The final prospect in our 25U25 countdown, the Panthers are relying on “The Artist” to put the team’s offense into elite company.
#7: Henrik Borgstrom
Position: Center (shoots Left)
Team: Florida Panthers
Drafted in 2016, 1st Round (23rd Overall)
It was the offseason following the best regular season in Florida Panthers history, and an exhilarating, though ultimately disappointing, first round playoff exit that set the tone for a very interesting summer. Heading in a new direction, the Cats held the the 23rd overall pick in the draft, one of the latest first-rounders in quite some time, and fans were excited about the prospect of continuing to add to an already young and talented core.
Then Dale Tallon jaunted up to the podium and announced the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft: Henrik Borgstrom. Literally speaking, a number of analysts flipped two, even three pages back in their big board of prospects to find Borgstrom’s name listed obscurely on the reports. Not a single hockey outlet had Borgstrom projected in the first round. One outlet had him outside the top 100 overall prospects.
Cats fans everywhere lamented. Somehow this laughingstock organization manages to waste a first round pick on someone nobody’s heard of, while other players like Tage Thompson, Riley Tufte, Brett Howden, and Alex Debrincat, who scouts were all drooling over, still sat on the board.
Not to mention, 2016 was Borgstrom’s second year of draft eligibility. Yep, all 30 NHL teams passed over the Finnish pivot in 2015. So, what could Dale Tallon & Co. have seen that everyone else hadn’t? A whole lot, apparently.
Legend goes that Henrik Borgstrom had an aggressive growth spurt in 2015 - some say up to nine (!) inches. That means that Borgstrom started as a small, skilled, quick centerman, and developed into a tall, 6’3” skater that still somehow could control the puck as if it were glued to the tape on his blade.
Still, little was known of Borgstrom due to the fact that he played little international competition. But, the Panthers have developed a knack for scouting in the Finnish developmental systems, and they decided the risk of taking him in the first round was worth the reward. Regardless of wherever else NHL teams had him ranked. The Cats wanted their guy, and they went out and got him.
Taking an unusual route for a highly-ranked European prospect, Henrik committed to attending the University of Denver and playing hockey in the NCAA. This was going to be both a true test and a center stage for Borgstrom to display his skills against tougher competition to the hockey world.
Borgstrom took the NCAA by storm as soon as he hit the ice. In 2016-2017, Henrik ranked second on the team in points, producing 43 (22G/21A) in 37 games, and was a key cog leading Denver to winning the National Championship.
Nicknamed “The Artist” by his peers for his creativity and wizardry with puck, Borgstrom entered his second season with Denver with hopes of repeating as national champions. Though he wasn’t able to lead the team to the promised land yet again, Henrik did improve in his second year with a team-leading 52 points (23G/29A) in 40 games, propelling him to Hobey Baker Finalist status. Borgstrom was the only non-goalie underclassman up for the honor - one that is typically saturated with Seniors and Juniors.
By the end of the 2017-2018 season, Henrik was considered one of the steals of the draft and one of the most highly touted prospects coming in to the league. On March 26, 2018, the Panthers inked Borgstrom to his entry-level contract, and had him play in four games as the Cats closed the season out. He scored one goal against the Boston Bruins, and played a largely defensive third line role.
Now, Borgstrom comes into training camp with the experience of having dipped his toes in the pool of NHL competition, and an opportunity to secure an opening night roster spot; however, there is no need for the team to rush Henrik if he isn’t 100% ready to play in the big leagues because of the roster depth Florida has accumulated over the last few years.
If Borgstrom reaches his full potential, the Panthers will boast one of the most potent offenses in the league. Is this the year for Borgstrom? Everyone knows what he’s capable of, so now Cats fans have to sit and wait for him to get his opportunity.
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