Examining Florida Panthers Carter Verhaeghe and His Breakout Season

Carter Verhaeghe

During this past season, Carter Verhaeghe had a breakout with the Florida Panthers. He was signed in free agency by the Panthers last summer at a solid discount. Previously, he was on the Tampa Bay Lightning with whom he won a Stanley Cup. The Lightning would go on to repeat without him, however, that doesn’t mean Verhaeghe had a bad year. In fact, Verhaeghe broke out in an extended role in Florida.

Is Carter Verhaeghe and His New Role Sustainable?

Brief Background

The journey Verhaeghe had is pretty interesting. He started off being drafted in the third round by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013. Two years later, he was dealt to the New York Islanders along with a few other players for Michael Grabner. On the Islanders, he split time between the AHL and ECHL despite proving that he was good enough to play in the AHL.

Two years after arriving, he was then traded to the Lightning for a goalie due to the Islanders being short one goaltender. In 2018-19 he claimed the John B. Sollenberger Trophy, becoming the first Syracuse Crunch to win the AHL scoring title. In the same season, he finished with 34 goals, tying for the most goals scored in that season with his teammate Alex Barre-Boulet and shared the Willie Marshall Award, awarded to the player(s) who finished the season with the most goals. 

2019-20 Season

This was the year he first played in the NHL, making his debut in October of 2019. Throughout the season, he played limited minutes, a bit under 10 per night. Despite this, he had good underlying numbers. He finished first in terms of CF%, ninth in xGF% and 18th in HDCF% on his team. Although finishing ninth and 18th seems pretty low, this was on a stacked Lightning team and he still was over 50% in both categories.

However, Verhaeghe isn’t a player that is strong defensively but instead a player that can create offensive chances. This was shown in the stats xGF/60 and HDCF/60 where he finished top four in both categories. Although he had chances, his actual point total was low due to the combined fact that he had limited ice time and his on-ice shooting percentage was low. Verhaeghe seemed like a player primed to break out the next season with an increased role and better puck luck. 

During the season, his most frequent linemates were Yanni Gourde and Mitchell Stephens, who performed pretty well together. They finished third in xGoals%, among lines who played at least 150 minutes together. This was just behind the Max PaciorettyChandler StephensonMark Stone line and Matt MartinCasey CizikasLeo Komarov line. 

During the playoffs, Verhaeghe had the second-worst HDCF% and xGF% along with the worst CF% on the team. He played in eight games, had two assists, and averaged over ten minutes per game en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Verhaeghe wasn’t able to cap off a very good regular season because of poor underlying numbers in the playoffs. But it was his first season after all.

2020-21 Season

Carter Verhaeghe broke out and exploded offensively, compared to the season prior. This was a result of two things mentioned earlier: increased role and puck luck. He was certainly given a bigger role to succeed, his average ice time almost doubling from the season prior. His on-ice shooting percentage almost increased by 2%, from 7.09 in the season before 8.96 this past season. His offensive and defensive game improved as well, as shown in the stats such as xGF/60 and xGA/60. Due to Verhaege having a positive contribution on both ends of the ice, he led the team in both xGF% and HDCF%.

He also played well against elite competition and had a positive impact against them, having a DFF% (Dangerous Fenwick For Percent) of close to 60%. He was 12th in the league in this category (filtered to forwards with at least 100 minutes). This shows that Verhaege can be placed against elite competition and still put up results. More impressively, his DFF/60 (which measures offensive impact) was second in the league, just behind Teuvo Teravainen. Interestingly enough, teammates Aleksander Barkov and Anthony Duclair were right behind him, third and fourth, in this category. 

Part of a Good Hockey Line

Recently Verhaeghe signed an extension with the Panthers, a three-year deal with an AAV of around four million dollars. This allowed the team to keep a key contributor and one of the best lines in hockey this past season intact.

This line had one of the best impacts on both ends of the ice and boasted an xGF% of 65.6%, tied for second in the league. The line in front of them was the Montreal Canadiens which consisted of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. Come playoff time, the Panthers line had an xGF% of 50%. They had a pretty good offensive impact but they allowed as many chances on defence as well. A reason this line only played 20 minutes may be due to not being able to have a positive defensive impact. In the place of Duclair, Mason Marchment was placed and the line’s xGF% increased to 62.8%. 

The Breakout Season for Carter Verhaeghe

Verhaeghe’s breakout season wasn’t too unexpected looking at the stats. But a player improving just because he is put into a larger role isn’t always the case. Some players don’t play better with more ice time but that wasn’t what happened with Verhaeghe who rose to the opportunity. The Panthers have a very good player in Carter Verhaeghe and one of the best lines this past season.

All three players, Verhaeghe, Duclair and Barkov are all back next season. It will be interesting to see if they can perform at the same level or even better compared to last season. If they keep giving Verhaeghe more ice time, it will likely allow the team to succeed through the playoffs.

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