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Gus Forsling Enjoying Being the Florida Panthers No. 1 D-Man

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Gus Forsling has gone from being picked up on the waiver wire to being relied on as the Florida Panthers’ top defenseman. — Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

SUNRISE —  Gus Forsling has come a long way since getting claimed off waivers by the Florida Panthers.

Since Forsling was waived by the Carolina Hurricanes in January 2021,  he posted 17 goals and 60 points in 124 games.

With a unique skating ability which allows him to jump up on the offensive play while also being able to defend a breakout quickly, Forsling has developed into one of the most reliable players on Florida’s blue line.

After spending the first two seasons of his Panthers career on the second pairing, Forsling was set to take on a top pairing role next to Aaron Ekblad after MacKenzie Weegar was dealt as part of the trade that brought Matthew Tkachuk to Sunrise.

“We look at the style of game that we were trying to implement here from a defensive point of view and when you watch him play, you could say that guy will be fantastic at it,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.

“Guys who can move, gap and skate as well as [Forsling and Ekblad] can should flourish. And he has.”

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It was a pairing that Ekblad himself was looking forward to being on since Day 1 of training camp.

“I think he is a fantastic player,” Ekblad said on media day.

“His foot speed is top tier in the league. I think our games will complement each other well with his foot speed and the things I bring to the table. Offensively, he is great with breaking pucks out and keeping possession.”

That duo would only stay together for just over two games, and not by Maurice’s choice.

Ekblad went down with a groin strain in the second period of the Panthers’ 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Oct. 17, leaving Forsling as the Panthers’ No. 1 option on defense.

While Ekblad is expected to return on Nov. 12, Panthers general manager Bill Zito has no issue with Forsling logging those heavy minutes.

“It seems like every year, his role keeps on growing and he keeps on taking on more and excelling.” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said.

“Now, he is going to get even more ice time and more responsibility. He is kind of an understated guy, but when it is time to play, he shows up.”

It’s a role he was very ready to step into.

“It gives you a lot of confidence,” Forsling said. “You want to be that guy the coach can trust and always put in whenever we need it.”

Stepping up in the face of injury is not something foreign for Forsling

When Ekblad missed the end of the 2020-21 season with a lower-body injury, he led all Panthers defensemen in shorthanded time-on-ice (57:29), shared top pairing minutes with MacKenzie Weegar and put up three goals and 12 points in 21 games while playing 21 minutes a night.

Forsling was asked to step up again when Ekblad fell to the same fate in March 2022 and he proved himself yet again.

He led all NHL defensemen in goals in that span, tallying eight, and ranked 16th in points while once again logging the second-most minutes per game behind just MacKenzie Weegar.

“It’s nothing new,” Forsling said.

While Ekblad has been out this season, the 26-year-old defenseman has been playing alongside Brandon Montour on the Panthers’ top pairing.

The pair has been logging heavy minutes, with Forsling’s 23:10 of time-on-ice per game trailing only Montour’s 26:35 for the team lead.

“He skates so well, he is very good defensively and offensively, he has the skill too,” Brandon Montour said.

“He has the whole package. He has strengths and uses them to the best of his abilities and he is one of the best skaters in the league, so any time you get a chance to play with a guy like that, you appreciate that and you want to do as good.”

The pair has relished the opportunity of playing against the opponents’ top players.

Both Montour and Forsling possess the skating ability and stamina to withstand the heavy minutes and play a solid two-way game.

“I love it, it is so fun,” Forsling said. “You come to the rink and you are gonna play against the best players in the world every night.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT SAN JOSE SHARKS

  • When: Thursday, 10:30 p.m.
  • Where: SAP Center, San Jose
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+, Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Florida won 2-0
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 19-13-1, 7 ties
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