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Signing Is Just One Step For Gudbranson

Friday, 07.15.2011 / 7:48 PM ET / News
By Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com
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Signing Is Just One Step For Gudbranson
Nothing is guaranteed for Erik Gudbranson, who signed with the Florida Panthers on Friday, but big things are expected from the third pick of the 2010 Entry Draft.
GUDBRANSON SIGNING

OTHER LINKS:
Tallon On Signing
Gudbranson On First Day Of Development Camp
Official Signing Release

On his way to becoming the third pick -- and first defenseman taken -- at the 2010 Entry Draft, Erik Gudbranson also was excelling off the ice, winning the Canadian Hockey League academic player of the year award last year.

That knowledge helped Gudbranson understand that as nice as it was to sign his entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers on Friday, it's just one step in reaching his ultimate goal -- playing in the National Hockey League.

"The way I'm looking at it now is it's a big achievement but a little step," Gudbranson said. "It's a big team to make. It's the National Hockey League, the toughest League in the world. I'm going to work my tail off to be here next year and make a difference on the team."

While some believed Gudbranson could have played in the NHL last season, he never came to terms on a deal with the Panthers and instead went back to his junior team, the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. There he had a stellar season, with 12 goals, 22 assists and 105 penalty minutes, all numbers better than the previous season, when he had 2 goals, 23 points and 68 penalty minutes in a season that was limited to 41 games due to injury and illness.

The 6-foot-4, 195-pounder also had 5 points in seven games in helping Canada win a silver medal at the 2011 World Junior Championship.

"He's a better player," Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said when asked about Gudbranson's growth since last year. "He's more mature … We're delighted. We're excited. He's the real deal. He's a big part of the puzzle.

"He's a world-class kid. You know he's going to do everything in his power to get to the next level. I've seen more maturity, I've seen him stronger. I've seen him carrying a leadership role moving forward. He just has that presence."

Gudbranson was one of three picks the Panthers had in the first round of last year's draft, Tallon's first with the franchise. After Gudbranson, the team picked center Nick Bjugstad at No. 19 and center Quinton Howden at No. 25. All three were in attendance at the team's prospect development camp, which ended Friday.

"They are ready to make the next step," Panthers Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Luce told the Miami Herald. "I think there is no question that you look at those three selections as a turning point in our organization. In five years from now, I hope we're all looking back saying that was the first piece of the puzzle that Dale Tallon was able to get."

"I'm going to try to be the best defenseman out there and show everyone I can make the team, that I can play in this League. And not only play, but make a difference. That's what I want to do this year. I want to be here full-time and be a difference maker on the ice." - Erik Gudbranson
Gudbranson may be the biggest piece of that puzzle, but it doesn't mean he has a guaranteed spot with the Panthers this season. During Tallon's massive offseason roster overhaul, he added veterans Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski to the blue line. They join a group that includes talented 20-year-old Dmitry Kulikov, 2007 first-round pick Keaton Ellerby and solid veterans Mike Weaver and Jason Garrison.

"Everybody's got to earn the right to play for the Florida Panthers," said Tallon. "Now the competitive level is raised. He's going to have to earn that spot. It's probably harder to make it this year than last year because we have more depth at all positions. I'm confident he will give it his best shot. If not … this is a growing process, a learning process. I'm hopeful he makes the team, but it won't be devastating if he doesn't, because we have lots of assets. We have to patient. We can't jump into forcing young people into the lineup just because they were the third pick in the draft. We have to make sure they're ready to perform at the NHL level."

Gudbranson said he's ready to raise the curtain on his NHL career. And while making the team is his first goal, he said he has loftier aspirations.

"I'm just going to come (to training camp) and be as confident as possible," he said. "I'm going to be respectful to all the veterans, but at the same time I'm going to try to be the best defenseman out there and show everyone I can make the team, that I can play in this League. And not only play, but make a difference. That's what I want to do this year. I want to be here full-time and be a difference maker on the ice."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
 
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