SUNRISE — When the Florida Panthers made the blockbuster trade for Matthew Tkachuk in July, the immediate assumption was he would start up on the top line alongside star center Sasha Barkov.
Yet when Florida opens its 2022-23 season tonight on Long Island, Tkachuk will be on the second line next to former Calgary teammate Sam Bennett and fellow newcomer Rudolfs Balcers.
Barkov, of course, remains Florida’s top center and will see plenty of time — the Panthers hope — with Tkachuk on the power play.
But Florida is going back to the top line if started last season when Sam Reinhart was the prize offseason acquisition and started up top with Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe.
The trio only lasted a few games before the Panthers made some changes.
It may last a lot longer this time around.
“I love him,” Barkov said of Reinhart.