The Florida Panthers announced some changes to the roster after the team practiced this afternoon. Neither of them came as a surprise to many, as both involved rookies whom general manager Dale Tallon has said all along he does not want to rush.
The first announcement coach Kevin Dineen made involved rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Last year, Gudbranson had a good camp, and while there was talk about him being on the starting roster then, he could not come to a contract agreement with the Panthers and was sent back to juniors. This year, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound defensive force signed an entry level contract in the summer. His hard work paid off once again, earning him a chance to start the season with the Panthers.
“He’s ready to contribute to our lineup,” Dineen said. Gudbranson will make his NHL debut on Saturday against the New York Islanders. He could be sent back to his junior team after 9 games of “tryout,” but it’s more likely the Panthers will stick with Gudbranson.
On the other hand, rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, who has had an outstanding camp, has reached the end of the road for his 2011-12 professional season. Huberdeau led the Panthers with three goals and an assist in five pre-season games, but it was just not enough to warrant an entry-level contract.
“It was real tempting,” Tallon told reporters. “He’s 173 pounds. I think in his heart, he knows he needs to grow stronger.”
While Huberdeau comes in at 6-foot-1, his weight issue has been a concern. He is a good, hard, fast skater with incredible hockey sense. However, over the course of a season, as Tallon says, “You’ve got 220-pound, 30-year-old guys leaning on him, and [as]you go deeper into the season, [there is] more vulnerability as far as getting hurt.”
“I’m not that big and I don’t want to get hurt this year,” said Huberdeau, the 18-year old third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He admitted that he felt outmuscled by veterans and will work on getting stronger during the 2011-12 Junior season. After the meeting, Huberdeau tweeted:
“Thanks for all the support !! Enjoyed my time in south Florida !! I’ll be back next year”
Huberdeau returns to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Last season, he led the Sea Dogs to their first Memorial Cup, scoring 43 goals for the club. Barring any setbecks over the Junior season, he should be a shoe-in for the 2012-13 Panthers club.
- The Panthers will likely make their final roster cuts tomorrow. We will have the complete roster here on InsideHockey.com when it is announced.