Hats off to Hagman
Panther prospect Niklas Hagman just started his call-out to earn a spot on the 2001 version of the Panthers. Already considered one of the players to be counted on in the future to complete the roster of highly skilled forwards, Hagman brings the rare combination of skill and just enough power that makes GM’s drool.
Playing last night against the Hurricanes on the sleepy west coast of Florida, the Panthers kicked off their pre-season with a 3-1 win that showcased the young Finn, as well as a young Russian and young Swede. Carolina went with a veteran matchup, playing Irbe, Francis, Ozolinsh, Kapanen, O’Neill, and Ward among others. The Panthers relied mainly on their young veterans and rookies such as Worrell, Herr, Weiss, Payer, Shvikdi, Morisset, etc.
This young line-up was able to outpace and outlast the Hurricanes, and the scoring started on the power-play at 6:27. With Huselius running the PP from the point, where he was able to keep the puck away from any challenges, he passed the puck to Novoseltsev at the left circle. Novo had a lot of room to himself so he teed up a shot ear-marked for the top shelf when Hagman tipped the puck down to beat a hand-cuffed Irbe.
After this goal, the game got quite ugly with both teams going back and forth with no discernable cohesion. But at 16:00, Carolina was able to come back on a broken play to beat Flaherty on a two-on-one to even the game up.
The second period was highly an unremarkable period, highlighted by the strong physical play of Kyle Rossiter who did an admirable job of containing his man and estabilishing himself as a presence with a crushing check just inside the blue-line to a stunned Canes player. Brad Ference looked to be comfortable again and played a solid two-way game, while Lance Ward also chipped in with some hits and solid defensive zone coverage as well.
With the game tied and half-way through the 3rd period, the pressure was on both teams to break the stalemate, and it started with Olli Jokinen on a power-play rush. Jokinen found Hagman and Novoseltsev ahead as they entered the zone and got them the puck. Carrying the puck, Novo showed his blazing speed and left the single Cane’s defenseman with few options as to who to cover. Instead of shooting, he dished the puck from his right circle perfectly to his breaking partner Hagman, whose shot easily beat Irbe.
With the Canes adding substantial pressure to tie the game up and Wade Flaherty making key stops, Irbe was pulled in the remaining minute. With the Scandanavian connection on the ice, it was almost a given that their strong possession play would yield a empty-netter. With Huselius gaining the puck, he gave it to Hagman who passed it right back due to no clear shot. But Hagman soon found the puck on his stick again and he released a 70 footer between the covering defenseman’s legs to get his first North American hat trick. For a player who some considered to be a gritty winger, Hagman showed that he can also put the puck in the net. He will get another chance to prove this tonight in the rematch with the Canes in Ft Lauderdale. If Hagman can continue this pace, his time might be much sooner than later
Ivan Novoseltsev continued his pattern of strong pre-season play with two assists tonight. He used his speed wisely and looked for the open ice, instead of trying to go through players. On the second Panthers goal, Novo usually would have taken the shot, but he saw the better option with Hagman on the 2 on 1. Showing amazing speed and tenacity, David Morisset was always hounding the opposing player with the puck and was able to cover a lot of ice in his puck pursuit. He was lined up with Denis Shvidki and Stephen Weiss . Weiss showed good sense for the game, utilized his linemates effectively, and showed solid defensive awareness. Huselius looked strong on the penalty kill as well, where his long reach, fast skating, and quick reaction speed broke up more than a few Canes attempts
Look for my report on the first game at home for the Panthers either tonight or early Thursday