Following the conclusion of the NHL regular season due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we will be highlighting yet another relatively adequate season from winger Frank Vatrano for the Florida Panthers.
Formerly of the Boston Bruins, Frank Vatrano was acquired for only a third-round pick during the 2017-18 NHL season to bolster the team’s lack of depth at the time. However, little did the Florida Panthers know that Vatrano would slowly start to develop into a potent scoring weapon on the team’s top-nine forward unit.
In fact, while appearing in only 16 games for the Cats during the 2018 season, Vatrano would record an impressive slash line of five goals and three assists for eight total points, averaging a point every other game for Florida. The speed and dynamic shot were key traits of Vatrano’s game, which fit in seamlessly with the playmakers on the Panthers’ roster.
The 2019 year would prove to be Franky V’s ultimate breakout season as a member of the Florida Panthers. While participating in 81 regular-season games, the American born native would record a solid tally of 24 goals and 15 assists for 39 total points on the season. More impressive to note, 22 of Vatrano’s 24 goals scored were on even strength, meaning he was a highly effective goal scorer in 5v5 play for Florida.
Essentially, Vatrano was demonstrating clear signs of growth and development, and the Bruins instantly regretted that transaction. Vatrano had developed into a quality top-nine winger and even earned himself a well-deserved, three-year contract extension during the middle of the 2019 NHL campaign.
Vatrano established himself as a reliable scoring winger who can easily produce 20+ goals and 35+ points in any given season for a playoff-hopeful squad. The even-strength weapon in Vatrano would continue to make positive strides in the shortened 2019-20 season, as well.
While participating in only 69 regular-season outings for the Panthers, the 26-year-old would record a fairly respectable line of 16 goals as well as 18 assists for 34 total points prior to the shutdown. With 13 games remaining at the time, Vatrano was undoubtedly on pace to shatter his career-high mark in points (39) and produce consecutive 20-goal seasons for the Cats.
Nevertheless, Vatrano would demonstrate how phenomenal he was on both ends of the ice for the Cats in 2020. The once offense-only winger developed into an improved two-way winger for the Panthers. In only 69 games, Vatrano recorded 43 blocked shots, 102 total hits, and a spectacular takeaway to giveaway ratio of 32 to 18 on the year.
While averaging roughly 15 minutes of ice time per game, Vatrano unquestionably earned those minutes and more for the surging Cats. One of Vatrano’s most memorable moments from the 2020 campaign was when he recorded a natural hat-trick versus the Chicago Blackhawks in a road victory.
In addition, despite receiving limited minutes in only a third-line role, Vatrano always appeared to be engaged and motivated to make a profound impact on the ice for the Cats. With Florida’s play-in series approaching versus the defensively staunched New York Islanders, the Panthers will rely considerably on Vatrano to provide reliable production for their top-nine forward unit and on even strength, as well.
All in all, the 26-year-old native of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, experienced yet another solid year with the Stanley Cup-hopeful Florida Panthers squad. The young Vatrano evidently has an exceedingly bright future and should remain with the Cats for the foreseeable future.
Nonetheless, for the present and short-term, the Panthers will unequivocally depend on the talents of Frank Vatrano to guide them to a series win against the Islanders as well as a long run in the playoffs this summer.