Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Michal Repik played the type of game that Florida Panthers fans have been waiting to see since he was drafted. And while it didn’t lead to a monster night statistically, Repik created enough havoc on the ice to earn first star honors in the game despite only recording one assist. His speed and aggressiveness created problems all over the ice as he led everyone by recording six shots on goal.
On the heels of that performance, one can’t help ask a few questions: Where has this Michal Repik been? And can he play like this every night?
There’s no question about his physical skills. He’s a great skater with speed to get behind many defensemen in the league and while not a ‘big’ forward, he possesses a respectable 5’10″, 180 pound frame. But at age 22, and with several opportunities to prove himself, he has yet to live up to the potential he had when he played for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. In the season before he was drafted (2006-07), he posted 55 points (24 goals) in 56 regular season games but stepped up his game even more in the playoffs. In the 22 WHL playoff games that year, he scored 26 points (10 goals) and followed that up by being the leading scorer of the Memorial Cup Tournament.
It was the performance that led the Panthers to drafting him 40th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, Panther management (and fans) have waited for the level (or something close to it) of performance to come through in the NHL and it hasn’t quite come to pass. While his numbers in the American Hockey League (147 points in 188 games coming into this season), he’s largely been a no show when given the chance in Sunrise. Coming into this season, he had managed only 15 points (7 goals) in 55 career games. Granted, he played bottom six minutes when he was here but, he’s didn’t exactly do anything with those minutes to justify anything else.
If anything, disappointment in him can be partially be blamed on expectations. Before Dale Tallon overhauled the prospect pool of this team, Repik was the most talented of a talent-depleted group of young forwards. Because of that, he was expected by fans and front office alike to possibly be better than he really was at that point. Certainly, most fans love when that prospect they’ve heard and read about for a few seasons finally gets his chance and blows everybody away. And that certainly has not been the case here. Part of the reason, at least from Repik’s point of view, was former coach Pete DeBoer. Repik was one of the those who expressed frustration over DeBoer when he was coach when Pete brought his New Jersey Devils to Sunrise in November. That criticism could be somewhat easily dismissed as Repik wasn’t exactly a world beater in training camp under new coach Kevin Dineen. But in his second and third call ups from San Antonio this season, he’s started to show some signs of what could be going forward. And yeah, his presence has been statistically underwhelming but, that can change if he can put forth more efforts like Tuesday’s. It’s unreasonable to think of him as a top 6 forward at this point, but he’s still a guy with a great deal of skill who could still develop and contribute more than he has been.
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