortunate to not get the first overall pick, holding the second pick will set the stage for what will be an exciting offseason where GM Dale Tallon and his staff will add more youth and talent to our roster, while many of our skilled veterans get healthy and prepare to hit the ground running once training camp begins in September.
We are primed for a quick turnaround, and expect to be back contending for a Stanley Cup Playoffs spot once again. That said, I have to commend the support we received from our incredible fans all season long.
Coming out of a work stoppage, with a shortened and condensed schedule, and a team that did not perform to expectations, it would have been easy for our fans to stay away.
Yet we still averaged nearly 17,000 fans per game at the BB&T Center this season – an increase over last season – with some of the biggest crowds in the history of this franchise. That’s quite a statement about the passion and energy of Panthers fans here in South Florida, and every one of our fans deserves our humble thanks and praise.
So on behalf of our entire organization I want to thank all of our fans for their support this season. We look forward to staying in touch with you all summer long through a variety of new fan outreach initiatives, as well as at events like last night and our Draft Party and cookouts.
It may still be April, but I for one am already looking forward to Opening Night 2013. Thanks for reading and go Panthers.