Center Stephen Weiss was one of four first round National Hockey League draft picks to suit up for the Wolves during the 2004-05 season. The Florida Panthers first pick, fourth overall, in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, spent the first five-plus months of the lockout season playing for the Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate and Wolves division rival, the San Antonio Rampage. He led San Antonio with 15 goals and 38 points through the first 62 games of the season.
When the AHL’s Clear Day came on March 8, 2005, with San Antonio in danger of missing the playoffs, the Panthers loaned Weiss and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to the Wolves, so two of Florida’s top prospects could get some postseason experience. Weiss provided a jolt of offense to the Wolves lineup. In 18 regular-season games with Chicago, he contributed seven goals and 16 points, to help the team clinch their first-ever West Division title.
In his first professional playoff game, the then 22-year-old bagged a goal and an assist to help lead the team to a 4-1 win over Houston in Game 1 of the West Division Semifinal. He would go on to share second on the team with seven assists and record nine points in 18 postseason contests before the team lost to the Philadelphia Phantoms in four games in the Calder Cup Finals. Unfortunately for Weiss, that playoff run with the Wolves has been the only postseason appearance of his pro career.
After spending the 2004-05 lockout season in the AHL, Weiss returned to Florida to continue his NHL career. In 2008-09, he set career-highs with 47 assists and 61 points in 78 contests. The Panthers tied the Montreal Canadiens with 93 points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference that season but missed out on the Stanley Cup playoffs after losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with Montreal.
Weiss, who ranks sixth on the Panthers all-time scoring register with 284 points (103G, 181A) in 481 games, is the Panthers longest tenured player and has served as one of the team’s alternate captains for the past three seasons. As the elder statesman in Florida, Weiss should be looked upon to provide leadership to a young Panthers team as new general manager Dale Tallon begins his rebuilding process in South Florida this season. You can follow along with this Wolves alumnus by clicking here.