Best Panther Player Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2007 - Jay Bouwmeester
Readers' Choice: Readers' Ed Belfour
Panthers fans will probably tell you that the best Panthers player is, uh, on another team right now. Management has a nasty habit of trading beloved players (Roberto Luongo, anyone?) for unremarkable ones (we won't name names). Now, after seven seasons without a playoff game in sight, fans and the athletes themselves are tired of all those marks in the L column. By the end of this season, even the usually unflappable Olli Jokinen was expressing frustration and otherwise-promising powerhouse Nathan Horton was playing like he was asleep. But there on the ice, behind the blue line, stood the team's secret weapon on blades: Jay Bouwmeester. The notoriously shy 23-year-old defenseman speaks so softly in interviews that he can barely be heard. But his eyes? Intense. His feel for the game? Intuitive. His skating? Wicked fast. That's why he was the third pick in the 2002 entry draft, why he played on the Olympic team (for Canada), and why he made the All-Star team this year. By all accounts, JayBo is a smart, agile, well-rounded player who's just coming into his prime. And best of all is his contract he's ours until at least 2009.