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Healthy, comfortable Trocheck ready to face former team

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Wednesday night will be a reunion for Vincent Trocheck and the Florida Panthers, as the Canes’ hot center will face his former team for the first time.

Carolina Hurricanes v Dallas Stars Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

When the Carolina Hurricanes faceoff with the Florida Panthers Wednesday night in PNC Arena, it’ll be a reunion for one of the Canes’ hottest players, Vincent Trocheck.

Trocheck spent six and a half seasons with the Panthers before being dealt to the Hurricanes on last February’s trade deadline, and Wednesday night will be his first game against the team that drafted him back in 2011 as the Canes and Panthers square off for the first of eight meetings this season.

Trocheck, who was an All-Star for the Panthers back in 2017 and had a 75-point season for Florida in 2017-18, is playing some of the best hockey of his career to start the shortened 2021 campaign, with 13 points in 12 games played.

He’ll take a four-game point streak into the meeting with his former team, a game that he has certainly been anticipating.

“I’m definitely looking forward to playing them,” Trocheck said. “It’s going to be a little weird, but once you get on the ice it’s just hockey.”

Trocheck wasn’t the only player the Hurricanes acquired near the 2019-20 trade deadline before the season got shut down, and he isn’t the only guy of that group making an impact for the Canes now. Defenseman Brady Skjei was acquired from the New York Rangers, but unlike Trocheck had the opportunity to play against his former team in the bubble.

Skjei went through in June what Trocheck will experience Wednesday night, and he says it’s something he knows Trocheck will be up for.

“I think he’ll be excited,” Skjei said. “I know I was pretty pumped up. A lot of emotions are going through your body. You just want to do your best to help this team win. It will be no different for [Trocheck]. He’s a competitive guy. He’ll be looking to play his best game and help us win.”

In the Canes’ blazing hot start to the new season, Trocheck has been one of the team’s best players. He’s scored six goals and distributed seven assists, tied for second on the team with 13 points. His faceoff percentage is second best on the Canes to only Jordan Staal, and he’s offered a third fantastic center to go along with Staal and Sebastian Aho.

His start to 2021 has been great, and it’s a good sight to see for the Hurricanes after not getting too much out of Trocheck on the scoresheet in his very limited action with the team last season. Between the end of the regular season and the playoffs in the bubble, Trocheck played 15 games with the 2019-20 iteration of the Carolina Hurricanes.

In those 15 games, he scored just one goal and had just three assists, a point total that he matched in his third game with the Hurricanes this season. He seems to be finding his footing with the Hurricanes, and the product on the ice has been reminiscent of the Trocheck that put up back-to-back 50-plus point seasons for Florida.

“He’s played well this year, and then the points have come,” said Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “If we can get that out of him, or even something remotely like that, it’s a huge stress off everybody else. And we’re going to need that this year, for sure, if we’re going to be the team we want to be. I think he’s just comfortable now in this uniform and this organization, and his role. I think that just took a little while.”

Trocheck is finding his groove with the Hurricanes, and he’s been a big reason the team is off to a 10-3-0 start. He has a point in eight different games this season, and the Canes are 7-1-0 when he’s on the scoresheet.

He’s playing consistently well, and there’s a lot of reasons for it. He’s dealt with injuries in the past, playing just 55 games in 2018-19, but he’s been healthy so far this season, apart from missing one game with a minor lower body injury. That, along with gelling together with a no longer new team, has helped Trocheck to his hot start.

“It’s being 100 percent healthy for the first time in a couple years,” Trocheck said. “Then being comfortable in this organization. Having the time over the last season and offseason to get acclimated with everybody here and the system obviously makes you a little bit more comfortable and that helps.”

His performance so far has been a welcome plus for the Hurricanes, but it’s production that wasn’t unexpected according to Brind’Amour. When Carolina went out and got Trocheck from the Panthers last season, parting ways with Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and a pair of prospects, this is what the team knew it was getting.

“There’s no doubt,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s why we went out and acquired him. From just coaching against him these years and watching him play, the competitiveness is what really stood out. You can see it in him. He’s a smart hockey player and he can make plays, but I always thought the intangible was that he was a very competitive player. You can’t have enough of those. I thought it was a huge move just to get him.”