SUNRISE — Minnesota Wild rookie forward Brandon Duhaime will be the latest South Florida product to get a homecoming game against his hometown Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
Duhaime, who grew up in Parkland in the same development with the likes of Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo, says he expects ”between 50 and 100ish” friends and family to be at the game tonight.
”I was a big fan,’’ he said, noting that Jokinen was a player he looked up to growing up. “He was captain at the time and was a player I really watched. … I was fishing through their trash for broken sticks and stuff. It was pretty fun.”
His homecoming game comes a few weeks after Chase Priskie became the first South Florida product to ever play for the Panthers.
Duhaime is friends with Priskie as well as Shayne Gostisbehere, Jakob Chychrun and Andrew Peeke — players who have already celebrated with friends and family in the arena they grew up watching hockey in.
”This is very special and I think it’s going to be a really fun night,” Duhaime said.
“Not only for me but for us going against one of the best teams in the league. For my family it will be a really special moment.”
As for seeing Priskie make his NHL debut with their Panthers, Duhaime said he was paying attention.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I have had a lot of conversations with him over the past couple of years. We went pro at the same time, have kind of gone through the process all the same. It was cool to see him make his debut. He did well and I’m sure he will be back real soon.”
Duhaime, like many South Florida hockey players, started out skating in Coral Springs and what is now known as the IceDen.
He played for the Jr. Panthers as well as the Jr. Everblades in Estero and would have gone to Stoneman Douglas High if he had not moved to British Columbia to help further on his development.
”I think it is really cool,” Duhaime said. “I look back at what I went through and the players who were coming up at the time when I was younger and there were players out of Florida being drafted. They didn’t quite make it, but I remember saying ‘they got drafted, maybe I can too’.’’
After playing in the BCHL, Duhaime played in the USHL for the Chicago Steel and Tri-City Storm.
A fourth-round pick by the Wild in 2016, Duhaime spent three seasons at Providence College.
After two seasons playing for the AHL Iowa Wild, Duhaime made the big club with an impressive training camp.
He got his first NHL goal on Oct. 23 against Anaheim and has two goals with six points in 16 games for the Wild this season.
“He battled in training camp and the preseason for an opportunity to be where he is at,’’ Minnesota coach Dean Evason said Saturday morning.
“He is very deserving of that. He has played the game the right way, killed penalties, 5-on-5. He has been a real good player for us this year.”
As far as the tickets go, Duhaime says he won’t be getting a big chunk of his game check going to the Panthers.
“I have no idea. Not a clue,’’ he said when asked again about a final tally. “It ended up being cheaper if they bought their own tickets in the upper bowl and maybe walk down.”
Veteran move by the rook.
BARKOV ON ICE
The Panthers may have captain Sasha Barkov back sooner than some expected as he was on the ice Saturday before the Wild held its morning skate.
Barkov is currently listed as ‘week-to-week’ with what is thought to be a left knee injury.
He is not on the IR so he could be back in the lineup at any time — although he is not expected back Saturday. Perhaps Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
This will also be the first time Andrew Brunette will take on his former team as a head coach.
“Bruno was a big part of this organization,” Evason said. “I don’t know him as well as everyone, but I got to know him a little bit we overlapped when I first got here. One thing I know is he is an extremely passionate hockey person.
“He absolutely loves the game. I have the utmost respect for the situation he went into here — but what he’s done in the game not only as a player, but as a manager and a coach. I hope he has personal success moving forward.”
— Nick Bjugstad, who was with the Panthers from 2013 until he was traded to Pittsburgh in 2019, will not play tonight as he will be scratched.
HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER
The Panthers will celebrate Hockey Fights Cancer tonight in partnership with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
All fans in attendance will receive a purple rally towel located on their seat courtesy and are invited to fill out ‘I Fight For’ cards when they arrive.
The Panthers and Gift of Life Marrow Registry will facilitate a first-time meeting between a blood stem cell donor and his transplant recipient who was treated at Sylvester prior to the game.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
MINNESOTA WILD AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WQAM 560
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Wild lead 18-6-2, 1 tie
- Odds via BetMGM: Florida (PL -1.5 +170) — (ML -145) — U/O 6
- Up next: Minnesota at Florida, Saturday, 7; New Jersey at Tampa Bay, Saturday, 4