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With the end of the 2017-2018 NHL season approaching, the Florida Panthers are clawing for a wild card spot. The race in the east is tight and although it looks like an uphill battle for the Florida Panthers, the season is not over yet. The Panthers have had a complete turnaround season.

Regardless of if they make the playoffs or not, the team and management have to recognize how well the team has faired this season. Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexander Barkov are the players most attributed to the recognition for the team’s success, but there is another player who has helped guide the resurgence of the Florida Panthers. That Player Is Evgeni Dadonov.

Evgeni Dadonov signed with the Florida Panthers in the offseason after having spent the last five seasons playing in the KHL in his home country of Russia. Dadonov’s 5 seasons in the KHL were split between playing for Donbass Donetsk for two seasons and SKA St. Petersburg for three. Before his five year tenure in the KHL, Dadonov spent three seasons playing hockey in North America where he played the majority of his hockey in the AHL.

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Dadonov did, however, spend 54 games in the NHL playing for the Florida Panthers. The Panthers drafted Dadonov 71st overall in the third round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Dadonov never scored consistently in the brief stints playing for the Florida Panthers that he was given. After the 2011-2012 season, he went to the KHL.

After having a breakout season in the KHL recording 30 goals and 36 assists totalling up to 66 points in just 53 games for SKA St. Petersburg, Dadonov returned to the NHL where he re-signed with the team that drafted him in 2007.

The Florida Panthers made the right decision by signing Evgeni Dadonov as he is one of the key reasons that the Panthers have turned it around this season. After finishing the 2016-2017 KHL season sitting 5th in scoring in the entire league, Evgeni Dadonov has not slowed down since. The 29-year old winger has been on fire for the Panthers all season.

(Lineup From https://www.dailyfaceoff.com/teams/florida-panthers/line-combinations/)

Evgeni Dadonov sits fourth in team scoring behind only Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck and team scoring leader, Alexander Barkov. In 71 games for the Florida Panthers this season, Dadonov has recorded 27 goals and 35 assists, totalling up to 62 points. What Dadonov has truly done for the Florida Panthers isn’t just shown by his point totals.

It’s the value that he brings to the team. Evgeni Dadonov makes the Panthers lineup more skilled and adds a lot of depth to the lineup. By this, I mean that he is a high scorer that adds an area of depth to the lineup that the Florida Panthers did not have last season.

With Dadonov in the lineup, Jonathan Huberdeau can bring his elite talents to the second line while Dadonov can fill in the top-line left wing role. Huberdeau is an elite offensive talent and by playing him on the second line, the Panthers are distributing their offensive talent amongst their lines. If Dadonov was not on the Panthers roster, then Huberdeau would most likely be playing on the top line which would give the Panthers a great first line but takes away from their depth on the wing which impacts their offensive power/capabilities.

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Evgeni Dadonov also helps make the Panthers depth for sustainable for the future. The Florida Panthers have good prospects that could fill in NHL roster spots in the very near future, but without Dadonov in the lineup, it makes the team a lot more vulnerable. Bringing in rookies to the NHL does not always pan out the way it did with players like with Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matthew Barzal, etc.

Sometimes it takes rookies time to develop into top players and sometimes the players that are expected to be great do not always fulfil their expectations. This is important because when rookies join the NHL, they may not fulfil their expectations and so it is good to have a strong proven depth to fill in where the new players may not be able to. When Owen Tippett makes the roster for example potentially next season, he is expected to be a top six player.

But if Tippett does not fair out to be a top-six player early in the season, it is important to let him develop while not sacrificing the team’s success at the same time. That is a strong reason why it is important to have proven players like Dadonov who add strong depth to the roster. Evgeni Dadonov is not the only player to join the NHL after spending time overseas.

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Most notably, Artemi Panarin, Alexander Radulov and Nikita Zaitzev are all players who came to the NHL from the KHL and had achieved success at the NHL Level. Dadonov is not an exception here. He, like Radulov was for The Montreal Canadiens, is a driving force for the Florida Panthers and is a key reason for their success.

It is reasonable to assume that without Evgeni Dadonov the Florida Panthers would be significantly worse in the standings and would probably not be in playoff contention. This can be proven by the amount that Dadonov has contributed to the Florida Panthers. He has 6 game winning goals which is impressive as he leads the team in that category.

Evgeni is not the sole reason that the Florida Panthers are having a great season but he is a reason. Without him in the lineup, the team’s depth on the left wing would be a lot less skilled as without Dadonov, Huberdeau is the best player on the left wing and no one else on the left wing even close remotely close to comparing to him and Dadonov as well for that matter. Frank Vatrano is still young and does have NHL potential and could grow up to be a decent NHL player, he is not at that level yet and probably would not be able to take the place of Evgeni Dadonov.

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Micheal Haley is not any better. Haley is good at what he does but he does not have great offensive instincts. He is a player who plays with a lot of hart and energy and gives it his all.

He plays a physical game and is known to not be afraid to drop the gloves and help energize his team. Haley currently leads the entire league in penalty minutes with 212 which is 25 more the Tom Wilson who is second in Penalty minutes with 187. Both of these players have upside and bring value to the Florida Panthers roster but are not the greatest offensive contributors.

In the minors, they do have Henrik Haapala who has been a great offensive contributor in the Liiga and has been decent in the AHL with 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points in 20 games. Haapala did make his NHL debut with the Panthers this season. In 5 games, he recorded 1 assist.

Hapla needs some more time to adjust to the North American game and is not yet able to be a strong contributor at the NHL level. This is all the more proof that without Evgeni Dadonov, The Florida Panthers would be significantly weaker on the left wing and without him, the team would not be as strong as they are now.

Dadonov has puck handling skills but his best attributes are his positioning and his shot. Dadonov always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He has a quick and powerful release that goes hand in hand with his positioning as he is able to put in rebounds in the back of the net and has a fast and powerful release that helps him on the breakaway and in tight situations. He is a quick thinker and possesses great hockey IQ.

Evgeni Dadonov has been a key piece for the Florida Panthers this season and without him, the Florida Panthers would certainly not be in the running for a playoff spot right now.

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