As I broadcast the Panthers' Western Conference road games, the Cats continue to make strides and improve their overall game. One aspect is the importance of puck poccession and the role of "big center men" in the team's success.
Consistently top NHL teams have three key ingredients:
1) Solid goaltending
2) A puck moving, minute gobbling defenseman
3) Minimum two big centermen
Big centermen control the puck in the offensive zone and ultimately control the game.
In the past, Panthers have struggled with the likes of Jason Spezza (Ottawa), Eric Staal (Carolina), and Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) for example. Throw in some dominant Western Conference "puck hogs" like Jonathan Towes (Chicago), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim) and Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles) and you get the idea; big up the middle and you win championships.
Right now the Panthers are creating their own "pillars of puck control". Watch the emergence of the Cat's Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, newly acquired six foot, six inch Jimmy Hayes and Shawn Matthias. Along with Drew Shore and Quinton Howden who are gaining strength and experience down in San Antonio, the Panthers should be solid up front, especially in "the middle" for many years.
Just more pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle. The parts are there folks, enjoy watching them develop.