Editor's Note: Our LHH Mock Draft is off and running, with our fantasy GMs already reeling off the first three picks. Nugent-Hopkins and Larsson are off the board for Edmonton and Colorado's picks, respectively. Chrismc614 steps to the podium next for Florida. (That means nyidangle17 will pick next for New Jersey.) Keep an eye on the FanPosts for continuing picks.
Here in Sunrise, FL we have a lot to be skeptical about. We had the worst record in the Eastern Conference in 2010-11. We have no head coach. We managed to trade away half our NHL players at the trade deadline last season. Our one good player (Tomas Vokoun) is probably leaving for colder pastures. We have to look forward to those divisional home and homes with the Winnipeg...err...Atlanta Thrashers. And maybe the worst thing about our Panthers is if you put the whole team in the middle of the Aventura Mall, even in hockey jerseys, nobody would recognize any of them.
This team needs a face. It needs a star. And we believe we have a chance to draft one.
With the 3rd pick in the 2011 LHH mock draft, the Florida Panthers select: Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Kitchener Rangers
Face it, what the Panthers need most is offense. The team was ranked 27th in the league in goals scored and managed to score more than 2 goals in a paltry 5 of our last 25 games played last season. Our leading scorer last year was Stephen Weiss, and he's a second line center at best on any other team.
Gabriel Landeskog immediately bolsters our offense. After putting up 113 points in 117 OHL games, including 66 points in only 53 games in 10-11, Landeskog has the offensive tools to be a first line wing in this league. Many scouts believed he was ready to play in the NHL last year, so the chance to get a mature, NHL ready forward like Landeskog is something the Panthers can not pass up. Having such a decimated roster and starting a slow, Garth Snow-like rebuild, we will need a player who can jump right into the lineup and contribute. In Landeskog we believe we have that player.
After drafting defenseman with our last 3 first overall picks (Keaton Ellerby, Dmitry Kulikov, and Erik Gudbranson), we not only have a good, young defensive nucleus, but it also makes drafting a forward first overall this year almost a necessity. We considered three talented forwards with our pick and debated long and hard between Landeskog, Sean Couturier, and Johnathan Huberdeau. But being we have 3 good players down the middle that we believe will be part of our future (Weiss and prospects Nick Bjugstad and Drew Shore), drafting a winger like Landeskog became the obvious choice.
Landeskog will immediately win over our fans with his passionate play and heart. He is not afraid to stick up for his teammates and has the leadership qualities to one day be the future captain of the Florida Panthers, just as he was in Kitchener. A player who has admitted to modelling his game after Jarome Iginla and Brad Richards, if he can even come close to being that good, he is exactly the player the Panthers need.