The Charlotte Checkers announced on Tuesday that Florida Panthers prospect Grigori Denisenko missed the latter half of the season with a broken kneecap sustained Jan. 12.
He finished the game, tying the score in the third period before getting the overtime winner in a 2-1 win over the Hartford Wolfpack.
Per Checkers coach Geordie Kinnear, Denisenko broke his kneecap while blocking a shot.
The 21-year-old forward underwent surgery and said he will begin skating in three weeks.
That puts him on track to join the Panthers for training camp in the fall.
With multiple forwards due to become unrestricted free agents, the 2018 first-round pick has a shot at a spot on Florida’s roster.
After starting the season out slow, putting up just one point in his first seven games, he scored 17 in his next 23.
He even earned himself a short stint in the NHL when seven Panthers players hit the COVID list on Dec. 16.
Denisenko had 15:30 of ice time with three shots and a penalty in the 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, where Florida played shorthanded.
He previously earned an NHL stint in 2021 where he notched four assists in seven games, also adding nine points in 15 games with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL during the shortened campaign.
With the Panthers facing a cap crunch, Denisenko could be moved in a deal to free up space to bring back free agents like Mason Marchment and Claude Giroux.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the Panthers were looking into trading Sergei Bobrovsky and his $10 million contract and Denisenko could very well be used as a sweetener to get a team to take on the contract.
Florida does not hold a first-round draft pick until 2025, so they are very limited on assets to get a deal done.
If Denisenko does stick around, especially with one or both of Giroux or Marchment walking in free agency, expect him to compete for a roster spot.
Their departure leaves a potential hole on both the top line and on the third line and Denisenko’s speed and skill could strive in both roles if he has a good camp.