It should already be known that the Florida Panthers are one of, if not the hottest team in the league currently.
Through 14 games that have entertained, the Panthers have made it clear that they’re here to win a championship, not to play around. So far, the Bill Zito era as general manager is prevailing and he has a lot to be proud of.
If the season were to end today, here would be the Panthers’ nominations for the following awards.
Record Through 14 Games: 10-2-2 (1ST Place Central Division)
While some teams have already played 20 games, Florida has only played in 14 in a little over a month. That’s due to the cancellation of games between their opening series against the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes. All four of these postponed games have been rescheduled.
Through the first quarter of 2021, Florida is tied for 13th in the league in goals scored (43), while only ranking 15th in goals allowed (39). The reason why their goal difference is so slight with +4 is because the Panthers have seen a lot of extra time on the ice, playing five games that needed overtime or shootouts.
Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player): LW Jonathan Huberdeau (7G, 13A)
Before the 2021 season kicked off, the NHL set an over/under of 56 points for Panthers alternate captain Jonathan Huberdeau. If Huberdeau were to continue this rate, he would finish the season with 80 points. And if this were a regular season with 82 games, Huberdeau would be predicted to finish with around 117 points.
Huberdeau has played as well as any left winger in the NHL, as he’s earned the most points amongst the position group. He’s also tied for third in total assists amongst left-wingers. Two teammates Jonathan Huberdeau should really thank are his line-mates RW Patric Hornqvist and C Alex Wennberg. Both Hornqvist and Wennberg have combined for 20 Points (10G, 10A).
Not only is Huberdeau one of the most exciting players this season, but he’s also playing a vital role in the NHL’s most electric forward line.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (Defenseman of the Year): Aaron Ekblad (4G, 5A)
Ekblad, the Panthers’ top defenseman, is on track to finish the 2021 regular season with 36 points, which would mark one of the best seasons in his career. Ekblad’s aggressive pairing has led to his success, and the combination of speed with the first forward line of Florida — made up of C Aleksander Barkov, RW Carter Verhaeghe, and LW Anthony Duclair — and the aggression that his co-defenseman Mackenzie Weegar plays with makes a perfect combination for Ekblad to fit perfectly into the line.
Vezina Trophy (Goalie of the Year): G Chris Driedger (2.39 GAA, .925 SV%; 5-1-1 Record)
Driedger has proven to be one of the best backup goaltenders in the NHL. Currently, Driedger is in a slight cold streak, but has basically been a brick wall for Florida. His numbers are among some of the league’s highest marks, as he sits 19th in save percentage and tied for eighth in goals-against average among all active NHL goalies with at least one game played.
If Driedger can get back to his hot start, fans may see him between the pipes for more games than expected.