SUNRISE — In each of his first three seasons with the Florida Panthers, Carter Verhaeghe has outdone himself.
In his first season, one shortened due to Covid, he had 18 goals.
Last season, Verhaeghe was part of a Florida offensive onslaught in which seemingly every player on the team set some sort of career high as he ended with 24 goals — not counting the six he scored in the playoffs.
Then we come to what he is doing in this one.
On Monday afternoon, Verhaeghe scored 1:42 into overtime to give his Panthers a hard-fourth 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks for his 30th goal of the season.
With 22 games left, he is not done yet.
And, coach Paul Maurice is one who think Verhaeghe has yet to scratch the surface to how good he can be even after hitting a pretty nice scoring mark.
“It is a real big deal for him since it is his first time but then you realize, we have a lot more games left so ‘what more can I do?’,” Maurice said on Monday.
“I think Carter is just coming into the true confidence of a shooter. He understands, and it has taken some time, that he is the shooter on the ice and he should not be deferring. If it is on his stick, we want that shot first. He is going to score a whole lot of goals.
“There are guys who score 20 or 30 and you think ‘oh, they got lucky. That’s not happening again.’ I think the opposite for him is true. He has missed a whole lot of chances that I think are going to start going when that true confidence comes in.”
By now, everyone knows the Verhaeghe story.
He was drafted by the third round by his hometown Maple Leafs, bumped around with the Islanders before finally hitting his stride with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL team in Syracuse.
During the 2018-19 season, Verhaeghe scored 34 goals with 81 points to lead the entire league in goals and scoring, opening up some eyes within the Tampa Bay organization in the process.
That following year, he was a full-time member of the Lightning — even if he did not play all the time.
Verhaeghe ended up appearing in 52 games and was a healthy scratch for a big portion of the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup.
Handcuffed by salary cap restrictions, the Lightning chose not to qualify Verhaeghe making him a free agent.
The Panthers jumped at the chance to sign him to a two-year deal and the two sides have benefited from that ever since.
“Since the day he joined us, we loved him. We love him as a guy, we love him as a player,” Sasha Barkov told FHN earlier this season.
“Everything he does is great and we really like to be around him. He comes to the rink and makes your day a lot better than it was going to be.
“I didn’t know the type of player he was when he got here, but ever since Day 1, he has impressed me. He keeps impressing me every day.”
For Verhaeghe, just getting the overtime goal was enough for him as the Panthers try to keep pace with the other challengers for a playoff berth this season.
The 30-goal plateau — which ranked him tied for 15th in the NHL coming into Tuesday — is obviously a nice feather in his cap and further cements his status as a key offensive cog for the Panthers.
Verhaeghe, since the day he stepped foot on the ice with the Panthers, has rarely played outside of the top-6.
He has certainly earned that sort of responsibility.
“It is a pretty cool accomplishment but it is a big win and it is nice that it came in a win,” said Verhaeghe, who is in the first season of a three-year contract extension he signed with the team in 2021.
PANTHERS ON DECK
BUFFALO SABRES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Florida leads 2-0): Panthers 4, Sabres 3 (Oct. 15); Panthers 4, Sabres 1 (Jan. 16)
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 53-44-8, 4 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Feb. 28 at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.