Ever since Aaron Ekblad went down with a leg injury against the Anaheim Ducks on March 18, Gus Forsling stepped up in a big way for the Florida Panthers.
While Forsling was always involved in the offensive attack to begin the season, jumping up on the rush, making big passes, and creating chances with his shot, not a lot of pucks were going in.
He started the season with just two goals, not scoring his first of the season until Jan. 14 — Florida’s 37th game of the season.
“He should probably have 10 more goals,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said. “He has a unique ability to get himself in great areas.”
Since Ekblad’s injury, Forsling is tied for 10th among defensemen in points (12) and leads all NHL defensemen in goals (seven).
“They weren’t going in for a long time and now they are starting to go in,” Brunette said. “He is such an undervalued player throughout the league. He is probably one of the best-kept secrets with how good he is. He’s had a wonderful season.”
The 6-foot defenseman has quietly been one of the league’s best puck movers from the blue line since Florida claimed him off of waivers in 2021, notching 39 assists in 111 games as a Panther, which is tied for 53rd by a defenseman in that span.
“He plays with so much speed and he knows how to create so much open space out there,” Sam Reinhart said. “He puts himself in the right holes and his timing is impeccable He creates a lot of good looks for himself.”
He looks even more dangerous now that more of those looks are starting to go in.
Forsling had seven goals as a Panther prior to March 18. He has since doubled that to 14.
“I always try to get pucks to the net, maybe get a screen or a tip on it just to get something going,” Forsling said. “It has been nice to get rewarded.”
His value has also often come on the defensive end in both the way he makes plays and how swiftly he skates in transition.
Forsling has gained a reputation as one of the NHL’s smoothest skaters as he plays a critical role in the way Florida’s blueline jumps out on the attack while also being able to get back and play a defensive game.
“His feet and his skating allow his gaps to be tight and allow our transition to be really good and really fast,” Brunette said.
“He has one of the best sticks in the league, so I think you throw those couple of things in. The way he can jump in the play is where you can see a lot of his offense coming from.”
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM/SiriusXM
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Toronto leads 45-35-5, 7 ties
- Season series — Tied 1-1: @Toronto 5, Florida 2 (March 27) @Florida 7, Toronto 6 (OT) (April 5)