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Your favorite player’s favorite winger Carter Verhaeghe is embarking on a new record-breaking career

Until a few weeks before he arrived in Broward County, Carter Verhaeghe was Aleksander Barkov’s trusted wingman. When Joel Quenneville decided to pair his star center in 2020 with Verhaeghe, who had only one season of NHL experience as a bottom-line forward for the Tampa Bay Lightning, it paid off immediately. He scored 18 goals in his first season as the Florida Panther, then 24 goals last year, and now has just 50 games in his third season as the Panther. set.

He’s done that with Barkov for over two years and now he’s doing it as an All-Star forward with Tkachuk on the second line on the opposing wing.

In Verhaeghe’s three seasons in Florida, the Panthers found a truth: Pair Verhaeghe with a star and he’ll produce such a star.

“I’m playing with some great players,” he said on Tuesday. “They find me in really good positions to score on the ice, so I shoot more and they come in.”

In a largely disappointing season in South Florida, Verhaeghe has really been a bright spot. The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will be at Sunrise next week, and it’s not crazy to think that Verhaeghe could be a forward if someone needs to be pulled out for injury or otherwise. His production is valuable and often coincides with his team’s best moments.

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Look no further than Tuesday: The Panthers (23-21-6) have lost three separate wins to the Pittsburgh Penguins and are behind in the edit twice, with Verhaeghe responding both times with the game-tipping goal. The second came when, with just 2:32 in the rule, he caught a misplayed puck in the offensive zone, beat the defense under the ice to pull Penguins goalkeeper Casey DeSmith off the net, and tapped around the nearby goalpost to force the puck into overtime. Give Florida a much-needed point with a 7-6 overtime loss in Pittsburgh and the second night of a back-to-back set.

“It was great,” coach Paul Maurice said on Tuesday. “Tonight, especially after last night, he was skating and had a real passion for his game.”

Verhaeghe’s prowess earns the Panthers a big point despite their wild game defeat to the Penguins

For another example, look at the 2022 Stanley Cup qualifiers: The Panthers’ last great moment was their first-round win against the Washington Capitals last year, with Verhaeghe leading Florida with six goals, including a series win tally in Game 6. The Panthers were good when they were great and still good when they were bad – he’s been a model of consistency for over two years because he’s been the ideal winger to play alongside the stars.

It all starts with speed because the 27-year-old Canadian wouldn’t be a top six striker without some top skill, and his skating ability has become his signature feature. It was something he had struggled with for five years in the minor leagues, especially in his two posts at ECHL Missouri as part of the New York Islanders organization.

“I realized that skating was the greatest thing,” Verhaeghe said. “What everybody always told me was: Practice on the roller skate, practice on the roller skate, and then you can play.”

It was further highlighted when he went to the NHL with Lightning in 2018 and watched Tampa Bay center Brayden Point closely during a Stanley Cup run.

Really, everything about his time in Tampa influenced the other part of why he is now such an excellent role player.

“I was on the bottom line. Anyway, I watched all those great actors and got a lot out of him,” Verhaeghe said. “I realized what it cost. … I wanted to be a part of it too.”

He got a chance for a bigger role with Florida, making the most of it, helping the Panthers become a Cup contender last year and giving Florida their biggest postseason moment in over 25 years.

Verhaeghe hasn’t slowed down since his goal-scoring frenzy. A new coaching team, whether playing Barkov or Tkachuk or both, wanted him to lean more towards his goal-scoring ability as a finisher, and he did.

In the entire last season, Verhaeghe took 149 shots and 312 attempts. This year, he has fired 149 shots from 259 tries, six of which on Tuesdays, and his shooting percentage has increased.

“If you enter the game thinking you want to hit the puck, it’s easier to do that,” Verhaeghe said. “They wanted me to be a shooter and it was very easy to play with two guys who could pass very well. They put me in great positions to shoot.”