In the midst of yet another rebuild, the Florida Panthers will certainly have a lot of question marks to address this offseason. Rookie center Brandon Pirri isn’t one of them.
Acquired in a pre-deadline deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 2, Pirri, 22, has quickly become one of the Panthers’ most reliable and productive forwards on a team that has been bereft of offense for the majority of the season.
“It’s been good. The transition has been easy,” Pirri said of his first month in Florida. “Very comfortable, great locker room here.”
In 46 games split between Chicago and Florida, Pirri has tallied 23 points (12-11-23), placing him 25th in the NHL among rookies while playing in significantly fewer games than those ahead of him.
Additionally, since the trade deadline, Pirri’s performance has actually been on par with some of the biggest names that changed uniforms roughly one month ago.
With a post-deadline point total of 12 (6-6-12), Pirri has been producing around the same rate as Matt Moulson (10), Thomas Vanek (14) and Marion Gaborik (11). And unlike the three aforementioned forwards, Pirri has been doing the majority of his damage from the third line.
To fully grasp exactly what Pirri brings to the Panthers, you need look no further than the team’s 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Sunday night.
Trailing 2-1 with the second period dwindling away, Pirri fired a one-timer from the slot to beat Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen high to the blocker side with just 56.6 seconds remaining in the team’s cardinal second period – his third goal in four games.
From there, the Panthers would go on to win by a final score of 3-2 with Sean Bergenheim netting the game-winning goal at 4:31 of the third period.
However, even though the team’s early 2-0 deficit paved the way for this heroic moment, Pirri hopes that playing from behind won’t become a habit.
“It’s frustrating, we came out here flat. That’s something we’re trying to focus on, coming out strong,” Pirri said of the Panthers’ early effort against the Stars. “We’re a blue-collar team here, we gotta work hard.”
With just three games remaining in the 2013-14 season, Pirri hopes that his recent play has been enough to separate himself from the large group of talented Panthers prospects vying for roster spots next season.
“I have a role on this team,” Pirri said. “Every guy is trying to pull their own weight.”
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