Trocheck stepping up, showing confidence with Panthers

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

After splitting time over the past couple of seasons with the Panthers and their former AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage, Vincent Trocheck finally seems to be here to stay.

Once the puck dropped to start the 2015-16 season for the Panthers, it took all of 1 minute and 23 seconds for Vincent Trocheck to get going. He scored the first goal of the season for the young team by driving hard to the net and swatting home a juicy rebound left by goaltender Steve Mason. In juniors, Trocheck was a prolific point producer, and so far this season, it’s not hard to see why.

“He’s a great player, very skilled. He’s like a little waterbug out there. He’s so fast and always making plays…gritty player for a little guy,” said Nick Bjugstad who’s currently centering the top line with Aleksander Barkov out with injury.

Losing Aleksander Barkov to a hand injury wasn’t the easiest pill to swallow for the Panthers, but the team agreed that there had to be a “next man up” mentality throughout the locker room. The Panthers have lots of solid young depth and Vincent Trocheck is just one of the many players that’s able to move up and down the lineup and still perform at a high level. When Barkov and Dave Bolland went down, Nick Bjugstad went to the top line and Trocheck not only moved up a line, but also slid back to his natural center position.

“I don’t think it’s been any different playing wing or center, I think it’s just playing the game. I got comfortable playing the wing whenever Barkov was in there and I got to the point where it felt natural…I feel comfortable at both positions,” said Trocheck.

“Center is his natural position so he’s happy being there obviously and he’s playing pretty well,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “It’s important to be a good young player that can play both sides of the puck and he does that.”

Trocheck is currently second on the Panthers with 11 points in 15 games and is also second in goals (6) behind Jaromir Jagr. All of this early production has Trocheck confident in his play and keeping a spot with the Panthers. “It’s good to have him playing well,” says Bjugstad.

“Just playing last year pretty much a full season and the year before that I had 20 games…it’s just inching my way forward a little bit every game and every season so far has given me a little bit more confidence,” says the 22-year-old Pittsburgh native.

Although smaller players are succeeding in the NHL more now than they did in the past, larger players continue to dominate, so it’s still impressive and exciting to watch Trocheck when he’s at his best. He likes to play a north-south game, and his speed and smarts allow him to be effective with and without the puck.

“It’s more on the defensive side that I need to work on and I’ve been working on it since I got into the league and I think that translates into the offense,” said Trocheck.

On Tuesday, a humorous situation nearly turned heartbreaking after Trocheck thought he scored a goal and went to celebrate in the corner. What he didn’t know as he faced the boards with his stick in the air was that the puck actually hit the post and the play was already going the other way. Johnny Gaudreau would’ve had a breakaway were it not for the diving poke check of Erik Gudbranson and a gorgeous glove save seconds later by Roberto Luongo.

Trocheck said at Wednesday’s morning skate that his teammates haven’t given him too much grief over the celebration.

“I heard a little bit obviously, I gave it to myself after that one. I thought it was in the net and the light went on…little did I know the puck was already at the red line by the time I turned around.”

“I think it would’ve been on ‘Not Top 10’ if [Calgary] would’ve scored, but luckily they didn’t to save Trocheck from that,” said Bjugstad.

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