Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers rookie Vincent Trocheck full of confidence

 

Vincent Trocheck, a scoring machine in juniors, is going after one of the few available spots on the Panthers’ roster.

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

There is little doubt Vincent Trocheck plays with extreme confidence.

After all, the 20-year-old rookie did something pretty special last year, being named the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s top player after leading the league in scoring with 50 goals.

Will Trocheck’s conviction in his ability be enough to earn him a spot on the Panthers’ roster in a few weeks?

No. But if he shows even a touch of the scoring prowess he did while in juniors, a Florida team starving for goals might give Trocheck a serious look.

“We told them there is equal opportunity here,” general manager Dale Tallon said before Florida’s prospect camp opened Thursday morning.

“We don’t care about their age. I want them to feel like they have a fair opportunity to make our team, to make the big club. That starts now.”

Trocheck and the rest of the Panthers gathered in Coral Springs received the message from Tallon, yet it’s too early to determine whether any of them will do anything about it.

Florida’s main training camp starts next Thursday.

“Vinny is a player, a hockey player who is a highly competitive guy,” said Scott Luce, the Panthers’ director of amateur scouting.

“He leads by example and doesn’t take no for an answer when it comes to his production. He feels he can produce at any level. His drive combined with his high skill level bodes well for his future.”

The Panthers, despite publicly announcing the roster will trend younger this season, still have a number of locks and only a handful of openings. Trocheck, a third-round pick in 2011, wants one of them.

Working throughout the offseason in his native Pittsburgh with other NHL players helped the 5-11 forward put on some muscle and improved his core strength.

Whether that’s enough to help him be on the ice when the Panthers open the season in Dallas — or play in their home opener on Oct. 11 against his hometown Penguins — remains to be seen.

“I’m coming here to make the team, but I know it’s going to be a battle. There are a lot of talented players here,” Trocheck said. “It’s going to be good competition, and it’s going to be fun.”

Peter Horachek is the coach of Florida’s minor-league affiliate in San Antonio and would likely benefit from having Trocheck in the American Hockey League this season.

The Panthers have been reticent to rush young players under Tallon, and it’s very likely Trocheck could start the season in Texas. Trocheck, however, should not be thinking that way.

“He led the [OHL] in scoring, led the playoffs in scoring and is a very skilled guy,” said Horachek, who spent the past decade as an assistant in Nashville.

“He’s a very confident young man who wants to win. I think that will help him. He believes in his abilities, believes he can play in the NHL. That’s what young guys need. It’s a big step and a process. Whatever the time frame is, he’s going to play in the NHL.”

• Kris Versteeg was on the ice with the rest of the veterans Thursday as he works back from having major surgery on his right knee.

“It’s a long process, but my goal is to be ready for the start of the season,” Versteeg said.

“I guess we’ll see how training camp goes. I don’t want to go into a regular-season game without knowing what training camp is like. I think I’ll be there for most of it. That’s my goal.”

• Aleksander Barkov participated in drills Thursday but will not play in the weekend prospects tournament with Boston, Tampa Bay and Nashville.

NHL.com reported that Seth Jones (Nashville) and Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay) will participate.

• Admission to tournament games is free. All on-ice activities are being held at the Saveology.com Iceplex at 3299 Sportsplex Dr. in Coral Springs.

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