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Fantasy Puck Preview: Florida Panthers

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Scott Cullen
9/16/2009 10:53:31 AM
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The loss of Jay Bouwmeester may be seen as devastating to the Florida Panthers in some circles, it's entirely possible that the Panthers have more depth on the blueline now and will contend for a playoff spot once again, which should mean some decent fantasy production.

If the Panthers are going to challenge this year, they need a return to form from power forward Nathan Horton. Horton started last season at centre and had a couple of injuries on his way to 22 goals and 45 points in 67 games. The 24-year-old has 108 goals over the last four seasons and has twice bettered 60 points, so production at that level is a fair expectation at this point in his career.

A breakout performer last year, David Booth scored 31 goals and 60 points and has been a double-digit plus player in each of the last two seasons. He'll draw more defensive attention this year, but the 24-year-old should continue to be a productive scoring winger on the Panthers' top line.

An underrated two-way pivot, Stephen Weiss put up a career-high 61 points last season, thriving under new coach Peter DeBoer (who coached Weiss in junior). With Horton and Booth the finishers, Weiss plays more of a setup role and he does it well.

35-year-old Cory Stillman continues to be productive, particularly with the man advantage. Though injuries limited Stillman to 63 games last season, he still had 49 points, including 21 on the power play -- the fourth time in the last five seasons that he's surpassed 20 power play points.

Perhaps the Panthers forward with the greatest upside is 21-year-old Michael Frolik, who impressed as a rookie with 45 points (including 16 in the last 20 games) and a plus-10 rating. A 30-goal season wouldn't seem out of the question given the right opportunities.

In the deepest leagues, veteran centre Steve Reinprecht may have some value, as he's slated to handle second-line duties with the Panthers, but he has never scored more than 51 points in a season and that was back in 2002-2003.

Though he's not as productive as he was in his peak years with the Maple Leafs, Bryan McCabe performed well in his first season with the Panthers, putting up 39 points in 69 games. If McCabe continues at that level of production and gets his penalty minutes back over one per game, then he'll be a valuable fantasy blueliner.

Bouwmeester's departure ought to create more opportunity for someone else on the Florida defence and the best option would seem to be Keith Ballard. Ballard is adequate offensively, but when combined with a solid plus-minus and decent penalty minute totals, he's useful in deeper leagues.

A possible sleeper to consider (and probably more for the waiver wire than on draft day) is Ville Koistinen, who was underused in two seasons with Nashville, but has good mobility and puckhandling skills.

While veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun was pushed last season by Craig Anderson, Vokoun still saw action in 59 games and set a career mark with a .926 save percentage. Even with Scott Clemmensen on board to provide sound back up, 33-year-old Vokoun should still be counted on for about 60 games and would be an ideal No. 2 in many fantasy formats.

Horton, McCabe and Weiss (Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
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