The Panthers faithful were loud and proud at the Panthers IceDen this past weekend for FanFest. This year’s FanFest officially kicked off Saturday at 10am following the first day of training camp for the 2014-15 season. Through Saturday and Sunday, each morning began with a practice, followed by an intra-squad scrimmage, giving many fans a look at some of the newest Panthers on the roster.
One of the new Panthers in town is Finnish winger, Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen who signed with Florida on July 1, brings speed and skill to the Panthers’ offense as he comes off a 57 point (21-36-57) campaign with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I like the potential of this team,” said Jokinen.
“There’s lots of great young players coming up. We already have some good veterans on the team and a world class goalie in Roberto Luongo and I think one of the best power play defensemen in Brian Campbell.”
Another big part of the Panthers offense this year, will be last year’s team scoring leader, Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad spent his summer in Minnesota working out and skating with some of the NHL’s best, including Zach Parise, Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek. Bjugstad now looks to build off of last year’s success and learn from some of the veteran centers the Panthers have brought in.
“It’s fortunate we’re deep very down the center,” said Bjugstad.
“I think guys like Dave Bolland and Derek MacKenzie are going to be really good mentors for guys like me, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Drew Shore. It’s a really good thing, it’s competitive and they seem like great guys in the locker room. So I think it’ll be good all around for the young guys”.
Adding to the new faces in South Florida is Panthers Head Coach, Gerard Gallant. Gallant watched the scrimmage intently and walked away with many positives about his team heading into the preseason.
“It’s nice to see three or four goals in a scrimmage,” said Gallant
“We’re not disappointed with anybody out there. They worked hard, they competed hard”.
Aside from the Panthers time on the ice, Season Seat Owners had the chance to skate with the Panthers coaching staff and alumni following the practice on Saturday, while fans were also offered an interactive experience through a roundtable discussion hosted by Panthers Radio Play-by-Play announcer, Randy Moller. The roundtable featured the FOX Sports Florida broadcasting team including, play-by-play announcer Steve Goldstein, Color Analyst Denis Potvin and Analyst Bill Lindsay talking all things Panthers.
After a packed house all weekend for FanFest, it came to a close Sunday afternoon with an autograph session. The session included all 51 skaters at training camp, as fans got a chance to meet and chat with their favorite Cats.
While FanFest may be over, Training Camp is still in full swing. Optimism and positivity surround the team as sights turn towards the task at hand this season. Winger, Tomas Fleischmann has led Florida in scoring for two of his three seasons with the team and is itching to start playing again. Fleischmann has put last season behind him and is looking forward to getting the ball rolling again and make a return to the playoffs.
“I’ve got to say, I feel a little bit of excitement about this year. A lot of new guys, new faces. We’re excited to play,” said Fleischmann.
Panthers preseason begins Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 7:30pm as they take on the Dallas Stars.