CORAL SPRINGS — Brandon Montour averaged about 90 seconds per game on the Florida Panthers power play last season, almost all coming with the second unit.
That could change drastically this year.
When the Panthers started running power play for the first time in training camp last week, Montour found himself running the top unit along with Aaron Ekblad, Sasha Barkov, Sam Reinhart and Matthew Tkachuk.
In Thursday’s 5-2 preseason loss to the Hurricanes, Montour remained at the point of the Florida power play and his 2:11 of playing time with the man advantage was among the team leaders.
”It is a great opportunity especially having such high-end players out there,” Montour said. “I have to take advantage of it. I have played on power play-1 and power play-2 before and it doesn’t really matter to me as long as I get the opportunity. …
”Last year, our power play got off to a hot start but right now, we want to force up a lot of shots. We want to have that attack mentality because if you don’t shoot the puck, you’re not scoring goals.”
Coach Paul Maurice said the Panthers were going to try some different looks on the power play as the season closes in, Montour is going to get his chance.
Last season, Ekblad took over for Keith Yandle on the point and mostly stayed there until his injury in March.
When Claude Giroux arrived the following week, Panthers coach Andrew Brunette ran a lot of five-forward sets — something that continued into the playoffs.
Although the Panthers had success in the regular season and their 64 goals ranked third in the NHL, the power play dried up in the postseason going just 1-for-31 in the two series.
Brunette said it was a failure that would haunt him throughout the offseason.
The Panthers, at least initially, are trying something new with Ekblad in the shooting hole and Tkachuk down low.
”(Montour) can get across that line so quickly and he can shoot the puck which is important for the guy up top because they are going to have to protect that shot,” Maurice said.
“On that unit, you have Ekblad and Barkov on the flanks so if you cheat on those two heaters — and I understand why you would — we have a guy in Tkachuk who isn’t afraid to get to the net front. Having someone who can get across the line quickly and can shoot will make things open up for the other guys.”
As for Montour, this could be a big year with the Panthers aside from new power play responsibility.
Starting his second full season after coming to Florida from Buffalo at the 2020 trade deadline, Montour’s versatility on the blueline makes him a very valuable piece for the Panthers.
With MacKenzie Weegar traded to Calgary, Gus Forsling is expected to play on the top pairing with Ekblad but Montour could move up as well.
Montour, he has shown, can play just about anywhere and with anyone.
He likes it that way.
“I am a little bit of a rover and you can interchange d-partners with me,” Montour said. “That may be the same scenario this season. As long as I am on the ice and we have another solid season, I’m fine with it.
“We have a good group and a good team here. Last year is going to be hard to beat. But we’re up for the challenge. It’s nice to change up d-partners sometimes and that happens all the time for various reasons.
“I literally played with everyone on the d-corps last year. That allows me to be pretty familiar with everyone else and they are familiar with me.’’
— As expected, the Panthers made a bunch of roster moves Sunday with the Charlotte Checkers opening up AHL training camp on Monday.
The big names being sent to Charlotte are Grigori Denisenko and Anton Levtchi, two players who did not have to go through waivers and did not have the best of camps.
The other moves: Connor Bunnaman, Patrick Giles, Ethan Keppen, Riley Nash, Dennis Cesana, Santtu Kinnunen and John Ludvig.
Goalie Mack Guzda is also in Charlotte.
Florida also further trimmed its roster by playing Charlotte captain Zac Dalpe and defenseman Anthony Bitetto on waivers Sunday. Both will be assigned to the Checkers if and when they clear on Monday afternoon.
FLORIDA PANTHERS PRESEASON
Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers
Where, When: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise; Thursday, 7 p.m.
Tickets: CLICK HERE
2022 Preseason — Sept. 26: Florida 4, @Nashville 3 (OT); @Nashville 4, Florida 0. Sept. 29: Carolina 5, @Florida 2. Saturday: @Carolina 4, Florida 3. Thursday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8: at Tampa Bay, 4 p.m
Regular Season Opener: Oct. 13 at New York Islanders