Panthers coach reflects on Jacob Trouba’s growth as Rangers captain

NHL: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Trouba has served as captain of the New York Rangers for the past two seasons, and is the 28th player to wear the C in franchise history. It’s no small task to captain an Original Six franchise, not the least of which one located in a city with the expectations and pressure of New York.

In the opinion of Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice, who previously coached Trouba with the Winnipeg Jets, the Blueshirts defenseman fits the role nicely.

“What I think Jake needed to do was find his place,” Maurice said Wednesday before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Rangers and Panthers. “And he has grown into a dominant defenseman and a captain.”

Trouba was awarded the 2024 Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award on May 14th, honoring his leadership on and off the ice this past season.

“I don’t know that at 18-19 years old, you can pick that out of anybody. It would be a very rare case where a guy walks in, and they say, ‘You can tell.’ Usually, that coach is full of shit,” laughed Maurice. “But with Jake, he grew into it.”

Related: Stubborn Rangers in unfamiliar waters in these playoffs

Relationship between Rangers captain, Panthers coach extends to days together in Winnipeg

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Arizona Coyotes
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long road to get to this point for the 11-year veteran, whose career began as a 19-year-old with the Jets in 2013. Maurice took over as head coach shortly after, replacing the fired Claude Noel in January after a slow start.

“When he came in, we weren’t very good,” Maurice explained. “Hence, we drafted high enough to get a player like Jake Trouba.”

Winnipeg drafted Trouba with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Less than two years later, he debuted, slotting into a D-core that already boasted a top pairing of Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom.

“When he comes into the League, he’s a shooter, he’s an offensive guy, he’s a power-play guy, and in his mind, he was still there,” Maurice recalled. “But he’s a right-handed shot and I’ve got Dustin Byfuglien, so he’s not getting out there on the power play.”

Trouba scored 10 goals and 29 points as a rookie, finishing sixth for the Calder Trophy, but did not log a shift on the power play.

“He wanted to play more,” said Maurice. “He was good about it. Like I enjoyed him. He hit hard, competes — a bit old school.”

The blue-line pairing of Byfuglien and Enstrom allowed Trouba to see plenty of time with fellow up-and-comer Josh Morrissey, a combination that would help redefine Trouba’s role and evolve his game.

“We end up playing Jake and Josh against the other team’s best by the time he was 22-years-old, so he got an unusual proving ground,” Maurice explained. “We made the playoffs in those years when he started to get a little stronger.”

Related: Why Rangers ‘need more of everything’ after Game 1 loss to Panthers

It culminated in a 2018 trip to the Western Conference Final against the Vegas Golden Knights, where Maurice described Trouba and Morrisey as his “shutdown pair.”

The Rangers expedited their rebuild in the 2019 offseason, signing Artemi Panarin as a free agent. Their other major move was acquiring Trouba from the Jets in a trade, quickly extending him to a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $8 million.

“I would say that every guy in that locker room in Winnipeg was a big fan of his,” Maurice added. “He played hard, and they liked him for it, and he left a lot of really good friends there in a positive way.”

That clearly translated to the Rangers’ locker room, as the team named him captain prior to his fourth season in New York.

Paul Maurice also has relationship with Rangers’ Jack Roslovic

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Trouba wasn’t the only former player that Maurice highlighted in his Wednesday morning press conference ahead of Florida’s 3-0 win in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Jack Roslovic was acquired by the Rangers from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the final hour of the 2024 NHL trade deadline. He’s since found a spot in the top six, playing to the right of Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, all the while making his presence known this postseason with two goals and seven points.

Roslovic, like Trouba, began his career in Winnipeg with Maurice at the helm.

“He came in on the fourth line and his skillset is not to play the fourth line,” noted Maurice. “He’s very crafty, very quick, he can control the puck around his body and see everybody. That’s why he’s so good with the two guys he plays with.”

Roslovic was another Winnipeg first-round pick, but only spent four years with the Jets after struggling to find increased playing time.

“We, at the time, had two really good offensive lines, and they were young. He came in just after Ehlers came in, Kyle Connor came in, Patty Laine came in. I’ve got [Blake] Wheeler, Bryan Little at center, and [Mark] Scheifele. There’s no room for him to get in that top six. He’s a much better player — there just wasn’t a place for him.”

Averaging 12:13 in his four seasons with Winnipeg, Roslovic’s ATOI leaped up to 15:50 in his subsequent four years with the Blue Jackets.

“He was probably frustrated and he handled it well. I never had an issue with him. He just got drafted almost at the wrong time for Winnipeg,” Maurice explained. “And sometimes, that’s phenomenal for the next team. Our whole team’s built on those guys.”

The Panthers have benefitted greatly from Maurice doing just that with former early draft picks like Sam Reinhart, Carter Verhaeghe, and Eetu Luostarinen, all of whom have found an increased role and increased production after leaving their original teams for Florida.

“These guys are all so different from when they were young,” concluded Maurice. “It’s a rarity, and there’s good reason for it, that a player doesn’t change.”

Trouba and Roslovic will both have the opportunity to show their former coach just how much they’ve grown as the Rangers try and battle back from a 1-0 hole in this best-of-7 series against the Panthers.

Lou Orlando has spent the past two seasons as a New York Rangers beat reporter for WFUV Sports. The... More about Lou Orlando

Mentioned in this article:

More About: