Evgenii Dadonov proved that his breakout campaign in 2017-18 was no fluke.
In his second season since returning to the NHL after a long stint in the KHL, the 30-year-old was absolutely spectacular once again for the Florida Panthers, reaching new career-highs in both assists (42) and points (70), while also matching his previous career-best goal total of 28.
But after cleaning out his locker at BB&T Center, Dadonov was focused on only team goals.
"It was kind of a tough year," said Dadonov, who racked up 28 goals and 65 points last season. "The goal was to make the playoffs. I wish I had a little less points and we made the playoffs."
Picking up right where he left off, Dadonov was one of Florida's hottest offensive players right out of the gate, piecing together a 12-game point streak from Oct. 16 through Nov. 13. During that stretch, he posted seven goals and seven assists, tying Mike Hoffman for the team-lead in both.
For a time, Dadonov and Hoffman had dueling streaks. Playing together on the same line early in the season, when one scored a goal the other typically picked up an assist, helping both end up on the scoresheet from one game to the next. And while Dadonov's streak was snapped at 12 games, Hoffman stretched his to 17 contests, breaking Pavel Bure's franchise record of 13.
"Sometimes you just get lucky," Dadonov said humbly after pushing his streak to 11 games in a 5-1 win against Ottawa on Nov. 11. "We're not thinking about the points at all. We just have to win. You've just got to keep rolling and find your game. When you find it, you just keep going."
Incredibly, despite that torrid start, Dadonov's best was still yet to come.
In the second half of the season, the veteran winger found a new home on a line alongside Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Over the final 26 games of the regular season, the trio was easily one of the best lines in the league, combining for 41 goals and 110 points.
Of those 110 points, 27 came from Dadonov, who notched eight goals and 19 assists.
And while both Huberdeau and Barkov finished with over 90 points - the first duo in the history of the franchise to accomplish that feat in the same season - there's no doubt that the energy and physicality that Dadonov brought to that line helped both players reach those new heights.
When asked about Dadonov's contributions, Huberdeau described him as an unsung hero.
"Our line at the end was pretty good, tough to play against, and that's what we want to be," Huberdeau said. "I think, sometimes, Dadonov doesn't get the credit, but he's a guy that comes really fast and he creates some space for us. I think he has 28 goals as well, so it's really good."
Over the last two seasons, Dadonov ranks third on the Panthers in both goals (56) and points (135). In that same time, he also leads the team in even-strength goals (42) and game-winning goals (10). With one year remaining on the three-year contract he signed during the summer of 2017, it'll be interesting to see how he can build upon those numbers under Joel Quenneville.
Hired on April 8, Quenneville won three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013 and 2015) and reached the conference finals on two other occasions during his 10 seasons behind the bench in Chicago.
"It's going to be a great experience working with him," Dadonov said.
When Dadonov found his way onto the scoresheet, the Panthers tended to leave with points.
Florida owned a 31-15-6 record when he tallied at least point this season and 9-3-1 when he had multiple points. The team also went 16-7-2 when he scored at least one goal and a 3-0-0 record when he found the back of the net multiple times.
Dadonov was awarded first-star honors after registering a game-high three points - all of them coming in the third period - to help power the Panthers to a 5-2 victory at Buffalo on Dec. 18.
With the game tied 2-2 early in the final frame, Dadonov was awarded a penalty shot after being dragged down on a breakaway. On his ensuing attempt, the goalie appeared to make the save before the puck trickled into the net to put the Panthers on top 3-2 at 3:30 of the third period.
Video: Dadonov scores twice to lead Panthers past Sabres
"It was just the good luck," Dadonov said of his penalty shot after the game. "I tried to hit between his arm and body, but he almost got it and dropped it. It happens…I watched the puck. I saw it come behind him, and he just kind of tried to slide and it went in the net."
Later, with 2:30 left in regulation, Dadonov iced the game with an empty-net goal that made it 5-2.
GOAL OF THE YEAR
This is why you don't stop playing until the buzzer sounds.
With the last remaining seconds slipping away in the first period of a matchup at Ottawa on Nov. 19, Dadonov cut toward the right side of the net before tapping in a precarious rebound that had stopped right on the goal line to extend the lead to 4-1 with less than a second left on the clock.
That goal went on to hold up as the latest scored by any Panther in a period this season.
Video: FLA@OTT: Dadonov sweeps in goal to beat the buzzer