SUNRISE, Fla. — Sometimes, a change of scenery is all a hockey player needs to find success. That seems to be the case for Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe.
The 26-year-old won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2020, but he wasn't going to figure into the team's long-term plans. After that season, Verhaeghe signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers.
Now, with more ice time, Verhaeghe's quickly becoming one of their best players.
"My minutes almost doubled, and I was more reliable, a big part of the team kinda thing," Carter said after Wednesday's practice. "It’s different, but it grew my confidence and it kinda helped me develop into a different player."
Verhaeghe earned a three-year contract extension last July, and he currently leads the Panthers in goals (6), assists (6), and total points (12) this postseason.
Former teammate and current Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said staying in the NHL is all about making the most of the chances you're given.
"Carter’s become a great, great player. Obviously the great speed and the poise with the puck and the shot. He has all the tools," Stamkos said. "Once you’re given that opportunity you still have to go out and produce, and he’s done that."
Verhaeghe's started a new chapter in his career, but he admited he kept a few notes from his time with Tampa Bay.
"I learned from a lot of players, how they play in Tampa," Carter added. " Just watching those guys every day throughout the playoffs and throughout the regular season, I picked up a lot of stuff and tried to translate it to my game."
Stamkos smiled when he wished Verhaeghe continued success- with one exception.
"Great to see him having success, but hopefully not in this series," Stamkos said.
There were 11 penalties called in game one of this series, which might seem tame given the heated nature of this rivalry. But Stamkos added that players can't spend the entire game skating around at 100 mph trying to hit opposing players.
"You’ve gotta play your system, still. And that doesn’t mean that there can’t be a lot of hits, stuff after the whistle, and things like that. At the end of day, it’s who’s going to execute their game plan the best."
Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven series 1-0. Puck drop for game two is scheduled for just after 7 P.M. at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise. The series shifts back to Tampa for games three and four on Sunday (1:30 PM) and Monday (7:00 PM) at Amalie Arena.