Florida Panthers: Henrik Borgström Looks Ready to Perform at the Highest Level

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 20: Florida Panthers Center Henrik Borgstrom (95) in warmups prior to the regular season NHL game between the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs on December 20, 2018 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 20: Florida Panthers Center Henrik Borgstrom (95) in warmups prior to the regular season NHL game between the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs on December 20, 2018 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Since the end of last season, Florida Panthers fans have heavily anticipated a full season of 2016 1st round selection, Henrik Borgström.

He had marveled at the NCAA level that entire season for the University of Denver, scoring 23 times and tagging along with 29 assists in 40 games.

Borgström also only took 9 penalties and had a +13 rating. With that, the Florida Panthers called up Borgström for the final four games in the 2017-18 season.

Playing right-wing on the third line with Frank Vatrano and Jared McCann, he mustered just one point, a bullet of a wrist shot against the Boston Bruins in the final game of the season.

After that, the hype began to grow around the young Finn. He had averaged above a point-per-game measurement since 2014 in the U18 HIJK league back in Finland, had proven himself in American colleges, and now looked ready to prove it on the American stage

Throughout the offseason, projections began to predict Borgström’s spot on the Florida Panthers to begin the 2018-19 season was all but assured, with the Cats acquiring just one forward (Mike Hoffman) in the summer, as well as losing out on Jamie McGinn due to injury.

Some projections saw him as high as the second line, paired beside Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck. He had a mediocre preseason, perhaps a little underwhelming, but still strong enough to make the roster, most fans and media believed.

Dale Tallon didn’t believe in these philosophies and started Borgström in the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds to begin the season.

While the decision got some backlash, it looks to have been the right decision to start the 21-year old in the minors. How long he was there is another matter, but he settled right into life in Springfield.

Borgström had the 2nd best ratio of points-per-game, with 22 points across 24 games, only beat out by Jayce Hawryluk’s 28 points in 25 games.

Henrik tallied 5 times for the Thunderbirds with 17 assists, including 1 power play goal, a +4 plus/minus, and just four penalties taken, only behind Blaine Byron for the best penalty minutes per-game ratio (while Henrik was in Springfield).

Bob Boughner has seen Borgström both before and after his time in Springfield, and he was nothing but positive about the move.

When the Panthers were on a four-game losing skid, coming off an embarrassing 5-1 defeat against the Minnesota Wild, Tallon felt it was time for a change in the Panthers’ ranks, calling up both Borgström and Hawryluk to the NHL, while demoting Anthony Greco in the process.

The Panthers needed an answer at center with Vincent Trocheck out with injury, and Jared McCann wasn’t able to cut it as a top 6 forward, so both additions fit nicely with the team.

Borgström has provided flexibility and precision to the forward core, something that was desperately missed after Trocheck’s injury.

He was a great presence in his opening game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He won 8 out of his 12 faceoffs and had 2 key passes flexing between the second and third lines, trying to figure out where his best fit was.

He bagged his first NHL assist in the next game, a secondary assist on the power play on Frank Vatrano’s 9th goal of the season.

Where he’s also been a presence so far is with his shot. “The Artist” has 3 goals in his last 6 games, and all have been very well-taken.

His first on the year was nothing but a consolation in Florida’s 6-1 defeat at Toronto, but it was yet another power play goal for the Panthers.

William Nylander and Morgan Rielly give the 21-year-old too much room to move into a shooting position, but netminder Frederik Andersen is well-positioned.

Give a lot of credit on this play to Vatrano, who moves in front of the Leafs’ keeper to give Henrik a window to shoot into the top corner. With a quick wrist shot, Andersen is left flat-footed and Borgström tallies his second career goal.

His third goal was the best of the bunch as it showcases everything Borgström brings to the table. First, Borgström pressures Andrew Shaw (#65 in white) into forcing an ill-advised pass which deflects off Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s skate back to Mike Hoffman.

While this happens, Borgström’s awareness sets himself up into a Grade A scoring position, straight into the slot.

His killer instinct comes into effect after that, as he sets and fires a laser past defenseman Jeff Petry and goalie Antti Niemi to score.

He celebrates his first home goal in style and gives the Cats the momentum to come back to tie the game after giving up two quick goals.

Overall, Henrik Borgström’s play at the NHL level has been exactly what the doctor ordered. From the start, he has looked mature, disciplined, and has shown promise to be a member of the top-six forward group for years to come.

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