With Vincent Trocheck out long-term, there’s a certain prospect in the minors who’s call-up is long overdue.
By now, you all should know his name – but more importantly – you all should know his game! Borgstrom’s game has evolved since stepping foot into college hockey while gradually rising through the ranks.
Since then, he’s graduated and has gone on to play for the Panthers’ minor league affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
In his first year playing with the T-Birds, Borgstrom has tallied 5G, 17A, and 22 points in 23 games played. Quite impressive for an AHL rookie, right? If I’m being honest, I expected nothing short of this and knew from the very start that he’d take this league by storm.
With that being the case, however, it’s normal to ask ourselves this very basic question: why haven’t the Panthers called up their young Finnish prospect?
Well, you see, it all started in training camp when Henrik was among the second last round of cuts. His demotion to the minors came as a surprise to many, including myself.
The 2018-19 campaign was supposed to be Borgstrom’s first full year in the NHL, where he’d compete for the Rookie of the Year award, also known as the Calder Trophy.
But considering he hasn’t seen any time in the big leagues since the second half of last season, I think we can safely take him out of the Calder running.
As disappointing as that may be to some, there’s a far more important aspect to this questionable decision. And in case you aren’t following me up until that point, you probably will now.
For those of you who watch and closely follow the Florida Panthers, you would’ve heard (or saw) the Vincent Trocheck injury that will keep him out for a good chunk of the year.
Now that the Panthers are without their No. 2 center, there couldn’t be a better time to call-up forward Henrik Borgstrom as Trocheck’s immediate replacement.
Some of you may think that Borgstrom can’t play in a center role, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If we look back to his draft days, Borgstrom was, if anything, a natural center.
However, with the abundance of centers that the Panthers had when drafting him, GM Dale Tallon made it a point to develop Borgstrom into a winger.
That way, Borgstrom wouldn’t be buried down the lineup and would contribute in an area that the Panthers needed help in.
But let’s not forget, though, while Borgstrom may play a lot of his hockey on the wing, it’s safe to say that he hasn’t forgotten how to manage the center of the ice, either.
From time-to-time, you occasionally see Borgstrom operate as a center, and more and more forward prospects that enter the NHL draft are starting to become more versatile. It’s something teams have welcomed, rather than shy away from.
And it’s something the Panthers could very well benefit from in the now, considering they’re out a No. 2 center. But all isn’t lost with Trocheck out, though. They can certainly fill his hole, with the addition of Henrik Borgstrom…
I think it’s time to put aside the “let’s not rush him” line and finally give the kid a chance. After all, he’s shown the organization that wherever he plays, he succeeds and makes a difference.
I mean, he hasn’t been a full-time, top-six forward on this Springfield Thunderbirds team, yet he’s still managing a close point-per-game pace. And need I remind you, that there was a period of time when he was playing alongside forward Micheal Haley.
Even setting aside those points for just a minute, the Panthers are less than a week away from approaching a crucial divisional opponent, the Toronto Maple Leafs. And if there’s something we know very well of that team, it’s their ability to score at will.
Taking into consideration the weak back line that both teams have, we can definitely expect a goal fest come Saturday, Dec. 15.
The Leafs are now locked and loaded with a plethora of options in their arsenal, while the Cats are short a lethal option of their own.
Sure, Borgstrom won’t single-handedly solve the Panthers’ defensive woes that they’ve experienced all year, but he does add another element up front.
At this point in the season, the Cats have done a poor job of experimenting with talent in their farm and haven’t taken a flyer on any of their youngsters.
The offense, which remains the lone bright spot of this season, has produced well above expectations. Per game, the Panthers average 3.29 goals, which ranks 10th in the league.
Their power play, which has struggled historically, is another area that has produced well above asking. The Panthers’ power play percentage is 27.7%, which ranks 4th in the league.
As great as these rankings may be, we have to ask ourselves: how long will it last? Answer: not very long. If we’re being honest, we recognize that the offensive and power play success comes largely from the top two lines and it’s bound to cool right off.
There’s quite the drop off in offensive production when you compare lines 1-2 to 3-4. That’s expected, of course, but the third line (especially) has done very little to pitch in and help.
With all of that said and taken into account, I think it’s time that Panthers fans see their most beloved prospect in a Cats uniform, where he rightfully belongs.
He may not be a permanent fix to this already sinking ship, but he’s a rather talented forward that brings a level of creativity to the lineup that should be openly welcomed.
But as I mentioned earlier, what does this team have to lose? After all, they haven’t done much to try an address any of their problems, ranging from defense to goaltending.
Ideally, it’s in Tallon’s hands to make the necessary moves to try and bolster this roster. Because in the end, this team cannot stomach or accept another season of missed playoff hockey.