Good morning and welcome to “Cats & Coffee,” a weekly segment in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.
The undefeated run for at least one of the Florida Panthers players participating at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Russia will unfortunately be coming to an end this week.
In the final matchup of the tournament’s preliminary round, Finland, which features Panthers forwards Jussi Jokinen and Aleksander Barkov, will face also-unbeaten Canada, which features Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson, in a showdown for first place in Group B at the Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
After shaking off a slow start offensively, the 20-year-old Barkov currently ranks fifth in tournament scoring with nine points (3-6—9), including a goal and two assists in Finland's 5-0 win over Slovakia on Sunday. Jokinen, meanwhile, is tied for the tournament lead in assists (7) and scored his first goal of the tournament in Sunday’s victory.
Not to be outdone by his Panthers teammates, Matheson has also been making a name for himself in the early goings of the tournament as a surprising standout on Canada’s traditionally star-studded blue line. The smooth-skating 23-year-old currently leads the tournament in plus/minus (plus-10) and ranks third among defenseman in scoring with five points (2-3—5) in five games.
“I think as a team we have to stay the course and keep things simple and stay within ourselves,” Matheson recently told the IIHF website
. “That’s what I’m trying to do with my game and in helping this team.”
Luckily for Panthers fans, both Finland (6-0) and Canada (5-0) are already guaranteed spots in Thursday’s quarterfinals regardless of the outcome of their first head-to-head matchup, setting up a potential rematch in Saturday’s semifinals with a chance to advance to Sunday’s gold medal game on the line.
The full schedule for Panthers at World Championship this week is as follows:Monday, May 16
: Canada (Matheson) v. France 9:15 a.m.Tuesday, May 17
: Canada (Matheson) v. Finland (Barkov, Jokinen) 1:15 p.m.Thursday, May 19
: Quarterfinals, TBDSaturday, May 21
: Semifinals, TBDSunday, May 22
: Bronze Medal Game 9:15 a.m. TBD, Gold Medal Game 1:15 p.m. TBD
As the seeds of hockey continue to grow in South Florida, one homegrown player, raised on a healthy mix of sunshine and slap shots, is already making a big name for himself heading into the 2016 NHL Draft.
A self-described “die-hard Panthers fan" while growing up in Parkland, Fla., Andrew Peeke was recently named to the USHL’s All-Rookie First Team after notching 30 points (4-26—30) in 56 games with the Green Bay Gamblers in 2015-16.
At the age of 14, Peeke left Florida to play for the Selects Hockey Academy in Connecticut. He was named the USPHL defensive player of the year in his final season before joining the Gamblers, who drafted him in the second round of the 2014 USHL Phase I Draft.
Peeke, 18, was ranked 57th among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting ratings and is committed to take part in the 2016 NHL Scouting Combine, which will take place from May 30 - June 4, at First Niagara Center and the Harbor Center in Buffalo, New York.
A recent graduate from Ashwaubenon High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Peeke was also selected as the USHL’s Scholar Athlete of the Year after finishing with a cumulative grade point average of 4.12 on a 4.00 scale.
For more information on Peeke’s journey from Panther fan to NHL prospect, check out our exclusive story
from earlier this year.