Welcome to Florida Panthers: State of the Union, where we talk all things Panthers hockey.
Mike Lewis is the voice behind the State of the Union and each week will look to bring some insight from analysts and Panthers media personalities.
This week’s guest, Florida Panthers television color analyst and Hockey Hall of Famer, Denis Potvin.
ML: A lot to talk about in the world of Panthers hockey, but the big story is Nick Bjugstad. Leading the team in goals, points and shots on goal, the 22-year old center has earned himself a long-term contract. With a six-year deal in place now with Bjugstad what does this tell you about not only Bjugstad’s commitment to the Panthers but the organization’s commitment to the future?
DP: I think it was kind of a no-brainer. You’ve got a couple of guys up the middle like Aleksander Barkov and Bjugstad that are really the example to the NHL for what you want to draft and what you want to be able to accomplish in creating a core for your hockey team, guys that are going to be around a long time. And certainly Dale Tallon the General Manager, made mention of other players like Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau, guys that are going to be a part of this team or at least look like it for the coming little while. Bjugstad was going to be a restricted free agent, [it was] very important to get a negotiation in and to get the deal done and we have only seen the surface of what guys like Bjugstad and Barkov can offer.
ML: Lets’ talk a bit about the emergence of Jimmy Hayes, the big winger was a bit of an enigma this season, mostly around what type of role he may play for the team this year. Wednesday night against the Rangers and his younger brother Kevin, Jimmy tied his career-high in goals with his 11th of the year. Last year he scored 11 in 55 games, this year he’s done it in 27 games. What have you seen out of Hayes this year and how he’s developed as a player?
DP: It’s one of the things that answers a lot of questions. You get a big, strong player that you think might turn into a power forward and [now you have] a Jimmy Hayes who’s now 25 years old and that’s an age where a lot of players start developing. I mean, Hayes has now played a number of games in the NHL, I think he’s only got about 125 games played in the NHL. So again, that is a measure by which I always say, when a guy gets to 300 games he really gets it figured out. But Jimmy has a couple of things going for him right now. Early in the season he was a healthy scratch, I think he got the message of what it is he has to do. Jimmy Hayes has a game that is rather simple but most important, is the fact that he is a big body, he hits people and gets to the front of the net. That is invaluable for guys that who are more skilled, who need some room to maneuver, a guy like Hayes will give it to them on a night-to-night basis. Being able to pick what they call those ‘garbage goals’ around the net, every great team has had one of those and Hayes is turning into one of those guys you can count on picking up rebounds and whatnot tight in the crease.
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