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Upper St. Clair's Trocheck close to making NHL

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

SUNRISE, Fla. — Center Vince Trocheck, an Upper St. Clair native and Florida's top prospect, is an injury away from reaching the NHL.

Injuries aside, Trocheck appears ready for the NHL on his own accord.

Trocheck, the Panthers' third-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, led the Ontario Hockey League in scoring last season. He's leading San Antonio (Florida's AHL affiliate) in scoring this season.

“He'll get an opportunity,” Florida coach Peter Horachek said.

Maybe this season. Should two of Florida's top centers — Aleksander Barkov or Nick Bjugstad — have health issues, Trocheck immediately will be recalled, according to Horachek.

“If there's an injury to Barkov or Bjugstad,” Horachek confirmed, “he would get that opportunity.”

“Whenever they do decide to call me up, I'll be ready,” Trocheck said before playing in Oklahoma City on Saturday.

The 20-year-old center has produced nine goals and 18 points in 20 AHL games this season. Although he isn't large in stature — listed at 5-11, 180 pounds — the Panthers love his toughness and goal-scoring touch, projecting him as a top-six center.

“I really think his talent is just through the roof,” Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “He's going to be a good NHL player, and I think we're lucky to have him in our organization. I played against him in the OHL, and I saw all I needed to see.”

The Panthers believe that Trocheck's ideal time to break into the NHL is next season. Horachek explained that he would prefer Trocheck continue to dominate at the AHL level for an entire season.

“Rushing players to the NHL is not how you develop players,” Horachek said. “You don't force players up at the wrong time and the wrong place.”

Horachek, though, clearly is looking forward to Trocheck's arrival.

“He is pretty dynamic,” Horachek said. “He's got good offensive instincts. He's smart. He's really good with the puck. He has a great personality, and he's driven. He wants to do well.”

Working on the finer parts of the defensive game for Trocheck is all that seems to be separating him from the NHL. That and time.

“I think I've been playing pretty well in San Antonio,” Trocheck said. “There are just minor details they want me to continue to improve.”

Trocheck led the OHL in scoring with 109 points last season.

“He's going to be a good one,” Gudbranson said. “No doubt about it.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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