Last season, Mike Hoffman met, and arguably exceeded, his expectations for his debut season as a Panther. Now, Florida is going to need more of the same.
Hoffman broke franchise records last season, with the longest point streak in Florida Panthers history, which ranged across 17 games. Hoffman had 20 points during that stretch (10 goals, 10 assists), and it really helped set the tempo for the rest of his season.
He also broke the record for most goals in a debut season for Florida. Hoffman struck home 36 goals last season, with 17 of those goals coming on the man advantage.
The Cats have needed a forward for these kinds of goals for a while now. Hoffman’s stunning shots have left so many goalies motionless over the last season, and he really began to grow into his role towards the middle of last season.
This goal, coming against Chicago in the early stages of the season, demonstrates not only Hoffman’s shot, but also his hockey IQ to make the play happen.
Hoffman gets the puck off the face-off, but immediately gives it up, and allows it to work to Keith Yandle. Yandle, who is usually the one who controls the power play, sends it over to the far side.
Once Jonathan Huberdeau has it over there, Chicago forget about the other side of the ice. Hoffman waits for Yandle to get the puck, he sends it over to Hoffman, and from his knees, buries the one-timer to open the scoring for Florida.
Hoffman’s power play output boosted the Panthers’ unit on the man advantage to second in the entire NHL, only behind the President’s Trophy winners in Tampa Bay. With 35 points on the power play, Hoffman was amongst the league’s elite on the man advantage, above top talents like Connor McDavid, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Brad Marchand.
His team play really surprised a lot of doubters, however. Hoffman’s 34 assists last season was another career-high, and the Panthers really were able to use his goals to help get some quality assists out of Hoffman as well.
Some teams, like the Toronto Maple Leafs, know that Hoffman is a force to be reckoned with while shorthanded. When the focus goes to him, it opens up time and space for other forwards on the team.
This power play is an exact representation of how the man advantage needs to stay under new head coach Joel Quenneville next campaign, swinging the puck from side to side, creating opportunities, and putting the puck on goal.
While Hoffman was unlucky not to have an assist earlier on this power play, he keeps his head up and stays sharp, able to get to two loose pucks. Knowing he’s being heavily defended, he gives the puck up, Yandle knows to move the puck around to Huberdeau, who nets his chance, doubling Florida’s lead in the game.
The one worry that needs to improve about Hoffman’s game is his goals at even strength. At times, Hoffman really struggled to create opportunities for himself with another defender on him and had a much worse shooting percentage at 5-on-5 in comparison to 5-on-4, 5-on-3, or 6-on-5.
With just 19 goals at even strength last season, Hoffman would be sixth amongst goals at even strength, behind Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov, Frank Vatrano, and new Panther Brett Connolly. Especially for someone like Hoffman, who’s biggest strength is his shooting, that shows a need for improvement.
Partially the reason Hoffman could have been worse at even strength was the number of times he was shuffled through the lineup. While he mostly played on the second line, he did alternate between the first and third lines throughout the year.
Even when he was consistently on the second line, center Vincent Trocheck missed a lot of time this season with a knee injury, which prevented the two from being more acclaimed to playing with each other.
Trocheck also struggled to repeat the play from the year before after the injury, so Hoffman’s numbers may improve this season if number 21 returns to his 2017-18 form.
Overall, Florida still is going to need more of the same. They didn’t get another top scorer in free agency or through any trades, so a lot of burdens will fall on Hoffman’s shoulders to supply the goals for next season.