Florida Panthers: Team Awards
Despite a hard fought last 10 weeks of the regular season, the Florida Panthers found themselves outside the playoff picture. Much will be discussed over the next two months in preparation for the Entry Draft and free agency, and no doubt, this team has a depth problem that needs to be solved. However, let's take a moment to celebrate the achievements of individuals who will surely play a part in the future success of the Panthers.
Florida Panthers' Calder Trophy for rookie of the year...MacKenzie Weegar
MacKenzie Weegar was able to fill a role on the third pairing and provide the Panthers with solid minutes and had positive possession stats. He wasn't able to put up big numbers (2 goals, 6 assists in 60 games), and the Panthers organization would love to see him grow into a better puck moving defenseman like he was able to do in the AHL, but his development is on track to give the Cats steady minutes for the next handful of years.
Nothing sexy about this particular pick, but the Panthers didn't really have many first year pros. The only other rookies to play more than 30 games were center Connor Brickley (4 goals, 8 assists in 44 games) and fellow d-man Ian McCoshen (3 goals, 1 assist in 38 games). Next year there is hope that Panthers first round pick in 2017, Owen Tippett and 2016 first rounder Henrik Borgstrom can both make the team out of training camp.
Florida Panthers' Norris Trophy for best defenseman...Keith Yandle
Yandle fell one point shy of tying Robert Svehla and Brian Campbell for the most points in a season by a Florida Panthers defenseman. It was also the first time since 2013-14 that Yandle topped 50 points (he had 56 this year).
His resurgence was, in large part, a microcosm of the team's resurgence in late February, as he finished the season with 31 points in 35 games. His contract was seen as a burden at the beginning of the season, now the Panthers will hope he can be a big part in moving this team forward and into the playoffs in 2018-19.
Florida Panther's Vezina Trophy for best goaltender...Roberto Luongo
This one is pretty obvious. Despite James Reimer having a solid second half, if it weren't for Luongo, there would've been no second half because the Panthers would've been in last place after December. At a .929 save percentage, Luongo proved he still has some left in the tank, but after only playing 35 games, will need to avoid long stretches of consecutive games.
Florida Panther's Selke Trophy for best defensive forward...Aleksander Barkov
The Panthers second overall pick in 2012 has proven he's a force. Patrice Bergeron will lose a Selke trophy to Barkov when all is said and done, and may be the next consistent winner of the trophy. Barkov took 60% of his faceoffs in the defensive zone, and still had a Corsi of 51.9. That is phenomenal. Barkov does everything right, makes his teammates better and is the consummate leader for the Cats.
Florida Panther's Hart Trophy for MVP...Vincent Trocheck
While Barkov would probably be most people's choice for MVP, Trocheck deserves legitimate consideration as well. The reason Trocheck was this season's most valuable player is because his linemates were nothing short of under par for the majority of the season. It wasn't until Jonathan Huberdeau appeared on his wing that the balance of power was evened out.
Trocheck proved he was the ultimate professional, putting up with less than wingers and still putting up great numbers (15 goals through December). Not to mention winning more than 54% of his faceoffs and taking a majority of those in the defensive zone. Leading the Panthers with 31 goals, Trocheck may not be the obvious choice, but he's the right one.
In the weeks to come, we'll explore what options the Panthers have in the upcoming Entry Draft and what they may do in free agency. Until then, enjoy watching the playoffs!