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All-Time Florida Panthers Roster Countdown: 58-57

Today, we look into former Florida Panthers Ruslan Salei, a defenseman from Belarus, and Florida's first ever team Captain, center Brian Skrudland.

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58. Ruslan Salei

Salei, a 6'2" defenseman from Minsk, Belarus, was picked in the first round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, ninth overall. He had played for the IHL Las Vegas Thunder through the 1995-96 season, scoring seven goals and 23 assists in 76 contests.

In 1996-97, Salei split his season between the Thunder (eight games, two assists), the AHL Baltimore Bandits (12 games, one goal, four assists), and the Ducks (30 games, one assist). He ended up playing nine seasons with the Ducks, and ranks fourth on Anaheim's all-time leaderboard with 594 games played and with 735 penalty minutes. He also scored 26 goals and 79 assists, racking up a career minus-3 rating.

Salei signed a free agent contract with the Panthers after the 2005-06 season. He ranked second on the team with 23:20 TOI on Florida's number one defensive pairing unit, scoring six goals on 148 shots with a team sixth best 26 assists, a minus-13 rating, and a team third 102 PIM. He had eight multi-point games through the season, including a goal and two assists in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on December 9.

2007-08 would see Salei play most of the season with the Panthers, appearing in each of the team's first 65 games. He scored three times on 81 shots, pitched in 20 assists, a minus-5 rating, and 75 PIM. He again ranked high on Florida's ice-time leaderboard, averaging 23:17 TOI, second among all team skaters behind only Jay Bouwmeester. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche on February 26 for Karlis Skrastins and a third round pick (Adam Comrie).

Salei appeared in 101 games for the Avs over parts of the next three seasons, scoring eight goals and 26 assists with a minus-4 rating and 105 PIM. He played the 2010-11 season with the Detroit Red Wings (75 games, two goals, eight assists). Salei died on September 7, 2011, when the plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed.

All-Time Statline: Two seasons, 147 games, nine goals, 46 assists, 55 points, minus-18 rating, 177 PIM, 7.7 APS.

57. Brian Skrudland

Skrudland was a 6' center from Peace River, Alberta. He played three WHL seasons with the Saskatoon Blades beginning in the 1980-81 season, scoring 77 goals and 115 assists in 208 contests. He made his professional debut with the 1983-84 Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the AHL, scoring 13 goals and 12 assists in 56 games. 1984-85 would see him play in 70 AHL games with the Sherbrooke Canadiens, scoring 22 goals and 28 assists.

In 1985-86, Skrudland made his first NHL appearance with the Montreal Canadiens (65 games, nine goals, 13 assists), adding two goals and four assists in 20 playoff matches on Montreal's way to the 1986 Stanley Cup. He ended up playing eight seasons with Montreal, scoring 78 goals and 139 assists in 475 regular season games. Montreal traded him to the Calgary Flames on January 28, 1993 for Gary Leeman.

Skrudland played half a season with Calgary (16 games, two goals, four assists) before being left unprotected in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft, where the Panthers claimed him from the Flames. He would be Florida's first ever Captain when he took the ice for Florida's inaugural match.

Skrudland scored a career high 15 goals on 110 shots, ranking sixth on the team in goals scored and fifth in assists and points, with 25 and 40, respectively. He was also third on the club with 136 penalty minutes and finished the year with a team best plus-13 rating. He posted 10 multi-point efforts on the campaign.

In 1994-95, Skrudland scored five goals on 44 shots with nine assists, an even rating, and a team third most 88 penalty minutes in 47 games. On April 16, he scored two goals and an assists in a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

1995-96 would see Skrudland play 79 games for the Panthers, scoring seven goals on 90 shots with 20 helpers. He posted a team third best plus-6 rating and 129 PIM. In the playoffs, he added a goal and three assists in 21 contests as Florida advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. He scored two goals and an assist in a 6-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 24.

In 1996-97, Skrudland appeared in 51 games for Florida, scoring five goals on 57 shots. He dished out 13 helpers, spent 48 minutes in the box, and finished the season with a plus-4 rating. He signed a free agent contract with the New York Rangers prior to the next season (59 games, five goals, six assists), later playing in parts of three seasons with the Dallas Stars (75 games, seven goals, three assists). He retired following the Stars appearance in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, a Dallas loss in six games to the New Jersey Devils.

All-Time Statline: Four seasons, 256 games, 32 goals, 67 assists, 99 points, 401 PIM, plus-23 rating (Panthers fourth all-time), 7.9 APS.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.