Saturday, June 13, 2015

Erik Gudbranson Autograph Card

The Florida Panthers almost made the playoffs this year, and have shown they will be contenders for years to come with the firepower they already have up front (Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Brandon Pirri, with veteran presence Jaromir Jagr to lead the way) a solid defense anchored around Aaron Ekblad, with Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson as a tremendous supporting cast, and goaltender Roberto Luongo still in Vezina nominee form.

And they have the 11th pick in this year's deep draft class, which might enable them to add to that core. Let that sink in. They have a decade or so of great hockey ahead of themselves, in addition to future drafts, without so much as needing to adjust their top-6 forwards, top-3 defensemen and #1 goalie - and if they do, they could potentially become young contenders like the Tampa Bay Lightning this year... as early as next season.

Gudbranson was the third-overall pick at the 2010 draft, behind Taylor Hall (first) and Tyler Seguin, and ahead of Ryan Johansen (4th), Jeff Skinner (7th), Cam Fowler (12th), Jaden Schwartz (14th), Vladimir Tarasenko (16th), Bjugstad (19th), Jarred Tinordi (22nd), Emerson Etem (29th), Justin Faulk (37th), Devante Smith-Pelly (42nd), Tyler Toffoli (47th), Teemu Pulkkinen (111th), Peter Mrazek (141st), Brendan Gallagher (147th), and Mark Stone (178th). It was also a very deep draft, and third seems like the perfect place for the 23-year-old giant (6'5'', 210 pounds).

He's coming into his own in the points-production department though Brian Campbell and Ekblad usually get the best chances to put points on the board, but his hard shot and accurate passes will eventually garner him some top-unit powerplay time. He's also sound in his own zone, capable of delivering punishing checks, and a smart, tireless worker who could eventually wear a letter on his chest.

Born and raised just outside of Ottawa, he speaks fluent French and has suited up for Team Canada twice, winning gold at the 2009 U-18 championships and silver at the 2010 World Juniors. I see him playing with the big boys in an Olympics, and eventually wearing a letter on his jersey if he plays on a World Championship team.

He can also grow a great mustache, as can be attested in this card from Panini's 2011-12 Contenders card (#222 in the set, part of the Calder Contenders sub-set, signed on-card in thin blue sharpie, numbered 585/800):
It shows him wearing the Panthers' red (home) uniform.

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