24-Year-Old Defenseman – Florida Panthers
Erik Gudbranson Contract Information:
Re-signed with the Panthers on a two-year contract in July 2014.
Gudbranson (undisclosed) will play in Thursday's playoff opener against the Islanders, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
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Erik Gudbranson: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Gudbranson played his third full season before his 22nd birthday, which is quite impressive, but don't be fooled - he managed just nine points in 65 games in 2013-14 playing almost 18 minutes per game, indicating he is more valuable in real life than in fantasy. There were positive signs: he improved his plus/minus, shots, hits, blocked shots, and PIM last season setting career-highs in all of those categories. In leagues that count those stats he could add value; that said, his role is not expected to change and he won't see much time on the power play. Given his career trajectory to date he won't be at the top of your draft list this year.
The Panthers took Gudbranson with the third overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, but he's more of a defensive defenseman than a puck-moving one. He had four assists in 32 games last season, and with a minus-22 rating, his only value was in the penalty minutes category, where he had 47. If he doesn't develop a scoring touch this year, he won't be nearly as valuable to fantasy owners as he is to his team.
Gudbranson made the jump to the NHL, registering two goals and six assists in 72 games this past season with the Panthers. The former first-round, third-overall pick in 2011, has a big shot from the point and passing ability worthy of becoming a decent fantasy play for years to come. Gudbranson may still be a year or two away from making a leap into fantasy relevance, but should be viewed as a solid long-term keeper option. His path to contributing offensively isn't the clearest, as the Panthers will rely on Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov and the newly-signed veteran, Filip Kuba on the power play. Regardless, Gudbranson is a name well worth remembering.
Much of Florida's success in the upcoming season depends on the quality of their blue line. At 18 years old, Gudbranson figures to be a big part of that equation, even though he was just drafted this year. With his solid two-way game, he's already being considered a Chris Pronger prototype of sorts, and that bodes well for his future with the Panthers.