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Panthers bench Keith Yandle in Carolina, Matt Kiersted gets bigger role

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Rookie defenseman Matt Kiersted warms up before his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 3, 2021. Kiersted signed as a free agent out of the University of North Dakota just two days before. // Photo courtesy of @FlaPanthers

Matt Kiersted does not appear to be an ordinary rookie defenseman for the Florida Panthers.

Only a week ago, he was deciding which NHL team he was going to sign with after his collegiate career at North Dakota had come to an end in the longest NCAA game ever.

On Thursday, he officially signed with the Panthers; by Saturday night, he made his NHL debut.

By Sunday, he was on the ice in the third period of a game against Columbus while veteran Keith Yandle, for the most part, was not.

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