The first calendar month of the NHL season is wrapping up, and it couldn’t have gone much better for the Panthers. They’ve been taking care of business all month, sporting a perfect 7-0-0 record and slowing down for nobody. With October coming to a close, I’d like to introduce a new monthly series, where I take a look at the Panthers’ “stock market”. At the end of every month, I’ll talk about 2-3 players whose stock have increased over the past month of play, and 2-3 players whose stock have decreased.
If a player’s stock increases, it means that they exceeded the expectations they had over the last month. If a player’s stock decreases, it means exactly the opposite‒the player disappointed in one way or another and failed to live up to their potential over the last few weeks.
Stock Up: Anthony Duclair
After signing a three year extension in Florida during the offseason, Anthony Duclair had found his long term home, but his role on the team going forward was a question mark. The acquisition of Sam Reinhart pushed Duclair down the lineup, and he began the season on the fourth line. Duclair’s stellar play to start the year gave the coaching staff no choice but to move him up in the lineup. After scoring in back-to-back games to open the season, Duclair was quickly bumped up to the top line, where he was reunited with former linemates Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov. Duclair didn’t stop there. His speed and creativity have contributed to the top line’s continued success. Duclair leads the team with five goals, including a few highlight reel moves.
Stock Down: Frank Vatrano
Frank Vatrano is a polarizing player. Sometimes he’s hot, and sometimes he’s cold. There’s rarely an in-between when it comes to Vatrano, and to start the season, he’s been colder than most Cats fans would like. Vatrano has tallied one goal in his first seven games‒a rebound goal against the Arizona Coyotes. Other than that? Vatrano has been more or less invisible. Vatrano has struggled to get any clean looks at the net, and he hasn’t been using his speed to effectively generate offense. His lack of production has gotten him bumped down the lineup, and he’s now playing on the fourth line.
Stock Up: Sergei Bobrovsky
Sergei Bobrovsky came into this season facing more pressure than any other Florida Panther, and he delivered. Bobrovsky responded to the many criticisms he faced over the offseason by putting up the best start to a season in his career. He’s sporting a perfect 5-0-0 for the first time in his career, along with an incredible .946 save percentage and a 1.79 goals against average. In both SV% and GAA, Bobrovsky ranks top 5 league-wide among goaltenders who have started three or more games. To top it off, Bobrovsky’s 7.14 Goals Saved Above Expected, according to EvolvingHockey, leads the league. With many claiming goaltending to be Florida’s biggest issue entering the year, the veteran netminder has turned in elite results to lead the Cats to a perfect record thus far.
Stock Down: Patric Hornqvist
Another player that hasn’t produced much is Patric Hornqvist. The veteran forward is a strong physical presence on a nightly basis, but hasn’t provided much value outside of that, tallying just two assists in seven games. Known for making a living in front of the net, he hasn’t been bad on the power play. He hasn’t been stellar by any means, but he’s been doing what he does best‒causing a ruckus in the crease and making the goaltender’s job tougher. The most concerning part of Hornqvist’s game has been his 5-on-5 play. Hornqvist hasn’t been a significant factor at even strength, and the Panthers’ outstanding forward depth has quickly pushed him to the fourth line. Hornqvist hasn’t been bad, but the Panthers have better options throughout their lineup. Sam Bennett and Mason Marchment have provided a more effective forecheck than Hornqvist, and the Cats have a boatload of players that are better at creating and finishing chances. The young depth players in the Cats’ organization are causing Hornqvist’s role on the team to quickly diminish.
Stock Up: The Penalty Kill
The Florida Panthers have not been a disciplined team to start the season. In fact, the team’s 29 power plays allowed is tied with the Detroit Red Wings for the highest total in the league. In numerous big situations to start the season, the Cats have had to turn to their penalty killing unit to save the day, and more often than not, they’ve delivered. The Panthers PK is clicking at a rate of 86.2%, improving by almost 7% from last year’s total and good for ninth in the league‒and that’s with go-to penalty killer Noel Acciari on injured reserve. The Cats have managed to completely shut down the power plays of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, and Boston Bruins, oftentimes not even allowing the opposing team to generate zone time or quality opportunities on the man advantage. The Panthers have even gotten themselves a shorthanded goal‒to take the lead in the third period, no less. To start the year, the PK unit has been consistently slowing down the opposition and making Florida’s job of winning games much easier.