The unofficial start to any team’s season is its media day. On Wednesday, the Florida Panthers had theirs. Several key players addressed the media for the first time this season, including Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart. Here are some key takeaways from the 2021 media day.
Aaron Ekblad is ready to go
The last we saw of Aaron Ekblad, he was carted off the ice after suffering a major leg injury.
The experience was gut wrenching for teammates and fans alike, and severe injuries always carry the risk of setbacks.
Thankfully, Ekblad calmed the collective hearts and minds of Panther nation today. During his press conference, the star defenseman said he feels “99.99%” in regards to his injury. He continued to say that he feels great and he cannot wait to get back on the ice.
“I’ve never been more excited for training camp or an exhibition game in my career, I’m happy with all of my progressions to this point and confident that I can reach the same level of play from last season and exceed it.”Aaron Ekblad
If true, Panthers fans should rejoice, as Ekblad’s presence was sorely missed in the Playoffs. A healthy Ekblad may be the biggest X factor coming into this season, as he could have swung the Tampa series last year.
Sam Reinhart will fit right in
Most Panthers fans needed no sales pitch for Sam Reinhart as a player.
The perennial 20 goal scorer fills a need for this team with incredible offensive talent and an amendable play style.
During media day, Reinhart found a way to endear himself even more to fans and teammates alike. He noted that he chose to wear number 13 for the Panthers “to follow a former club legend like Mark Pysyk.”
Pysyk, of course, played for the Florida Panthers from 2016 to 2020, and was teammates with Reinhart for 2 years before that. Reinhart’s tribute to the widely popular former Panther will not be lost on the fanbase.
Joe Thornton sees something special with this group
When Joe Thornton signed with the Panthers this offseason, it took almost everybody by surprise.
The former Hart trophy winner is coming off a season in Toronto which ended in a disappointment. The team lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. Thornton is still chasing that elusive Stanley Cup, and now entering his age 42 season time is running out for him.
To choose to sign with the Panthers over other cup contenders such as the Lightning or Avalanche speaks volumes as to what Thornton thinks of the roster. He expressed some of those thoughts during media day. “I think this is going to be a special year” Thornton said.
He noted how last year was such a huge step forward for the organization, and how he hopes to build off that momentum. If Joe Thornton has confidence in the team, Panthers fans should too.
The Barkov Extension will be done soon
Yes, Aleksander Barkov is scheduled to be a free agent after this season.
Many had hoped an extension would be done by now, the lack of a deal has led to some increased anxiety.
With out giving away too much information, Barkov did his best to calm the collective nerves about his contract situation during media day. “I love playing hockey here, I love what were building here,” Barkov said.
“Hockey in South Florida is getting bigger and better. I’m really excited about everything that’s going on here. I haven’t really thought about anything else. Wearing a Panthers jersey is a huge honor for me.” In regards to the contract extension itself, Barkov commented, “I think were for sure making some progress…It’s all good,”Aleksander Barkov
Echoing similar sentiment from other parties involved such as Bill Zito. The bottom line is that Barkov loves playing hockey in South Florida, and Panthers’ fans have no reason to worry about his impending free agency. Whether it is this week or some time during the season, a deal will be done.
Side note: Barkov’s insight on a “typical Finnish Summer” of lake swimming and grilling sounds delightful.
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