CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - When Jacob MacDonald scored the game-winning goal to lift the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the majority of the post-game talk in the locker room actually centered around the outstanding pass from second-year winger Maxim Mamin that set it up.
"I was out here," rookie Henrik Borgstrom said. "I was on the ice. I saw Mams make a, uh… I'm trying not to cuss here… a heck of a play. It was just beautiful. He played that well, and that finish from J-Mac was pretty special, too."
After making his NHL debut on Jan. 7, Mamin, 23, played in 25 of Florida's final 35 games last season, helping the team achieve a 21-3-1 record during that span when he was in the lineup. And although the club's torrid second-half stretch can't all be attributed to Mamin's arrival, the defensive effort he brought to the ice every night was certainly impressive.
At 5-on-5, Florida scored seven goals when Mamin was on the ice (three coming from his own stick) while allowing just five, giving the 2016 sixth-round selection a Goals For percentage of 58.33 - the second-highest mark on the team, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. Additionally, Mamin averaged the second-most hits on the team, chipping in two body checks per game.
Standing 6-2 and 201 pounds, Mamin's physical tools have impressed coach Bob Boughner.
"He played really well for us down the stretch last year," Boughner said after Monday's practice at the Panthers IceDen. "He's a big, strong guy. He uses his body. He's got speed to his game. He's got a little bit of sneaky offense to his game, an example being the other night in that 3-on-3… As all young guys, you just want to see it more consistently. You want to see it game in, game out, and not just in spurts. That's the consistency that we talk about with all these guys."
Entering his second season with the Panthers, Mamin will have only have a handful of more games to showcase the consistency Boughner is looking for. With three preseason games left on the schedule (all against Tampa Bay), the Russian forward appears to be locked into a battle with the likes of Frank Vatrano, Troy Brouwer and Micheal Haley for a place on the fourth line.
"I feel really good, lots of energy," said Mamin, who has worked hard to improve his English since arriving to the United States last year. "Everybody's so good. I'm happy to be here again and looking forward… I got much experience [last season]. It's really helping me now."
As both a friend and mentor, captain Aleksander Barkov believes Mamin has a bright future.
"The first day he came here, I was like 'This guy's pretty good,'" Barkov said. "He's physical. He has good hands and a good head. He can do everything. You can put him to play with the puck, and he can do that. You can put him to play without the puck, and he can do that. He's a really good player for us. We're lucky to have him."
TIME'S NOT RIGHT FOR TIPPETT
For Owen Tippett, the time just isn't right.
The Panthers returned the 2017 first-round pick to the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL on Monday morning as part of the latest batch of training camp cuts. In two games this preseason, the former 10th overall pick posted two assists, with both of them coming on the man advantage.
"I had a long talk with Tipp today," Boughner said. "I don't think he had the camp he wanted. I expressed to him how important he is to this organization and how much we're banking on him, but he's got to do his part a little bit. We know what he can do with the puck, but we want him to get a little bit better without the puck. We sat down, had a heart to heart, showed him a lot of video, show him some things from the Dallas game the other night, things he has to take back with him and work on. We have no doubt that he's going to be a heck of a player for us one day, but it's a process. He's still a young guy. He's still learning, and this is part of it."
As an 18-year-old last season, Tippett made the Panthers out of training camp and went on to score one goal in seven games before being sent back to his junior club in Mississauga to avoid burning a year off of his entry-level contract. But that was then, and this is now, where Florida is entering the upcoming season with one of the deepest rosters the franchise has ever seen.
"We talked about more competition and being deeper," Boughner said. "It was going to take a heck of a camp and preseason to make this team. Last year, we weren't in this situation where we have so many guys, so he got that opportunity… We don't want to do that this year. We want to hit the ground running with our 20 best."
At 19, Tippett is ineligible to return to Florida's organization until the completion of his 2018-19 OHL season. With the Steelheads, he'll look to build off the career-high 75 points (36 goals, 39 assists) he registered in 51 games last season. Additionally, he will also attempt to carve out a spot on Team Canada's roster for the 2019 World Junior Championship later this year.
"He was disappointed, but he understands it," Boughner sad. "To come in here as a 19-year-old kid and make an NHL squad, very, very few do it."