When the Florida Panthers traded for Patric Hornqvist, the focus of the fanbase was on celebrating the departure of Mike Matheson rather than it was embracing the arrival of their new winger. However, that new winger has turned out to be the missing piece that the Panthers needed to turn into a contender.
Hornqvist provides the Panthers with four attributes that they desperately needed to add this offseason: leadership, goalscoring, physicality, and a net-front presence. With 11 goals and 23 points at the halfway mark of the season and Florida sitting tied for first place out of every team in the league with 42 points, he has fit seamlessly.
Hornqvist has Become a Leader in the Locker Room
When the Panthers brought Hornqvist in, they brought him in to be a leader. The 34-year-old winger won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and knows what it takes to win. In fact, head coach Joel Quenneville trusted him enough to name him an alternate captain before he even played a game for the team.
“He brings a unique approach to the game,” Quenneville told Local 10 News. “He’s been a very competitive guy in his career. I think one thing he does bring is a very businesslike approach to the game. Accountability is part of what he brings to his teammates and to the team.”
Hornqvist spent the past six seasons on a competitive Penguins team, being one of the key contributors to back-to-back Stanley Cups, and now he is using what he learned during that stretch in Pittsburgh to help the Panthers become a contender.
“He’s played a big role in the success of the team over the years he was here, especially the two Stanley Cup years,” former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He brought a change to the Penguins in a leadership role, changed the culture a little bit. I have nothing but great things to say about him as a person and as a player.” (from ‘‘This was a hard one’: Penguins trade veteran Patric Hornqvist to Florida Panthers,’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 09/24/2020)
Now, Hornqvist is changing the culture again in Florida, and he’s turning the Panthers into a bona fide Stanley Cup contender that can make deep playoff runs for years to come.
Hornqvist Has Fit Seamlessly in the Panthers Lineup
Out of all the moves that new general manager Bill Zito made this offseason, Hornqvist has been the best fit for this roster by far.
Playing on the second line with star winger Jonathan Huberdeau and 2020 free-agent acquisition Alex Wennberg, Hornqvist’s physical style of play has fit perfectly alongside the skill that Huberdeau brings to the table.
Hornqvist’s bread and butter is getting in front of the net, putting home rebounds, and deflecting shots, which fits perfectly with a guy who can make plays from the perimeter like Huberdeau.
The issue with the Panthers last season was that they had a lot of guys who can make plays from the perimeter and take shots from the perimeter. This made it a lot easier for the opposition to cover each player defensively and make it as easy as possible for their goaltender to make the save.
Now, with Hornqvist in the fold, the Panthers now have a guy to help interrupt play in front of the net and help pot home those perimeter plays that don’t get past the goaltender. It was the perfect fit.
The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to identifying Hornqvist’s impact. His six power-play goals have him tied for 11th in the NHL in that category and also leads the Panthers, who boast the seventh-best power play in the league.
At 5-foot-11, 189 pounds, Hornqvist also has the mobility to keep up with his skilled linemates alongside his ability to crash the net and make plays in those dirty areas.
When a guy like Johnathan Huberdeau is on an odd-man rush, Hornqvist can use his speed to catch up with him and crash the net if need be to finish off a play. He also possesses a solid wrist shot, so he’s able to beat you in many different ways.
Hornqvist provides many different aspects to the game that the Panthers have been needing for a long time, and with him in the fold, they are primed to be contenders.