SUNRISE, Fla. - A rising star is headed to Hollywood.
While the rest of his teammates likely hit the beach this weekend, Vincent Trocheck will instead be taking his usual spot at center ice, representing the Florida Panthers at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
"We're all proud of him," Panthers general manager and interim head coach Tom Rowe said of Trocheck's all-star selection. "He's a heck of a competitor to match the skill that he has. That's what makes him such a good player and a dangerous player. He competes at an incredibly high level."
NHL All-Star Weekend will be held Jan. 28-29 at Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Kings, beginning with the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. ET and concluding with the NHL All-Star Tournament on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
A third-round pick (64th overall) of the Panthers in the 2011 NHL Draft, Trocheck has been nothing short of spectacular while carrying a heavy burden for the injury-plagued Panthers this season, leading the team in points (34) and goals (18), while also ranking fifth in assists (16) and second in shots on goal (141).
"A lot of times this game just comes down to work ethic," said Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad, "and he's got it. ...We're really excited for him and we're grateful to have a player like that. We should all try to match what he brings every night."
Recently, FloridaPanthers.com sat down with the 23-year-old center to discuss the thrill of heading out West for his first All-Star Game and the postseason push that awaits once he returns.
OLIVE: What was your initial reaction upon hearing the news that you'd been named to your first All-Star Game?
TROCHECK: I was kind of shocked and excited. There's not really much else I can say. I didn't really expect it. I actually found out through a tweet from the Panthers. It was awesome. I'm just really excited to be able to go to [the All-Star Game] and share it with my family.
OLIVE: Did your family think you had been keeping the news from them?
TROCHECK: I was actually with my dad because we were on our Dads' Trip when the news broke. He was right next to me when I found out. When I told him, he was like, "What do you mean? They already announced that you weren't on [the roster]." And I was just like, "Well, apparently I am." After that, he told my mom. They were both really excited.
OLIVE: How many family members will be making the trip to Los Angeles?
TROCHECK: More than I thought [laughs]. My parents are coming; my sisters are coming; on my mom's side of the family, I've got two uncles and two aunts coming. I've got quite a few people. There's going to be like 10 of us. Then my girlfriend is coming as well. I'm a huge, huge family guy. I've got a big Italian family, so anytime I get recognized for anything they always want to be there for the ride.
OLIVE: I also doubt any of them are complaining about leaving Pittsburgh for Los Angeles in the middle of winter.
TROCHECK: Oh yeah. They can't complain about that.
OLIVE: I assume they'll be bringing home a lot of All-Star Game merchandise?
TROCHECK: Yeah. There's definitely going to be some memorabilia.
OLIVE: Was playing in an NHL All-Star Game something you'd dreamed about?
TROCHECK: I don't know. I mean, yeah, you do. At the same time, you're not thinking about it. You just want to do the best you can and it's obviously a team-first league. You want to win a Stanley Cup -- that's the goal for everybody. But to be honored by going to the All-Star Game, it's definitely an added bonus.
OLIVE: What does it mean to get that kind of recognition?
TROCHECK: It's an honor, for sure. There are a lot of fantastic players that are going to this same All-Star Game. To be able to even be put in the same league as them, it's humbling.
OLIVE: Is there anyone in particular you're looking forward to playing with on the Atlantic Division team?
TROCHECK: It'll be good to see [Auston Matthews] again. We played together for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey this summer. Like I said, everyone that's going is a great player. It'll be just fun to watch all of them play while I'm there. And to be able to participate with them, side-by-side, it'll be fun to play with those guys.
OLIVE: It's the second year of the All-Star Game's new 3-on-3 tournament. As someone who's excelled in 3-on-3 overtime situations this season, how are excited are you to compete in that format?
TROCHECK: It'll be fun, especially with all those skilled players. I mean, when you have that much open ice it'll definitely be interesting to play against those guys.
OLIVE: The All-Star Game is usually a pretty high-scoring affair. Are you setting any personal goals for the event?
TROCHECK: Nah. I'm just going to have some fun. Obviously if I can score a goal, that would be awesome, too.
OLIVE: Do you have a preference for what skills event you'd like to compete in?
TROCHECK: I haven't really taken a look at all of them. I definitely won't be in the hardest shot competition [laughs]. Other than that, I'd be happy to do pretty much anything.
OLIVE: You've been on quite an offensive tear lately, especially since being named to the All-Star Game. Do you think that you will benefit from continuing to play rather than taking a break like the rest of your teammates?
TROCHECK: I hadn't really thought about it. At the same time, you're getting rest just because you're going to have some fun. But at the same time, it's nice to be able to stay on the ice for a few days. We also have that bye week coming up, so I'll get a break right after [the All-Star Game] anyways.
OLIVE: After that bye week the team won't have any more extended breaks for rest of the season. What's the mentality in the locker room as you begin to prepare for the home stretch?
TROCHECK: We're at the point where every game counts and every point counts. I mean we're in the hunt. We're only a few points out [of the wild card]. Every game is going to be very crucial in order for us to make it to the playoffs.
OLIVE: As for the more immediate future, do you think any of your teammates will be watching your All-Star Game debut?
TROCHECK: I don't think any of them will have any time [laughs]. We'll see.