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Tkachuk hungry for more after successful 1st season with Panthers

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Following an almost picture-perfect first season with the Florida Panthers, star forward Matthew Tkachuk is hungry for more.

"I'm sitting here saying how everything went great for me, and it was easy, but also at the back of my mind, knowing that we were so close," he said Tuesday during an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. "Just continuing our goal of finishing the job is what is on our mind next year."

The Calgary Flames traded Tkachuk to Florida on July 22 last year in exchange for a package including Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.

It's been a whirlwind 12 months for the Cardiac Cats, who shocked the hockey world with their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final this spring. Tkachuk was key to their success, leading the Panthers with 11 goals - including four game-winners - and 24 points in 20 games.

That dazzling performance wasn't surprising given Tkachuk's dominance during the regular season, when he hit the 40-goal mark for the second straight campaign and potted a career-high 109 points in 79 contests.

He was named a finalist for the Hart Trophy in honor of his efforts and was widely considered a front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy heading into the Stanley Cup Final.

"The playoffs was probably one of my favorite times of my entire life, just being around Fort Lauderdale and just seeing the buzz in the whole city," he said.

He added, "Our goal this coming year is probably (to) have a better start to the season than we had and just try to get back to the playoffs and try to do it again."

The Panthers struggled with consistency over the 2022-23 campaign and only made the playoffs by one point over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite Florida's underdog status, it upset the behemoth Boston Bruins in the opening round before beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round and handily sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the conference finals.

The Vegas Golden Knights ended up dashing the Panthers' dreams in five games to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

Tkachuk said he has high expectations for goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who was arguably an equally important factor in Florida's postseason success as the forward.

"We're just super lucky to have him, and I can't wait to see him next year," Tkachuk said. "I think he's going to continue right where he left off and do that from the start, and it's gonna be great for us."

Tkachuk was hampered by a broken sternum against the Golden Knights, but he said he's "feeling a lot better" during his offseason recovery.

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