By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
|David Booth, left, celebrates after scoring his third consecutive goal, giving him the natural hat trick against the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
The chorus began last season. Softly at first.
It started high from the upper bowl, then it worked its way down BankAtlantic Center until it engulfed the entire arena.Booooooooooooooooth.
A month into the NHL season, David Booth seems to be picking up where he left off last season… and then some. In the Panthers’ first 14 games, the Michigan native has a team-leading seven goals. More importantly, he helped the Panthers break a six-game winless streak Sunday evening with a natural hat trick in leading the Panthers to a 3-1 victory at Anaheim.
Booth, who scored 22 goals last year in his first full NHL season, says his success is due to playing with great linemates. But coach Peter DeBoer, who admits he didn’t know a lot about Booth before arriving in South Florida, has been impressed.
“He’s becoming a dominant player,” DeBoer said. “Really, right from training camp, he came in and he was our most fit player in testing. He worked awful hard this summer. He’s a perfect example of a guy who wasn’t going to sit back on a 20-plus goal year last year and make it the highlight of his career. He’s come back to show that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. He’s going to do more than that. I think he’s going to be a special player for a long time.”
Booth spent his off-season doing some traveling but also working on a program from Panther strength coach Andy O’Brien and also former professional figure skater Jennifer Matras, the head skating instructor and certified strength and conditioning specialist with Competitive Edge Skating in Michigan where Booth has worked the past several summers.
“I did barely any upper body training,” said Booth of his summer regiment. “I did mostly all lower body. I was working on quickness, power and strength. It meant being on the ice more, skating, and just working on technique.”
And Booth says he sees a different in himself from last year to this season.
“(Matras) has really helped my game out, my skating, my stability and power. When I’m on the ice, I’m doing a lot one-legged stuff. Balance, power, working on my quick start. Even at the end of the summer I was still struggling with it.”
Matras said her work with Booth has been on “reinforcement of changing his stride to make it more efficient and powerful” as well as balance and coordination. She’s also worked with Booth skating clockwise and counter-clockwise, where his times are closer together than they have been in the past.
“He’s come a long way,” she said.
And there’s still a way to go.