When the Florida Panthers land in Pittsburgh for a Saturday night match-up, one player will have nearly 50 family and friends waiting for him.
Vincent Trocheck will return back home to Pittsburgh where he spent his childhood watching the Penguins at the “The Igloo” (Mellon Arena) and learning to play hockey. This will be his first time returning to the Consol Energy Center, which opened on August 18, 2010, on an NHL roster.
“I have the biggest Italian family and they’ll all be there. Everyone is asking for tickets so I have a good 50 people right now on the list for tickets,” said Trocheck.
For Trocheck, hockey has been a part of his life since he was first born.
The Penguins had just won back-to-back Stanley Cups the year Trocheck was born. Trocheck believes growing up, Pittsburgh wasn’t the biggest hockey town but as he got older, it developed into one. He remembers watching Pittsburgh greats such as Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux and believes it was because of them, hockey has thrived in Pittsburgh.
“When I was younger it was Jagr and Lemieux playing together so that was a lot of fun to watch and then obviously Sidney Crosby the last few years has been a great influence in Pittsburgh hockey. Those three guys have brought hockey to Pittsburgh and I think it’s permanent after those guys,” Trocheck said.
Trocheck was drafted by the Panthers in the 2011 NHL Draft in the third round (64th overall) and began his hockey career with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) where he spent four years before being traded to the Plymouth Whalers halfway through the 2012-13 season.
In 2013, he won the Ontario Hockey League scoring title with 109 points on 50 goals and 59 assists in 63 games. He became the first American to win the title since Chicago’s Patrick Kane in 2006-07.
He began his professional career with the Panthers AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, in 2013-14 where he played in 55 games recording 42 points (16-26—42). Trocheck made his NHL debut on Mar. 7, 2014 vs. Buffalo where he also had most of his family members in attendance for.
This season, Trocheck is feeling more comfortable with each game he plays in the NHL and is proving he can make an impact on this Panthers team. He has recorded 11 points in just 19 games played so far this season and recorded his first three point game (1-2—3) of his NHL career on Dec. 2 in Detroit. At just 21 years old, he is creating plays with his speed, setting up goals with his skill and his determination is on full display every shift.
“It’s still the NHL but the comfortability is there because I have good chemistry with my line mates now. I’ve been playing with Jimmy Hayes for most of the year now. As a line we’re starting to jell, so that definitely helps with the comfortability,” Trocheck said.
Trocheck is third on the Panthers in plus/minus with a plus four rating and is ranked tied for second in assists (9) on the team. Florida Head Coach Gerard Gallant notices the grit Trocheck possesses on the ice.
“He's a competitor. He's got good skill and good talent, but he competes every night and every shift and he wants to win. He's a battler,” Gallant said.
Trocheck is showing everyone he is ready to stay in the NHL and help this Panther team succeed. For now, the next stop on his journey is his hometown of Pittsburgh as the Panthers play the Penguins twice in three days starting Saturday.
“It’ll be a lot of fun to go back home and play there,” Trocheck said.