The Florida Panthers, throughout their franchise's history, have had numerous stars play for them. Victor Kozlov, Bill Lindsay, Mark Parrish, and many others have had solid Florida Panthers careers—but today I'm breaking down the best players at their respective positions for the Panthers.
Right Wing: Pavel Bure
What die-hard Panther fan could forget Pavel Bure. Bure was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks. The trade most notably sent standout defenseman Ed Jovanovski and solid goaltender Fred Brathwaite to Vancouver.
The Russain Rocket set a Panthers season-record for goals in a season. Bure notched an amazing 59 goals for the Panthers, and led the Panthers to a playoff berth in the 2000 season, where they were swept in the first round by the New Jersey Devils. The Devils won the Cup that year.
Center: Olli Jokinen
Jokinen is the Panthers all-time leader in points, with 419. The Finnish center was the Panthers captain from 2003-2008.
Jokinen was acquired in one of the better trades in Panthers' history. Jokinen and goaltender Roberto Luongo were sent from the Islanders to Florida in exchange for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish.
Olli Jokinen at first was nothing more than a checking-line center, but with the help of Panther coach Mike Keenan, Jokinen became a first-line center. Jokinen's breakout season came in 2002-03, when he scored 36 goals and notched 29 assists. But with few supporting players around him, Jokinen was unable to lead the Panthers to the playoffs.
Left Wing: Ray Whitney
Whitney was claimed off waivers by the Panthers from the Edmonton Oilers. Before Whitney ever played for the Oilers, he was one of two stick boys for Wayne Gretzky—the other being Ryan Smyth.
Whitney was an exciting, fast, and scrappy left winger. He is seventh in overall points in Panthers' history, with 227 . His best season as a Florida Panther was in the year 1999-00, when had 29 goals and 42 assists for 71 points.
Defense: Robert Svehla
Svehla was originally drafted 78th overall by the Calgary Flames. He did not play a game for them, and moved on to the Florida Panthers. He was one of the Panthers' first offensive defenseman.
Svehla's best season as a Florida Panther was his 1995-96 campaign. The Slovak defenseman had eight goals and 49 assists for 57 points. He is fourth all time in points for the Panthers, with 290.
Defense: Jay Bouwmeester
Bouwmeester is one of the best defensemen in the league today. The Panthers drafted him third overall in 2002.
He was drafted controversially, however. The Panthers held the first pick overall, but they traded it to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets would go on to draft Rick Nash, and with the second pick Atlanta drafted Kari Lehtonen.
In the 2005-06 season, Bouwmeester proved his worth, tallying 46 points. In the 2007-08 season, he broke Robert Svehla and Mike Van Ryn's record for most goals by a Florida defenseman. In the last three seasons, Bouwmeester has not missed a game.
Goalie: John Vanbiesbrouck
It was extremely hard for me to decide between Vanbiesbrouck and Roberto Luongo, but Vanbiesbrouck brought Florida to the playoffs, and Luongo failed to do so.
In the 1995-96 season, Vanbiesbrouck was an anchor for the Panthers' Stanley Cup playoff march. He helped to upset the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Vanbiesbrouck met his match when the Panthers were swept by Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche. He finished third in the race for the Conn Smythe trophy.
These players have left a special place in my heart—and I hope to see more future Panthers step up to take the place of these Florida legends.