Carter Verhaeghe’s journey to the Florida Panthers

Carter Verhaeghe was born in Waterdown, Ontario, a community in Hamilton, just about an hour southwest of Toronto. Like many other Canadian boys, he grew up playing hockey. 

Verhaeghe played his Minor Midget hockey for the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs before he was selected 38th overall in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection by the Niagara Ice Dogs.

He spent four seasons with the Ice Dogs, which saw him hit back to back 82 point seasons in his final two years with the team. In his final OHL season, Verhaeghe was the captain of the Ice Dogs, scoring 14 points in Niagara’s 11 game playoff run to cap off his junior hockey career.

In the summer of 2013, Verhaeghe was able to live many Toronto kids’ dreams when he was selected in the 82nd overall in the third round of the NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Despite being taken fairly high in the draft, Verhaeghe never got to suit up with the Leafs. He played two games with their AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies in the 2013-2014 season, but his tenure with the hometown team was short lived when he was traded to the New York Islanders in 2015.

Verhaeghe spent two seasons with the Islanders’ minor league affiliates, splitting time between the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL and Missouri Mavericks of the ECHL (two tiers below the NHL).  

In the summer leading up to the 2017-2018 NHL season, Verhaeghe was once again traded, this time to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Verhaeghe would play two full seasons in the AHL with Tampa’s minor league affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. In the 2018-2019 campaign, Verhaeghe finished the year above a point per game with 82 points in 78 games. 

At that point it was six years after Verhaeghe was drafted and he still didn’t get a chance to suit up in an NHL game.

All of that changed in 2019 when Verhaeghe cracked the Lightning’s NHL roster out of camp. 

After multiple trades, and playing in multiple leagues and cities, Verhaeghe finally made his NHL debut on Oct. 3, 2019 against the Florida Panthers.

That season was a good year for Verhaeghe to make his NHL debut as the Lightning took home the Stanley Cup. He suited up in 52 regular season games and eight playoff games on route to Tampa’s championship season. Verhaeghe wasn’t a regular for the Lightning during the 2019-2020 season, only getting 13 points during the regular season and two in his limited playoff appearances. He was also about to become a restricted free agent following his rookie NHL season.

Tampa elected to not tender a qualifying offer for Verhaeghe, which made him an unrestricted free agent. While Tampa was celebrating their Stanley Cup run, the other team from the Sunshine State had a different type of off-season. 

The Florida Panthers were in a hole. They got knocked out of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers in four games (best-of-five series) by the New York Islanders. The team had parted ways with their general manager Dale Tallon and brought in former Columbus Blue Jackets assistant GM Bill Zito to take over as the new GM. 

Zito immediately got to work to try and transform the Panthers into a winner and one of his first off-season moves was bringing a Stanley Cup champion to his team, Carter Verhaeghe. 

Verhaeghe signed a two-year, $2M contract with the Panthers on Oct. 9, 2020. 

With the AAV and term so low on the contract, this move seemed like a low-risk signing at the time. Panthers fans were soon about to figure out that this move would become one of the best in the team’s history.

Carter Verhaeghe jumped into the Panthers 2020-2021 opening night lineup and he never looked back. 

In his first season with Florida, Verhaeghe scored 36 points in 43 regular season games. He was trusted by the Panthers coaching staff with a top-six role on the wing, spending a lot of his time alongside captain Aleksander Barkov. Verheaghe played power play, got overtime shifts and finished the season third in scoring for the Cats, just behind Jonathan Huberdeau and Barkov. 

Come playoff time, Verhaeghe had three points in six games, before the Panthers were eliminated by his former team and eventual back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions, Tampa Bay. 

Verhaeghe proved himself and showed his doubters wrong in his second NHL season. He was awarded for his efforts, signing a three-year, $12.5M contract extension with the Panthers. 

This season, Carter Verhaeghe hasn’t lost a step. With the Panthers looking like one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup, he continues to shine, even with all the high scoring forwards the team has.

In 39 games, Verhaeghe already has 33 points while being a plus 15. He has excelled his play off the rush and is one of the most dangerous players on the ice at all times. 

The Toronto native was once a forgotten man with many NHL organizations. Today, he is one of the top players on the Florida Panthers and is not only part of their championship efforts this year, but for many years to come.

Like many players who have been brought in by the Panthers over the course of the last two seasons, Verhaeghe has found his game and his home in Sunrise.

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