Mike Hoffman made his presence felt during his first season with the Florida Panthers.
Acquired in an offseason trade with the San Jose Sharks for draft picks, the 29-year-old winger went on to set new career-highs in goals (36) and points (70). Additionally, Hoffman's 36 goals not only led the Panthers, but were also the most-ever by a player in their first year with Florida.
"Offensively it went pretty good, but there's a lot more things than that," Hoffman said when asked to summarize his campaign. "Not making the playoffs is the biggest disappointment. Coming into the year, that's everyone's goal. There's positive things and negative things."
Picking up his first point as a Panther in just the third game of the season, he went on to make his way onto the scoresheet in each of the ensuing contests for more than a month. From Oct. 13 through Nov. 21, he strung together a career-best and franchise-record 17-game point streak.
Hoffman's streak was the longest by a Panther since Pavel Bure's 13-game stretch in 1999-00.
"That's our responsibility, to put points up on the board and help this team win hockey games," Hoffman said after pushing his streak to 11 games on Nov. 10. "Like I said, when things are going your way you just want to ride that wave as long as you can."
If his point streak was a wave, his work on the power play was a tsunami.
Armed with one of the most-accurate shots in the league, Hoffman was a major contributor on Florida's second-ranked power play, which owned a franchise-record 26.8 percent success rate. Setting up shop in the circles, he made a habit out of taking passes from defenseman Keith Yandle - the top unit's quarterback from the blue line -- and blasting home blistering one-timers.
Letting loose a team-leading 88 shots on the man advantage, Hoffman lit the lamp 17 times on the power play, which was tied for the fourth-most in the league and the fourth-most in a single season in franchise history. Scott Mellanby (1995-96) and Bure (2000-01) share the record at 19 - a mark Hoffman came close to eclipsing, and could be poised to do so in the near future.
"He's a guy that can shoot the biscuit," Yandle told FloridaPanthers.com when asked about Hoffman's work with the extra attacker back in March. "Impressive that guys know it's coming, goalies know it's coming, but he can still find ways to score goals. Big goals, at that."
An all-world scorer, Hoffman's 34 assists - including 18 on the power play - also shouldn't be overlooked.
With underrated speed and footwork, he excelled at generating offense on the rush. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, Hoffman led the team with 13 attempts off the rush, but also shined as a puck distributor, as you can see in the video below from a matchup with Boston on March 23.
After stealing the puck from defenseman Brandon Carlo in the neutral zone, he heads across the blue line on an odd-man rush with winger Jayce Hawryluk. Using his left arm to protect the puck from a would-be defender, he keeps the rubber on his backhand before sliding a slick pass through the slot to Hawryluk, who receives the feed and slams home a one-timer for the goal.
Video: BOS@FLA: Hawryluk slams home Hoffman's feed on rush
From scoring to passing, Hoffman did a little bit of everything on offense during his first go-around with the Panthers, breaking personal bests and franchise records in the process. And with one year still remaining on his contract, the three draft picks used to acquire him (a second, fourth and fifth-round selection) currently look like mere peanuts in the grand scheme of things.
In hindsight, the Hoffman trade stands out as one of the biggest steals of last summer.
Hoffman didn't just score goals, he scored them in the clutch.
Of Florida's 36 wins, six were secured personally by Hoffman, who led the team with six game-winning goals. Of those scores, three came in overtime, including the booming shot in the video below that lifted the Panthers to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Oct. 23 in Brooklyn.
Video: FLA@NYI: Hoffman scores PPG in overtime
"We knew if we stuck with it and kept playing the way that we were that we were going to get rewarded eventually," Hoffman said after the win. "I think it's easier said than done, but we went out there and followed what we were talking about in the dressing room."
Hoffman potted a pair of goals - including the game-winner - to notch his first-multi-goal game of the year and help lead Florida to a 5-0 win over the Boston Bruins at BB&T Center on Dec. 4.
After opening the scoring in the second period, Hoffman went on to close out the the middle frame with another, back-breaking score, wiring home a powerful one-timer on a 4-on-3 power play to extend the lead to a fairly insurmountable 4-0 with 3.7 seconds remaining on the clock.
Video: BOS@FLA: Hoffman nets second goal on power play
"From the first period, I thought we played pretty good hockey, and it continued right through the game," Hoffman said after the win. "[Boston] sat in the box a lot. The power play got a couple [goals], which is nice."
GOAL OF THE YEAR
For a while, this appeared as if it was going to stand up as Florida's goal of the year.
Taking a page out of Aleksander Barkov's book of tricks, Hoffman took the puck and slipped it just beyond goaltender Antti Niemi's outstretched pad with a one-handed backhand shot to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead late in the first period against the Canadiens on Jan. 15 in Montreal.
Video: FLA@MTL: Hoffman uses one hand to beat Niemi