In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, the numbers tell us Anthony Duclair's first goal is coming soon, multiple players continue to get a chance to shine, and a look at today's lines.
SUNRISE, Fla. - Anthony Duclair can almost taste his first goal with the Panthers.
Coming oh-so-close to finding the back of the net on several occasions through the first nine games of the season, Panthers coach Joel Quenneville believes the 25-year-old winger looks bound to break through sooner rather later, a moment that could open the scoring floodgates.
"I like the way he's playing," Quenneville said following Monday's practice at BB&T Center. "I like how he's skating and working. That line, night in and night out, they've generated a lot for us. Whether it's possession time or with their chances, they're usually at a real positive end of the spectrum. [Duclair] is dangerous off the rush. I told him today if you keep cutting in like that and they'll go in in a variety of ways. Keep doing that and you'll find one just around the net."
One of the top goal-scorers to hit the free agent market this offseason, Duclair put pen to paper on a one-year deal with the Panthers after a breakout season with Ottawa in 2019-20. Named to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, he notched a career-high 23 goals in 66 games with the Senators.
And even though he hasn't replicated those goals yet, he's been a crucial sparkplug on offense.
Earning a place on Florida's top line out of training camp, Duclair has joined forces with Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov to form one of the most-potent attacking trios in the league. As of right now, that dynamic line has combined for a whopping 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists).
"Our whole line is generating a lot of offense," Duclair said. "We try to generate a couple chances every time we get out there. Obviously, [we have] a lot of speed and skill, so we try to use that to our advantage. Just got to keep working and stay positive, it's going to come soon."
Utilizing NaturalStatTrick.com's database, it's clear that Duclair and his linemates are not only putting up points, but also dominating the possession battle. At 5-on-5 play, they are controlling 60.85 percent of shot attempts while also owning a huge advantage in scoring chances (67-34).
Additionally, they've also generated 32 shot attempts from high-danger areas, with many of those shots coming either directly or as a result of Duclair's penchant for driving to the net.
"Game by game, day by day, we're getting to know each other a little bit more on and off the ice," Duclair said of working with his Barkov and Verhaeghe. "The chemistry is definitely building and getting better. We know where we're going to be on the ice in all three zones, which is really key. You know the first few games was instant chemistry, and now we just want to build off that and make it so that we play together almost a full year. We want to keep building every day."
Overall, the best way to describe Duclair's lack of goals thus far is simply unluckiness.
Whether it's been pucks sailing just wide, catching the post or being the victim of a great save from an opposing goaltender, the quality of his chances and results simply do not correlate. In fact, at 5-on-5, his 7.06 expected goals rank only behind Barkov (7.10) and Verhaeghe (7.50).
All Duclair can do is keep firing and away and wait for the law of averages to catch up.
"I think I've got to shoot more, for sure, especially at this point in the season," Duclair said when asked about making adjustments. "Sometimes I'm looking too much to pass and giving up some Grade-A chances. I'm definitely going to start shooting more as soon as we get the puck in the offensive zone. Hopefully, one is going trickle in in the next few games here."
LOTS OF LOOKS
Quenneville has said repeatedly that everyone will get a look early on in the season.
So far, that's certainly been the case.
With Mason Marchment getting called up from the taxi squad and making his Panthers debut during Sunday's loss to the Red Wings, the team has already used 25 skaters - not including goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger - through the first nine games this season.
By comparison, the Lightning, who the Panthers will host on Thursday and Saturday in Sunrise, have only deployed 20 skaters this season.
"I think it's been healthy around here as far as guys knowing that, [even if] you're part of the taxi [squad], you're really not that far away from getting in the lineup," Quenneville said of the team's noticeable depth at both forward and defense. "I think those guys work hard. They want to make sure they're sharp. They want to make sure that when they come in they can stay in."
At this point, the only three players currently on the taxi squad that have yet to appear in a game are forward Scott Wilson, who was recalled from AHL Syracuse on Sunday, defenseman Kevin Connauton and goaltender Philippe Desrosiers.
Only nine games into the season, Quenneville expects players on the fringe of getting into the lineup on a more regularly basis should get at least one more look before spots are locked in.
"We tried to be fair a little bit early to give everyone a look-see," Quenneville said. "At the end of the day, as we get a little bit more familiar with our team and their habits and their games, the decisions will be clearer. Right now, there's still some sorting to do. At the same time, that's healthy for those guys knowing that they're going to get another chance and to be ready for it."
MONDAY'S PRACTICE LINES
Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Anthony Duclair
Jonathan Huberdeau - Alex Wennberg - Patric Hornqvist
Frank Vatrano - Eetu Luostarinen - Owen Tippett
Ryan Lomberg - Juho Lammikko - Noel Acciari
MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Markus Nutivaara - Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle - Radko Gudas
Kevin Connauton - Noah Juulsen
Group 2: Vinnie Hinostroza, Mason Marchment, Brett Connolly, Noah Juulsen (skated in both groups), Juho Lammikko (skated in both groups), Ryan Lomberg (skated in both groups), Kevin Connauton (skated in both groups), Scott Wilson and Phillipe Desrosiers (skated in both groups)