There’s a good reason the Florida Panthers spent a 2010 first-round draft pick on Quinton Howden, and former Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek knows that better than anyone.
Horachek, who coached the 24-year-old when he was with the AHL’s San Antonio Blazers, has seen Howden’s scoring prowess.
After the past two games, so has most everybody else.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Howden said. “[I’m] just getting some pucks to the net right now and getting some bounces.”
Howden scored his second goal in as many games Friday when he ripped a shot past Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling with 2.1 seconds left in the first period. Darling couldn’t keep the puck squeezed between his leg pads, and Howden notched his fifth goal of the season.
As a junior hockey player, Howden scored in bunches, including 30 during his final year in Canada’s Western Hockey League.
But the center’s role is different with the Panthers than it was in junior hockey, said Horachek during Friday’s game. Although Howden has found the net in the past two games, it’s the rest of his game that has made a major impact. Howden’s skating, forechecking and knack for forcing turnovers give the Panthers a skill set every team needs, Horachek said.
As he continues to adjust to the NHL, Howden cites center Derek MacKenzie as a major influence. Horachek also mentioned the mentorship, which he said was similar to the role Jaromir Jagr played for Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
MacKenzie, however, downplayed his impact on Howden’s recent hot stretch.
“If anything I just try to remind him every night: move your feet, work hard and things will come. He’s done it all himself. He’s a great player and it’s just fun to watch him play.”
Howden’s well-rounded game has given him some room to breathe. After he moved back and forth between San Antonio and Florida during the past three seasons, this year’s contributions seem to have found him a permanent spot with the Panthers. As Horachek said, Howden can play without scoring and not worry about being sent down. Now, he’s finally seeing the rewards.
“Well, I think it’s good to see that he is [succeeding],” Horachek said. “They drafted him, they saw something in him right from the beginning. He’s such a good kid. He never complained. … He just showed up the next day and worked hard. When you have guys like that, you wanna see them have the success. So I’m glad to see him playing a regular role and doing a good job doing it.”
Between that and his newly purchased house in the area, Howden has found a new sense of stability. And although Howden’s games with Florida in the past were helpful — he played 34 games for the Panthers between 2012 and 2014 — his cemented role has allowed him to focus on hockey.
“Everything’s experience,” Howden said. “So it was nice to get the games before, but to be settled here and comfortable, it helps for sure.”