The Florida Panthers' system remains well stocked even after the graduation of Jonathan Huberdeau and Jacob Markstrom. The organization has incredible depth and skill at center and defense, and although the goaltending depth chart looks relatively weak, it remains a solid group with a couple of players performing well in the early part of the current season.
The Dale Tallon rebuild of the Florida Panthers is entering its fourth season, and the results of the process – stockpiling young, smart, two-way players with talent and size – is readily coming to fruition. Several prospects are coming into their own, whether as young NHL players, first and second-year professionals in the minor leagues, or leaders in the NCAA and major junior ranks.
By all accounts put forth by prognosticators through the early going, the road to a Western Hockey League title this season is likely to run through either Kelowna or Portland. However, the Victoria Royals would certainly like to force opponents to embark on a couple of ferry rides as part of the championship travel package next spring.
Here’s a look at the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference heading into the 2013-14 season.
Kelowna Rockets (Last Season: 52-16-3-1; 1st in B.C. Division)
While it may be difficult to match the 52 victories achieved last season, the Rockets are considered a top contender in the WHL's Western Conference this season.
After completely rebuilding the NHL club through a series of trades and a variety of free agent signings that complemented their existing core (Stephen Weiss, Jason Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov, etc.), the Florida Panthers made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The future is bright too, as many of their top prospects are starting to come of age.