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Marchessault Off to a Hot Start with Panthers

25-year-old winger standing out early in season

by Jameson Olive JamesonCoop /

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Jonathan Marchessault found himself in a new situation at the Panthers IceDen last week, surrounded by cameras and hounded with questions about what the Florida Panthers needed to do to maintain their hot start to the 2016-17 season.

"We've had a pretty good start," he said. "I think our whole team is playing pretty good. We've had some injuries early, but I think we have a good character team and we've been playing good defensively. It's been a few good games for us.

"We have really good players. It's just good to see that we have some depth down in our lineup. I think that's a really positive thing for our team, especially the coaches. It seems like guys can step in anywhere in the lineup."

Having entered the NHL as an undrafted free agent, Marchessault isn't exactly used to living life in the spotlight. He's been predominantly utilized as a reserve forward since first turning pro in 2011, but always felt that his game had more to offer teams, especially in the offensive zone.

"I take pride in my overall game," said Marchessault, who scored 70 goals in his final two seasons with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. "I just want to make the right plays. When I get in the offensive zone, I take pride in making the right plays. I give a lot of effort for that."

Intrigued by his potential, the Panthers signed Marchessault to a two-year contract this summer, hoping that the motivated 25-year-old would provide an offensive spark to the club's up-tempo system and bottom-six forward group. 

For Marchessault, simply having a full-time role would have been enough to make him happy, but after an unfortunate pre-season injury to Jonathan Huberdeau, the 5-foot-9, 174-pound winger is now playing alongside Aleskander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr on Florida's top line.

Video: NJD@FLA: Marchessault puts home goal on deflection

"I never thought it was going to happen," said Marchessault, who played in 45 games with the Lightning last season after playing in just four games total in two previous seasons. "It happens quick in the season. A lot can happen in 82 games. There can be injuries up and down [the lineup]. I think we have a good start right now and we need to keep going."

With a shoot-first mentality and exceptional playmaking ability, Marchessault has been flourishing in his elevated role with the Panthers thus far, recording a team-high four points (2-2-4) in three games. His nine shots on goal rank only behind the 10 posted by Barkov and defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while his 18:44 of average ice time dwarfs the 12:05 he averaged last season in Tampa.

"He's got some skill and he's got some speed and he's got some talent," Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said. "Right now, he's worked real well with those top two guys. He's replacing Huberdeau, and that's line been together for a year and a half, but he's stepped in there and we haven't missed a beat. 

"It's good for the kid. He's played well and taken advantage of his opportunity. There's a long time to go, but he's played very well and he's played very well."

It's often been said that the best thing you can do with an opportunity is to simply run with it. But after patiently waiting several years for his chance, Marchessault is currently moving at the speed of light.

Video: NJD@FLA: Marchessault utilizes screen to bury PPG

For although he was unsure of where his career would go, Marchessault now believes that he can fit in anywhere.

"I try to look a lot at what the style of player everyone on our team is," said Marchessault, brimming with confidence. "It makes it easier when you have to play with them. We have a really good group of hockey players and all four lines can contribute offensively. So far, we're also playing good defensively. If things keep going like that, good things are going to happen."

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