CORAL SPRINGS — Regardless the situation, Florida Panthers forward Steven Lorentz can usually be found with a smile on his face.
Even through a position battle he found himself thrown into after he was traded across the country from the San Jose Sharks, he always makes sure to crack a few jokes in the locker room and enjoy his time on the ice.
After all, that is how he carved out a career for himself in the first place.
“It’s something I am no stranger to, obviously,” Lorentz told FHN.
“I can confidently say I’ve had to work hard to get most spots in my career throughout the professional ranks.
“I got here through hard work and this has been a dream of mine my whole life. Every day, I wake up and realize that every time you pull an NHL jersey over your head, it’s a blessing. So, I like to take advantage of every single day I come to the rink.”
The 6-foot-4, 206-pound center won that position battle pretty handedly with his hard, forechecking offensive zone play and his strong defensive zone play.
Yet it his witty humor which helps him fit in so well in Florida’s locker room.
“There is a bit of culture there,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
“He is a bit of a happier and a chirper, a smile and energy guy, so he’s talking on the bench. Those things matter to our group.”
Lorentz has more reasons to smile this season, too.
Last year, he had to tough it out as the Sharks sank to a 22-44-16 record — which was just above the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference.
Now, he finds himself on a team that is fresh off a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
“When I got that call, I was in a little bit of shock but I was very excited,” Lorentz said.
“Just watching the run they went on and now I have a real, legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup is something I’ve always wanted to do in my life. So, I’m excited for the challenge.”
With that contending roster comes a style Lorentz finds himself very familiar with both on and off the ice.
On the ice, the Panthers play a very similar game, featuring heavy forechecking and a lineup filled with skilled, tenacious defensive forwards.
“Being able to watch their style of play and how committed to the intensity and the attention of detail every single guy was, you know the guys on the team just really wanted it,” Lorentz said.
“I’m excited and I think my game fits that well. So I’m going to come in and try to use my size and my strengths to my advantage.”
Off the ice, he finds themselves in a group full of players with quick-witted humor who welcome his positive approach to the game.
“This is the kind of environment that I want to be around,” Lorentz said.
“Those guys got so close last year, so obviously, the systems, the culture and everything around here works. It’s a winning formula.
“So, I’m just trying to come in here and not change who I am and be who I’ve been my entire career. Hopefully that works out and hopefully I can bring success in my own way to this team and we can go make another run.”
On a team which featured nine new players on its opening night roster, Lorentz served as someone who could thread the needle between the newcomers and the returnees.
He played in a similar system with the Carolina Hurricanes in his first two seasons in the league, so he had a good understanding of what to expect coming in.
And his patented one-liners and positive energy makes it easy on his fellow new arrivals.
“He is a great guy and I know some buddies that played with him in Carolina, so I knew a little bit about him beforehand,” Mike Reilly said.
“He is a great kid and he works very hard. We live close together so we have been spending a lot of time together, chatting a bit throughout camp and picking each other’s brains a little bit on what’s going on. I thought he’s done well.”
As the regular season gets going, Lorentz has fit seamlessly both on Florida’s fourth line and on the penalty kill.
He started the year on the wing next to fellow offseason acquisition Kevin Stenlund and Ryan Lomberg.
Stenlund (6-5) and Lorentz both bring a combination of size and sneaky speed to their forechecking game while 5-foot-9 Lomberg brings his patented quickness and grit.
“I thought when we were out there, we were in the offensive zone a lot,” Lomberg said after Florida’s preseason finale. “We were getting on pucks and keeping it simple but effective.
“He’s a guy I really enjoy playing with.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT WINNIPEG JETS
- When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
- Where: Canada Life Center, Winnipeg
- TV: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- This season: Florida @ Winnipeg, Saturday; Winnipeg @ Florida, Nov. 24
- Last season: Winnipeg won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets lead 52-31-8, 5 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Monday at New Jersey Devils, 7 (BSF, 560-AM)