In the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Florida Panthers went off the board to select the Finnish forward Henrik Borgstrom. While the move was highly questioned then, it has proven to be a wise one as Borgstrom has continued to rise up the Panthers’ farm system.
As Marco Bombino of overtheboards.net claimed in his 2016 profile of Borgstrom, who was still unproven at that point:
"“HIFK U20 center Henrik Borgström might be the most underrated Finnish prospect for the 2016 NHL draft… Borgström can dangle with the puck even when there are two or three players around him. Has great hands and playmaking skills – makes timid, heady passes in the final third. Also, he has a good wrist shot with a quick release.”"
Since the draft, Borgstrom has become not only one of the best players in college the previous two seasons but has also quickly risen up the Panthers’ and the NHL prospect rankings, becoming one of the most valuable in hockey.
Heck, at the 2018 trade deadline, Borgstrom was the hottest commodity on the Panthers. According to general manager Dale Tallon, Borgstrom was one of the reasons why the Panthers’ stayed pat at the trade deadline and didn’t execute a deal for the likes of Ryan McDonagh and Max Pacioretty.
As Tallon put it in his post-deadline press conference:
"“Everybody’s high on [Borgstrom]. We’re higher on him. He’s the real deal and we’re excited about having him in our system. We’ll be a better team with him in the lineup long-term. There was a lot of requests about him and we were reluctant to do anything.”"
To be fair to these teams, there is no reason a team should not be interested in Borgstrom. Borgstrom has been one of the main reasons for Denver’s success the past two seasons, playing significant minutes on the National Champion 2016-17 roster and the current 4th ranked team.
Last season, Borgstrom scored 22 times and assisted on another 21 goals, while leading Denver to the National Championship. Borgstrom was also named a NCHC Western All-American as well as the NCHC Rookie of the Year.
This season for Denver, Henrik has eclipsed his total for points from last season, scoring 44 points at this point in the year. His 44 points lead all of Denver and is tied for 6th in the country. His 1.33 points per game also ranks 6th in the country.
As for his NHL career with the Panthers, a few things are up in the air for Borgstrom, including when Borgstrom will truly begin his professional career with the Cats.
Henrik can begin playing for the Panthers as soon as his season with Denver is over. With the Panthers fighting for the playoffs, it seems like this could be the best option for the team. However, bringing Borgstrom up for the playoff push and possible playoff games would burn a year from his Entry Level Contract, giving the Panthers only 2 years on the three-year entry-level deal.
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The Panthers could also choose to bring Borgstrom up to the professional team next season to begin the season, which seems more likely. Past this, the decision then becomes where they will slot the young Finn.
Among the options would be with fellow Finn Aleksander Barkov, who is having a career season with Evengi Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad by his side. His ability to handle the puck and score makes him almost a perfect linemate for Dadonov and Barkov. Putting him on the 1st line would make all parties better.
The other option could be to put him on a line with Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau. While Denis Malgin has worked very well on this line, it could be wise to put him on the 3rd line with the likes of Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann, giving the Panthers a top 9 capable of controlling games. This choice could give Trocheck a consistent linemate, something he’s yet to have for a while now.
Revisiting the 3rd line, it’s possible that Borgstrom starts next season, or the end of this season, with that line. If it was next season, it’s possible that Boughner places Borgstrom with fellow prospect Owen Tippett, who’s a sniper and Jared McCann, a talented two-way player. While physicality may be a concern with this line, it would give the Panthers a top 9 which are all capable of scoring when relied upon.
Regardless of where Borgstrom plays when his NHL career begins, there is no doubt that he will have a long and fruitful career. The Panthers are in the running for another Calder Trophy winner, this time with Henrik Borgstrom.