5 Florida Panthers players who must bring their A-Game down the stretch

The Florida Panthers are so close to becoming the undisputed top team in the Eastern Conference, and five players must take charge to make that happen.

Jan 26, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) at the
Jan 26, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) at the / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Matthew Tkachuk’s physicality AND productivity must rival what we saw in Calgary

While Sam Reinhart has stolen headlines this season, very few think of him over Matthew Tkachuk when they hear the phrase Florida Panthers. And it’s little wonder as to why that is, since Tkachuk was a prime reason the Panthers made it as far as they did last year when he took home Second-Team All-Star honors and finished in third for the Hart Trophy. 

His 109-point season was a career-best, and that followed a 104-point outing he had during his final year with the Calgary Flames. However, his final season in Calgary also saw him score a career-best 42 goals, or just over half a goal per game. 

Tkachuk hit an identical rate last season when he scored 40 in 79 contests and he also remained one of the game’s most complete forwards, evidenced with his 17th-place finish for the Selke. In 2023-24, we have seen Tkachuk’s overall defensive game rival what we saw during his final season in Calgary, when he recorded 93 hits and 41 takeaways. Through 52 contests, those numbers sit at 72 and 27, respectively, and they will keep increasing.

The defense is there, but if Tkachuk can find a way to increase his goal-scoring output closer to what we saw during that final season in Calgary or even what we saw last year, Florida will be in business. Sure, Sam Reinhart is a huge reason why that’s not the case, but once again, such productivity from Tkachuk will help nudge the Panthers past their division rival to snag first place in the Atlantic.