Another day has come and gone here in Hockey Paradise. I know it may not seem like it, but with each day that passes we are one day closer to the start of the 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning hockey season. At this point, there are only 71 days left in between now and puck drop.
I know…I know, that seems like an eternity when you break it down by the day, but I assure you that it’s not as bad as it seems.
If you consolidate it, that means there is just about 2 months to go.
Now…what does this mean, you may find yourself asking?
Well, it means that it’s time to take a look at our very own Number 71, right wing Richard Panik.
The six foot one inch tall winger has been a member of the Lightning organization in one form or another since 2009 when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Panik’s current run in the Lightning organization began in the 2011-12 season when he suited up with the Bolts’ then-AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. This is the same season that the Admirals brought home the Calder Cup.
Let’s fast forward a little bit to last season. In the 2013-14 season, Panik suited up for 50 games with the Bolts. This is the largest amount of games he’s played in a single season in the NHL. In that amount of time, he was able to score 3 goals and pick up 10 assists for a total of points.
I don’t quite feel as if he has fully hit his stride with the Lightning as of yet, but after watching him out on the ice there is no denying that he indeed has to potential to break out.
The Lightning has undergone quite a few changes during the off-season, and at this point it is unknown just how that will affect the rest of the team. At the same time, this may be just what players like Panik need in order to reach their full potential.
At this point, he’ll have to hit the ice running. He is only under contract for one more season with the Bolts before he becomes a Restricted Free Agent. The quicker he can put his skills on display, the better chance he has of the Lightning pursuing him before his Free Agent status kicks in.
No matter what the case ends up being, I know that I am incredibly excited for the new season to start. I have faith in the choices that Yzerman has made over the course of the off-season, and I think he may have finally found the puzzle pieces needed to complete the big picture and lead the Lightning to a successful run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.
What are you most looking forward to in the 2014-15 season? What do you think Panik brings to the ice in the upcoming season? Let us know what you think in the comments below.