While his two-point night against Carolina was Henrik Borgström at his best, it’s just smoke and mirrors of what his true potential is.
The 21-year-old forward had shown flashes of the dominant center that dominated the NCAA for the University of Denver.
Borgström, in his first consistent stint with the Florida Panthers, had his first multi-goal game last Saturday night, scoring his sixth and seventh goal of the season in a 4-3 OT loss to the Hurricanes.
He was also involved in the second goal, tallying an assist on Mark Pysyk’s first goal of the season.
Borgström has been thrown all across the ice from Bob Boughner as the team tries to find the right fit for him.
He’s been on the second line as a right-winger with Jared McCann (while he was still in Florida) and Evgeni Dadonov and centered and played on the left of the third line with Mike Hoffman, Denis Malgin, and Jayce Hawryluk.
He’s been thrown on special teams as well as part of the second power-play unit, which gets significantly less time than the first.
Don’t get it twisted, but for a playmaker like Borgström to be placed on the fourth line with a grinder and a forward struggling to make paces at the NHL level, isn’t going to help his development.
Even still, Borgström played his best game of the season last night, his first three-point night and the first star of the game. Despite that, Borgström only played 8:16 in a game that went 62:45 long. How does that make sense?
The opinion of Borgström inside the Panthers organization appears to be a frustrating one. The organization (Dale Tallon & Bob Boughner) know that he’s too good for the AHL, but can’t seem to crack the top six.
Everyone seems to be irritated; the fans and the player are pushing for more time on the ice, while the organization feels that Borgström isn’t at the level to break up the top six right now.
While I can’t make any assumptions at what Boughner’s strategy is, it looks like he’s trying to keep a young line together with Hawryluk and Dryden Hunt.
This is attempting to appeal to Borgström, with him being able to play faster with two wingers more capable of keeping up with him, but this still isn’t playing more than 10:00 in his games.
Right now, it’s a tough task for any center to get in above the top two Panthers’ centers right now, despite Vincent Trocheck’s dip in form after returning from injury.
One issue with the Panthers’ management of Borgström is his lack of play in overtime. The Panthers have gone to overtime in 5 of their last 6 games, a tiring stretch for players like Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, who usually heavily feature in the overtime frame.
Borgström’s skillset seems to mirror what teams may want in the overtime: quickness, skill, and an individual who can create his own space and shot.
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Yet, Borgström hasn’t played a bit of overtime hockey for the Panthers at all. It’s disappointing that the Cats don’t give the rookie a chance to flourish on 3-on-3 hockey, but there’s something that has to be considered.
The thing that we all must remember is this: Henrik Borgström is still 21 years of age. He has plenty of room to improve and develop at the NHL level, so rushing him into 18-20 minutes night after night may be too much on his body.
To compare Borgström’s struggles for minutes, we look at another Finn, Teuvo Teravainen.
Teravainen’s time in Chicago was also frustrating, another mid-late first round pick was played deep with forwards such as Joakim Nordstrom, Brian Bickell, and Daniel Carcillo rather than the big boys like Patrick Kane, Johnathan Toews, or Marian Hossa.
Eventually, he grew better with age but left Chicago to join Carolina, where he’s on pace to finish with around 80 points as a top-six forward, a player that Chicago would’ve loved to have today.
So, is Borgström deserving of more minutes because of the lack of talent above him, or are the Panthers trying to be safer with him for the future? This is something we should all think about.