It took a while, but new Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito finally sent Mike Matheson and the final six years of his contract packing yesterday, along with bottom-six forward Colton Sceviour.
The man coming back the other way from the Pittsburgh Penguins is 33-yea-old forward Patric Hornqvist.
After being selected with final pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators, Hornqvist spent the first six years of his NHL career with the Predators before he was traded to the Pittsburgh on June 27, 2014 for James Neal.
Last season, he put up 17 goals and 32 points in 52 regular season games and contributed a goal and an assist in Pittsburgh’s four-game, qualifying round loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
After asking for some intel on Matheson, PensBurgh’s Hooks Orpik was kind enough to share his thoughts on Hornqvist, which I will now pass on to you lot.
Panthers fans are in for a treat with Patric Hornqvist heading to Florida. He’s a player that you might not have liked on other teams, but will quickly grow to love on your own. The guy is all heart, all energy, all emotion. He was the last pick of his draft year and literally worked his way to being a 30-goal NHL scorer at his peak, through hard work and the willingness to do absolutely anything to the echo of the whistle to make goalies and defensemens’ lives hell. He’s tenacious, competitive, no frills type of player. He’s going straight to the net, he’s firing the puck any time he can, he’s emptying the tank in every period of every game.
Hornqvist, in my opinion, is the best net-front presence in the NHL today. He will take the goalie’s eyes away, parking himself in the crease. At 5’11”, 190, he’s not big at all, but his sheer force of will makes him, if not an immovable object, a very stubborn one that will simply get right back in there at every opportunity. The Penguins’ power play was demonstrably better when Hornqvist played compared to the games he missed, and that is no coincidence. Hornqvist opens up more space for others. His presence can’t be denied and is very effective.
The worries are probably just how much he has left still to give. Hornqvist will be 34 on New Year’s Day, and players with his style and work ethic tend to have their bodies fail them before their spirit does. That’s been the case a little bit, especially in 2018-19 when he suffered multiple concussions, breaking a eight season streak (not counting lockout shortened year) of 20+ goals. He bounced back a bit in 2019-20 but by then had been moved off Pittsburgh’s top two lines and was only getting about 16 minutes a game. Hornqvist hasn’t topped 70 games played in four straight seasons (and missed enough time where he wouldn’t have even if the season wasn’t stopped), though he has pretty consistently played in about 70.
Durability may be a concern as he continues for his age 34-36 seasons. Effort and input never will be a concern. Hornqvist will help lead the team and is a bundle of tightly-wound energy that will be contagious. Hornqvist helped shake the Pens out of a malaise when he arrived in 2014. Every Pens’ fan will remember him scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal in 2017 in Game 6 against Nashville, while dealing with a badly broken finger that limited him to fourth line duties and then literally shaking on the bench and tearing up crying with emotion as the only release. The guy cares a lot, and while it’s a cliche to say he’s a “heart and soul” player, Hornqvist literally is the type of competitor who without a doubt will do anything possible to win. There aren’t too many players like Hornqvist in this world, he’s unique in a lot of ways and one that should be able to add a lot to any NHL team.
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