When he passed the nine game mark, Florida Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson assumed he’d be skating in the National Hockey League this season.
He was half-right. The 19-year-old Gudbranson has played in 12 games this season, but just once in the last two weeks including being a healthy scratch in four consecutive games for the Panthers.
The six-foot-four, 206-pound defenseman is still searching for his first point of the season and has played over 14 minutes in just two games this season. Production isn’t something Gudbranson is typically shy with, recording 34 points in 44 games a season ago with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
“Guys need to play and that’s understandable,” Erik told the South Florida SunSentinel after sitting out his third straight game. “I’m 19 years old. If I said I didn’t expect it coming into this year I’d be lying to you, but it’s a great opportunity for me to watch from the stands and really appreciate being on the ice. It is a learning experience watching the game from up top and seeing what’s going on out there.”
There is talk that Gudbranson, the third overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, is being sat in order to make it harder for the rookie blueliner to hit performance bonuses. As it stands, Gudbranson is slated to earn $900,000. He can expand that to $3.2 million based on the structure of his contract.