SUNRISE — Florida Panthers prospect Wilmer Skoog was sitting in his Sunrise hotel room waiting for his food delivery order to arrive when he received a phone call.
It was from coach Paul Maurice.
“You have warm-ups in a half hour,” Maurice told Skoog over the phone. “How do you feel about that?”
Grigori Denisenko felt tightness as he was getting ready to suit up for Friday’s win preseason win over the Carolina Hurricanes when Maurice made the decision to hold him out of the lineup.
Skoog was suddenly in line to play in his first-ever NHL preseason game within a moment’s notice.
“I had a great time and I enjoyed every second of it when I was out there,” Skoog told FHN.
“Prepared or not, I did the best I could.”
He did not have to worry about the food he was leaving behind, though.
Maurice said he would foot the bill if Skoog would get to Amerant Bank Arena as quickly as possible.
The equipment staff had to get after it as well.
You see, Skoog’s gear was back at the Ice Den in Coral Springs when Maurice made the move to put him in the lineup.
The 24-year-old center won the race.
“I got to the rink and my gear wasn’t there,” Skoog said. “I had to warm-up [while the gear was en-route] and then I came on for a couple of minutes.”
All told, Skoog ended his preseason debut with a hit in 8:25 despite the late call.
“Good for him,” Maurice said. “I appreciated the enthusiasm to get in when he came.”
Skoog joined the Panthers on an AHL deal after a standout season with Boston University.
After scoring 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) in 37 games, the Swedish forward joined the Charlotte Checkers for their playoff push.
While he was not able to draw into the lineup due to a broken arm, he learned from a Charlotte team full of players with NHL experience.
He carried that knowledge over and was a standout at Florida’s development camp in July, scoring two goals in the prospect scrimmage.
Skoog looks to build off of that momentum — and Maurice’s notoriously grueling training camp — as he prepares for his first professional season.
“It’s been great,” Skoog said. “They have a lot of good coaches and a lot of good players. It’s the first one I’ve been at and it’s been really hard but I think it’s paying off in the long run.”
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS (3-1)
PRESEASON VS. OTTAWA SENATORS (3-1)
- When: Sunday, 4 p.m.
- Where: Centre 200, Sydney, Nova Scotia
- TV/Radio: NHL Network/560 WQAM