The Florida Panthers had about the worst Olympic break that a team could imagine. Both players that went to Sochi will be returning injured, and the outlook for their participation for the remainder of the season isn’t a bright one.
Alexsander Barkov will be out 4-6 weeks after suffering a knee injury in Finland’s win against Norway. He was injured in the second period, skated briefly in the third but could not continue.
Tomas Kopecky took a blow to the head by a Slovenian player and struggled mightily to get back to the bench. All signs have pointed to a concussion and due to the unsure nature of head injuries – his season could very well be over.
With two of the team’s top forwards down with injuries, the Panthers must find a way to continue to move forward with the 24-games remaining on the season schedule.
Barkov is currently fifth on the team in points, and Kopecky has been a main contributor to the penalty kill – two aspects that the team can ill-afford to lose contributions to.
So who will be the next man up? When Barkov missed time earlier in the season, Scott Gomez was plugged into his line until he was ready to return to the lineup, but is there another answer – possibly – from the team’s AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, Vincent Trocheck.
Trocheck, 20, was the team’s third round pick in 2011 – 64th overall who is currently in his first professional season after a successful junior league career with the Saginaw Spirit and the Plymouth Whalers.
In 264-career junior league games, Trocheck just missed hitting the 300-point plateau, finishing with 299. He led the Ontario Hockey League in scoring last year, finishing with 109-points in 63-games – missing time to win the gold medal at the World Juniors.
Due to his size (5’10) and his late blooming scoring, some wondered if his scoring ability would translate to the next level. Through 48-games at the AHL level, Trocheck has shown that it has indeed translated over, and with time could become another weapon for the Panthers team that is already loaded with young talent.
But could that time be now? Trocheck could very well spark the third worst-offense in the league, who at times looks like that is exactly what they need – a spark. There isn’t many better sparks than a young player trying to make his mark on the league.
Drew Shore will likely be the player to get the call, but with two players going down they could call up two – and Trocheck could be a perfect candidate to be that second player. Out of the playoffs, it would be a perfect time to test out some of the future pieces of the team.
Quinton Howden. Another first round pick, one of three with Nick Bjugstad and Erik Gudbranson in 2010, Howden has played 18-games in the NHL, yet to register a point. He has 22-points in 48-games for San Antonio this season.
Bobby Butler. Butler has scored 20-goals in 128-career NHL games and 53-in 133-AHL games, but has goal scoring in him, as he scored 29-goals in 39-games at the University of New Hampshire. He could be a perfect depth scorer to carry the rest of the way.
Anthony Murphy is the Editor of The Rat Trick. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTRT.