SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers sent rookie forward Mackie Samoskevich down to the Charlotte Checkers on Tuesday.
It was so he could get more playing time, not less.
After Samoskevich got off four shots and averaged 14:43 in his first two NHL games, the Panthers decided to send the 20-year-old to the AHL so he would see more action.
Justin Sourdif, who made his NHL debut on Monday, will stick around and suit up in the team’s home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
Florida called up William Lockwood as Samoskevich’s replacement on the active roster.
“We had two young guys we liked coming out of training camp and the ‘going down’ part is that we are not going to have either of those two guys watch hockey,” coach Paul Maurice said.
“We thought the first road trip, we would bring two of them instead of having a veteran player and only bring one. We thought they both deserved to go and unless something was unusual that Samoskevich had two big nights, that I was going to get both in.
“(Samoskevich) goes because he has to play, and neither of those two will play as the 13th forward for any real time.”
Both Sourdif and Samoskevich will likely shuttle between the AHL and NHL depending on what the big club needs.
“That’s the whole idea of the entry-level contract,” Maurice said.
“Because they are not waiver-eligible, I’d like them to play 100 pro games this year if they could. Half in the NHL and half in the American League.
“Both of those guys won’t just sit here and watch games. There’s no value and we have a really good AHL program that can develop and play these guys. They run almost identical system and (Checkers coach) Geordie Kinnear does a fantastic job there.”
They were both occupying a roster spot opened up by an injury which has kept Sam Bennett out of the lineup since he was hurt playing a preseason game in Tampa.
Per Maurice, Bennett will miss Thursday’s game but will likely return before the team leaves for its next road trip on Oct. 30.
In the meantime, Sourdif will be getting third-line minutes next to Nick Cousins and Anton Lundell.
“He is hanging onto that job as long as he can hang onto it,” Maurice said. “But as soon as his minutes drop — if they drop — then I don’t want him here. I don’t want him on the fourth line and I don’t want him watching hockey games.”
Sourdif earned the opportunity after throwing three hits — including one on his first shift — blocking a shot and taking one shot on goal in 10 minutes during his NHL debut.
“There are a bunch of things that have to happen,” Maurice said of Sourdif’s first NHL shift. “You have to make the right read, then you have to skate as fast as you can because the other team can skate fast too. Then you have to be a little bit angry when you get there.
“I liked that and I thought he had another one in the opposite corner later in the game. He handled the puck, he made some plays, he had some turnovers while he was trying to make some plays, which I’m fine with too, especially early.
“I don’t want him to try to play a perfect game. He has to make some mistakes in his game or he is not trying enough things.”
Once Bennett comes back and the Panthers are due for their next call-up, neither of the young guys are guaranteed to be the first guy up.
Florida brought a slew of NHL-level talent to fill out its AHL roster who can be called up if they are deemed to be the best available.
Lockwood earned the opportunity to be on the NHL roster after impressing in training camp and putting up three points (two goals) in three AHL games.
“For Mackie, when he goes down there, there is a responsibility for the challenge of pro sports,” Maurice said. “You have to be the best to get called back up.
“It’s not a given that because you were here first, you get to come back up first.”
Maurice said that the Panthers will carry 13 forwards on their roster and that neither of the two rookies will be the odd man out — at least not longterm.
Florida added another competitor to the 13th forward competition by signing Jonah Gadjovich on Monday.
He skated with the Panthers during training camp on an AHL deal but missed the entirety of the preseason with what is believed to be a hand injury he sustained with the San Jose Sharks in February.
Maurice said the physical forward will be out of the lineup until at least early November.
“We wanted to make sure he could play and we wanted to make sure he would get healthy,” Maurice said.
“We are confident that he is along the path in his rehab that he will be an NHL player for us.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last Season: Toronto won Regular Season Series 3-1; Florida won Eastern Conference Semifinals 4-1
- This season: @Florida, Thursday/April 16; @Toronto, Nov. 28/April 1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 48-36-7, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Vancouver Canucks, 7 p.m.