CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Noel Acciari is already becoming a fan favorite in South Florida.
Born and raised in Rhode Island, the 27-year-old center joined the Panthers on a three-year deal on July 1 after spending the first four seasons of his career with Boston. In 2018-19, he posted new career-highs in points (14), hits (221), faceoff wins (200) and games played (72).
In last season's playoffs, he played through various injuries to help the Bruins reach Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, registering four points and a team-leading 74 hits along the way.
"This guy's going to make people accountable, and make our own players accountable as well," Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon said in July. "He's a versatile player. He will take some of the burden away from others by taking D-zone faceoffs, killing penalties and playing that physical role. He gives our fourth line a little more spirit."
Three games into this season, Acciari has done all of those things.
In addition to scoring his first goal as a member of the Panthers during last weekend's 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Home Opener at BB&T Center, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound forward has also blocked five shots, racked up a team-high eight hits and won 16 faceoffs.
"He gives us everything you're looking for in that department," Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville said.
Earlier in the week, we here at FloridaPanthers.com asked fans to submit some questions for Acciari to kick off this season's "Player Mailbag" series. Following Thursday's practice at the Panthers IceDen, he took time to answer some of them before hitting the road with the team.
What was the first thing you thought of when you heard Florida wanted to sign you? -- James W.
Acciari: I was excited. I was excited for what was going to happen with this organization and where it was headed. I was also excited for some sun!
Do you have a favorite nickname? -- @AndrewLevine5
Acciari: I've gotten a couple new nicknames since I've been down here. One of them is "Cookie," and that one's sticking. It's just because I like cookies. I'm a big Oreo fan, but any kind of cookie will do. I'm easy going.
Who's the toughest guy you've gone up against in the faceoff circle? -- Pete J.
Acciari: It's probably Sidney Crosby. He's strong on his stick and quick.
I picked up the dog calendar on Opening Night. Tell me about your dog, Thor! -- Brad M.
Acciari: He's probably me in dog form [laughs]. Sometimes he's in the way or just kind of stepping on your toes. He's a big teddy bear.
What do you and your wife like doing on your days off down here? -- @RuthKrzyk
Acciari: When we're not still working on getting situated, we just try and enjoy the weather. We walk Thor, of course. Right now it's just about relaxing and enjoying the weather.
How is it sharing the locker room with guys that you've fought with before? -- Whit W.
Acciari: At first it's a little awkward, but I think Keith Yandle helped a bit with that during the summer with that prank call with MacKenzie Weegar. That made it less awkward and more comical. Everyone in the locker room has been great.
We've got a great group of guys in here. How did it feel to score your first goal as a Panther? -- @Zedey102
Acciari: It was awesome. For it to come in the Home Opener with all of the fans there was great. It was such a good feeling to get the first one out early in a great building.
Video: TBL@FLA: Acciari pots goal at the doorstep
Why do you wear No. 55? -- @Fakejedega
Acciari: It was given to me in Boston. Being young and given a number to play in the NHL, I would've taken any number. It didn't matter. I wore No. 10 in high school back in Rhode Island, so they way I look at it is that two fives equal 10.
Who did you look forward to working with most when you signed with the Panthers? -- @Frankinoblee
Acciari: Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Yandle, guys like that. Just seeing how good all those guys were when I played against them made it exciting. Being able to play with them now is awesome. I've also known Frank Vatrano for a long time and played with Brett Connolly during my first season. All the guys are great.
Do you have a favorite tennis player? -- @ravenblu_07
Acciari: I don't watch tennis. I tried playing tennis this summer on my vacation, but I'm not too good. I'd like to get better, though!
Have you found any places in Florida that you've liked so far? -- Ngoc N.
Acciari: I've been to Cooper's Hawk at The Galleria in Fort Lauderdale a couple of times. I've become a fan of that place. I've probably been there three or four times since I've been here.
How did you lose your tooth? -- @SkylorpWasHere
Acciari: I lost it last year. [San Jose Sharks defenseman] Brent Burns was going to flip a puck into the neutral zone, and I was forechecking. He got under it too much, hit me right in the mouth and I lost a couple of teeth. It's the first time I've ever lost any teeth playing hockey.
What's the best restaurant in Rhode Island? -- @203Hockeytweets
Acciari: I'm going to have to go with Andino's on Federal Hill in Providence. It's a great Italian place.
As a fellow Rhode Islander, do you miss coffee milk or Del's Lemonade yet? - Frederick F.
Acciari: As a kid growing up, coffee milk was huge. Now I can get that back home and bring it with me. I'd have to say I miss Del's more because I'm in the warm weather year-round now. When it's this warm, having a Del's would be unbelievable. I miss that.