TAMPA — Coach Joel Quenneville knows forward Carter Verhaeghe has been consistent about one thing since joining the Panthers in the 2020 offseason: he’s never satisfied.
Verhaeghe’s drive to play better and be better has landed him on Florida’s top line with dynamic center Aleksander Barkov, and they’ll pose a threat to the Lightning tonight when the puck drops at Amalie Arena.
Through the Panthers’ first two games, Verhaeghe has scored a pair of goals — including a game-winner — and logged an assist. He is tied with four others as the team scoring leader, picking up right where he left off last season with 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in 43 games.
“He’s always looking for ways to improve whether it’s fitness, whether it’s positioning, whether it’s possession, but he’s always trying to do the little things that can either be more deceptive or enhance his shot...,” Quenneville said. “He’s really helped himself in the last year and a half and for us, he’s been pretty amazing.”
In the offseason, Verhaeghe focused on his skating. He said it’s always been “his thing” and being a pretty good player and skating well go hand-in-hand.
“Over time, (my game’s) evolved and learning from guys, playing with guys and (working with) different coaches and everything has helped a lot,” said Verhaeghe, 26. “It progresses over time, and I just keep trying to get better.”
Paired with a veteran like Barkov — who agreed to an eight-year, $80 million contract extension just before the 2021-22 season — Verhaeghe has had a prime opportunity to take in the game from elite perspective. Barkov led the Panthers with 26 goals last season and finished second in points (58) behind Jonathan Huberdeau (61).
“(Barkov’s) one of the best players in the world,” Verhaeghe said. “Just him on the ice, just watching him play, he has great vision, a great shot. I don’t think there’s one thing you could say he does poorly on the ice.”
Added Quenneville: “Certainly (Verhaeghe) and ‘Barky’ seem like they have a (good) thing going.”
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