Florida Panthers

Vincent Trocheck’s star continues to rise as he joins NHL’s best in L.A.

Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck (21) celebrates a goal by forward Brad Boyes (24) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of an NHL hockey game on March 1, 2015, in Sunrise.
Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck (21) celebrates a goal by forward Brad Boyes (24) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of an NHL hockey game on March 1, 2015, in Sunrise. AP

When Jaromir Jagr was voted onto his first All-Star team as a fresh-faced kid back in 1992, he says he didn’t want to go.

Playing a supporting — albeit a very popular — role on those powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins teams, Jagr said he didn’t deserve to share the ice with the top players in the league.

Vincent Trocheck shouldn’t have any such thoughts and there’s little indication he does.

Trocheck, 23, is playing at the very top of his game and is well deserved in his selection to this weekend’s All-Star celebration in Los Angeles.

“I was pretty surprised when I was notified that I was going,” Trocheck said.

“It’s an honor and very humbling to be mentioned with some of the other guys who are going. I’m extremely excited.”

A first-time All-Star, Trocheck’s status as a top-end player in the NHL has taken huge leaps over the past year or so.

Trocheck played in 20 games with the Panthers during the 2013-14 season and spent most of his time with the big club the following year.

Yet it wasn’t until he took over centering Florida’s second line with Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen in December of last season when things really took off.

In 70 games with the Panthers spanning two NHL seasons, Trocheck had 12 goals and 30 points. In 76 games last season, he had 25 goals and 53 points.

This season, Trocheck is on track to match or eclipse those numbers as he has 18 goals and 34 points in his first 50 games.

Trocheck has seven of those goals in Florida’s past nine games.

“He’s getting a lot of minutes, but they’re not easy minutes,” Jagr said, noting Trocheck’s added defensive responsibilities include killing penalties.

“He’s scoring goals and that’s very important because we need them. He plays a lot of minutes but he’s a good skater. He can handle it.”

HERALD HISTORY: Three Florida Panthers (and their coach) off to Nashville for All-Star weekend

Florida GM and interim head coach Tom Rowe had Trocheck for his first pro season with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage back in 2013.

Rowe, who replaced Peter Horachek in San Antonio when Kevin Dineen was fired, helped the Panthers identify Trocheck as a player they wanted to lock up long-term and help build their team around.

After Trocheck had his career year, the Panthers signed him to a six-year deal worth $28.5 million.

So far, Trocheck has been living up to it.

“He’s an unbelievable competitor,” Rowe said. “I have known him an awful long time and he doesn’t take a backseat to anyone out there. ...

“Vinnie is really one of the leaders on the team now and when he shows up to play the way he does every night, it’s contagious.

“There’s a reason he’s on the All-Star team.”

ALL-STAR WEEKEND

▪ Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles.

▪ SATURDAY: All-Star Skills Competition (relay, four-line challenge, shooting accuracy, fastest skater, hardest shot, shootout), 7 p.m.

▪ TV: NBCSN.

▪ SUNDAY: All-Star championship tournament, 3:30 p.m.

▪ What: A total of 44 All-Stars make up four divisional teams (Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central, Pacific) and will play two semifinal games (20 minutes, 3-on-3). The semifinal winners meet in a winner-take-all championship worth $1 million.

▪ TV/radio: NBC; WQAM 560, WMEN 640.

NHL ALL-STAR ROSTERS

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