SUNRISE, Fla. - Ian McCoshen has a few new pucks for his mantle.
In his long-awaited NHL debut, the Florida Panthers defenseman looked calm and collected during a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues at the BB&T Center on Thursday night, recording an assist, hit and blocked shot in 13:47 of ice time.
"It was a lot of fun out there," said McCoshen, who took home a pair of pucks to mark his first NHL game and point. "The D-core made me really comfortable out there and tried to settle me in and let me play my game. It was a lot of fun playing with them.
"You don't anticipate getting a point in your first game. You're just trying to play simple and get pucks out, get pucks in, stuff like that, be physical. It's always nice [to get a point]."
A second-round pick (31st overall) of the Panthers in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, McCoshen had been competing with Florida's AHL affiliate in Springfield, Mass., before earning his first NHL call-up on Monday, notching 16 points (4-12-16) in 65 games for the Thunderbirds.
"I like the way he played," Panthers coach Tom Rowe said. "He had a lot of good defensive reads that he made right, so that was the good thing. He's definitely trending in the right direction to have a shot to be here next year, which is great."
While pre-game jitters are to be expected for any rookie taking their first steps onto the hallowed ice of the NHL, McCoshen succeeded in burying his nerves beneath an abundance of excitement. He patrolled the blue line with confidence throughout the game, crediting his cool head to the immense support he received from his fellow defensemen, especially his partner Mark Pysyk, who he described as "a rock".
"I think he was great," Pysyk said of McCoshen. "He said he was a little bit nervous at the start, but you couldn't tell. He did a good job and was solid at the point. He knows what he's doing. He's obviously here for a reason. He's just trying to build confidence and we're letting him know to just to play his game and keep it simple."
With only two games remaining in the Panthers' 2016-17 campaign, McCoshen hopes that he'll be able to parlay his play in the coming days into a full-time spot on Florida's blue line next season.
"It's definitely an opportunity that I don't take lightly," he said. "I'm trying to earn my spot here, so to say. I'm just trying to make the most of the opportunity."
Still, regardless of how the rest of the season unfolds, Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson, who, like McCoshen, benefited from a late-season call-up last year, believes that even just a taste of NHL action can do wonders for a player looking to plant their flag at the game's highest level.
"It's great that he's earned the opportunity to come up and play," said Matheson, who played alongside McCoshen at Boston College from 2013-15. "I know, for myself last year, it did a lot for my confidence going into the summer and coming into training camp this year.
"Just to be able to get your feet wet and realize that you can compete at this level is really important. Until you do that, there's always that question mark of whether you can or whether it's possible. It really does wonders for you."