Like DeBoer, even Dadonov was a little surprised by the honor. Dadonov, 21, got word he would be going to Raleigh a few hours before he played in just his 19th NHL game.
“I don’t know much about this, this is the first time they told me about it,’’ Dadonov said soon after word broke that he was selected. When asked about the format, it was obvious he hadn’t put much thought into it. Why should he?
“I was kind of surprised,’’ DeBoer said. “He’d only played in 14 games this season. But what a great honor for him. Next to the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is one of the biggest things in the NHL, and he gets to be part of that. It’s great for him.’’
Dadonov will not be playing in Sunday’s All-Star Game as no Florida player was selected for that honor. Dadonov is filling the NHL mandate that each franchise be represented in some way, and he’ll take part in Saturday’s SuperSkills competition with the rest of the All-Star participants.
This is only the second time in franchise history and first time since 1998 that the Panthers had no player in the All-Star Game.
With the changed format – the game will not be the traditional Eastern vs. Western Conference – the NHL felt it didn’t really need to stick by the unwritten rule that each team have someone playing. Florida had Booth, Bryan McCabe and Vokoun on the electronic ballot. The three got minimal support, however, and received the fewest votes at their respective positions.
That’s no concern to Dadonov, a skilled winger who will get to show off his moves in Saturday’s skills competition.
Dadonov has been impressive at times since being called up from the minors Dec. 7, and his strong play made veteran forward Steven Reinprecht expendable. When the Panthers started getting some forwards back off the injured list last month, instead of sending Dadonov back to their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., they waived Reinprecht and told Dadonov he could stick around.
Through 23 games, Dadonov, a native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, has four goals and seven assists.
“I think I have much more confidence now that I’ve gotten some points. I think I can play here,’’ Dadonov said recently.
DeBoer would like to see Dadonov keep going hard and not let things like the Raleigh trip swell his head. If Dadonov was to “pull off the gas” for an extensive period of time, he could find himself back in the minors.
“Good things will happen if he keeps doing what he’s been doing,’’ DeBoer said. “As a coach, I want him to remember his day-to-day obligations and not get too wrapped up in the All-Star thing. He hasn’t played that many games. He has to understand that this invitation doesn’t mean he’s arrived just yet. He’s still a very young player. If it was up to me, would I be sending him? No. But good for him. This can be a good experience for him if he keeps it in perspective.’’