As part of the build-up to the first-round playoff series between the Capitals and the Panthers, Japers’ Rink will be looking at some of the important Florida men and how they might impact the series.
#42 | Defense
Height: 6’0” | Weight: 186 | Born: June 12, 1996
Birthplace: Linkoping, Sweden | Acquired: Selected off waivers from Carolina; January 9, 2021
Assets: A new breed of undersized defenseman who excels in puck possession and puck movement; he can produce points, too. Does not panic with the puck on his stick.
Flaws: Needs to prove he can play at a high level against tougher competition, and he will need to add more bulk to accomplish that – especially if he is to be a physical player.
Career Potential: Minute-munching, puck-moving defenseman.
Why You Should Know Who He Is: This season seemed to fulfill his asset description and address his flaws as described above. Forsling was a fifth-round pick (126th overall) in the 2014 Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, the 41st of 65 defensemen taken in that draft. He never played for the Canucks, traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Adam Clendening in January 2015. He skated three unremarkable seasons with the Blackhawks, going 8-19-27, minus-8 in 112 games before he was traded with Anton Forsberg to the Carolina Hurricanes for Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela in June 2019. He never played for the Hurricanes, spending the 2019-2020 season with the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL before he was placed on waivers in January 2021, at which time he was claimed by Florida. Last season, his first with the Panthers, would not have excited many, finishing 5-12-17, plus-17, in 43 games. But there was a suggestion of offensive skill in those numbers in what amounted to what would have been a half-season’s worth of games in normal times.
Then there was this season. His ten goals were a career high and third among Panther defensemen. He had 27 assists, also a career high and also third among defensemen. His 37 points tied Brandon Montour for third-most among blueliners, while his plus-41 led the team and tied for third in the league among defensemen. He and the Panthers flourished with heavy ice time loads. In 36 games in which he skated at least 21 minutes, He was 8-17-25, plus-29, and Florida went 26-4-6.
How the Caps Can Stop Him: Forsling has made a leap in terms of offensive production, and his goal differential on ice at 5-on-5 (plus-38) led all Panther skaters. But he cannot do a lot about his size. He is a slightly built defenseman and not especially physical (his high in credited hits in a game this season was three, and all three instances were at home, so perhaps there was generous scoring there, and he had only 18 penalty minutes), and this argues for the Caps pounding him on the forecheck at every opportunity. The Caps cannot give him time and space to make decisions, especially in the Florida end of the ice where his puck moving ability would aid the Panthers’ transition game.