Josh Mahura Ready for Second Chance with Florida Panthers
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SUNRISE — For new Florida Panthers defenseman Josh Mahura, the past couple of days have been a roller coaster.
On Sunday, he was waived by the Anaheim Ducks and was thinking he was headed to the minors.
By Monday night, he was on a redeye flight to Fort Lauderdale after the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners decided to take a flier on him and claim him off waivers.
”It’s been really exciting but it has been a crazy 24 hours,” Mahura said after joining the Panthers for his first practice with the team mere hours after his flight landed.
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A lot has changed for Mahura in just a day.
He went from a cast-off on a team that went 31-37-14 last season to a player slated to be a regular on a team that finished with a league-best 58-18-6 record.
”That is the first thing that stands out,” he said.
”I want to come in and be a part of this group and help in whatever way I can. I want to get acclimated as smoothly as possible. There have been a great group of guys in here that have been so welcoming to me so far.”
Albeit in a small sample size, Mahura has given the Panthers reason to be optimistic he can help them.
In 79 total NHL games, the six-foot, 185-pound defenseman has six goals and 20 points and has shown to be capable to be that swift, finesse two-way defenseman that fits Florida’s up-tempo scheme.
The 24-year-old defenseman spent most of his 2021-22 season as Anaheim’s seventh defenseman — putting up seven points in 38 games — but with Florida limited to 20 players on its roster, it is apparent he is getting a big role here.
”This is a guy our scouts really, really liked,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said. “He is someone we had discussions about. With only 20 on the roster, our scouts saw some upsides and he was worth taking a chance on.”
Zito has hit on many reclamation projects over his first two seasons in Sunrise — specifically crafty waiver-claim defenseman Gus Forsling in 2021 — and the organization believes that it found another one in Mahura.
”For a young defenseman, there is a lot to learn in their first early years,” coach Paul Maurice said.
”With his style of play — he is a good puck mover, he is a good skater, he can close the gap — we think he can be a good fit.”
To start the season, he will likely be lined up next to Forsling’s old defense partner from last year: Radko Gudas.
The Panthers are hoping he can bring the same puck-moving and transitional style of play Forsling did while Gudas continues to be his usual, physical self.
”He is a very vocal guy and he has helped me out so much out there,” Mahura said after spending Tuesday’s practice alongside the 32-year-old veteran.
”It really helps me feel more comfortable with my game just talking through these things. I’m starting to look at video with [defensive assistant Jamie Kompon] and we are just trying to feel each other out.”
If Maurice decides to shuffle up the defense pairings, he has an old friend in South Florida as well.
Mahura spent parts of his first season in Anaheim alongside Brandon Montour, playing on his pairing during his NHL debut.
”It was nice to see his face,” Mahura said. ”He is a great guy and he has helped me transition into here.”
The next couple of days are going to be tricky for Mahura.
After joining the Panthers for practice on Tuesday, he only has one more practice on Wednesday morning to get himself acclimated before the team heads to Long Island for their season opener on Thursday.
He is not letting that bother him.
”At the end of the day, it’s just playing hockey. I’ve done it my whole life,” Mahura said.
”I’m just figuring out the systems and getting used to the players and getting some chemistry. That’s it, really.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS
- When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: UBS Arena; Elmont, N.Y.
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM/SiriusXM
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 54-32-11, 8 ties
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