Henrik Borgstrom stood on the ice at the Panthers Ice Den in Coral Springs, the puck in front of his feet and just the goaltender in his way.
It was his turn in a routine shootout practice during this week’s Florida Panthers development camp. Borgstrom decided to turn it up a notch.
The 18-year-old forward from Finland and 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft slapped the puck one-handed for an easy goal, dazzling his teammates in the process.
“These guys have never seen those moves before,” a bubbly Borgstrom said after practice Wednesday. “It’s great to show them how it’s done in Finland.”
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While Borgstrom, committed to play at the University of Denver this season, is unlikely to find himself on the Panthers’ 23-man roster in the immediate future, the newcomer has quickly made an impact during this week’s development camp.
“He’s a really skilled player,” said left wing Lawson Crouse, Borgstrom’s roommate for the week and the Panthers’ 2015 first-round pick. “He’s a great kid, a great hockey player, and he’s going to have a bright future.”
In addition to the on-ice training, Borgstrom said the coaches have emphasized off-the-ice preparation throughout the week, lessons he hopes to bring with him as he prepares to start his freshman year at the University of Denver.
At just 176 pounds, Borgstrom is lanky for a 6-3 forward. He said one of his initial goals while playing with the Pioneers is to build up his power and strength.
“Playing in college is a good way to gain that because games are on the weekends and you have the whole week to practice and work out,” said Borgstrom, who scored 29 goals and dished out 26 assists in 40 games last season with the HIFK U-20 team.
David Carle, an assistant coach at the University of Denver, went to Finland to recruit Borgstrom and noticed his talent immediately.
“Obviously, you’re very taken aback and impressed with his skill level,” Carle said. “From there, his vision, his ability to get inside the dots and be a threat with the puck is very impressive.”
Carle said with the help of the University of Denver’s strength and conditioning program, Borgstrom will begin to fill out his frame quickly. From there, Carle said the plan is to help Borgstrom maintain his fluidity on the ice.
“We’re going to let Henrik be Henrik with the puck,” said Carle, adding that Borgstrom has a strong chance to be a starter when their season opens in October.
Borgstrom said he has spent a good amount of the week with Crouse, sharing tips and giving each other feedback after drills. Each has a commanding presence on the front line but uses opposing tactics to do so.
Crouse focuses on pure strength, using his 6-4, 212-pound frame to force defenders out of his way or protect the puck. Borgstrom prioritizes finesse and accuracy while holding onto the puck to compensate for his thinner frame.
“[Crouse is] a little stronger and he’s a little bit ahead of me physically,” Borgstrom said. “It’s good to play with someone like him because usually I’m just watching those type of players on the TV.”
With two days left in the development camp, which concludes with a scrimmage on Friday after four days of film study and on-ice skill training, Borgstrom said he plans to be a sponge.
“Just learn as much as possible,” Borgstrom said. “There are such great players in the camp. … I’m trying to learn from the older guys and yet still try to be like myself and be the best that I can be.”