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Tkachuk raves about Florida move: 'I didn't think I'd love it this much'

Eliot J. Schechter / National Hockey League / Getty

In case his stats weren't a clear enough indicator, Florida Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk said he's settled into his new surroundings rather nicely this season.

"I knew I was going to love it, but I didn't think I'd love it this much," Tkachuk told The Athletic's Joshua Kloke.

Tkachuk made waves this past summer by commandeering a move from the Calgary Flames after six seasons. He told the club he wouldn't sign a new deal as a restricted free agent, triggering the monumental trade that sent Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar to the Flames. Tkachuk signed an eight-year, $76-million deal with the Panthers shortly after the deal.

"I just saw my opportunity and took it," Tkachuk said.

He added: "I know Florida as a team isn't talked about as publicly as some other teams. But honestly, I didn't listen to (the doubters)."

Tkachuk has played his way into the Hart Trophy conversation this season with 101 points through 73 games while averaging a career-high 20:33 per contest. The Panthers' leading scorer also won All-Star Game MVP in front of his home fans in February.

Despite his individual success, the Panthers are in a battle to qualify for a playoff spot one season after winning the Presidents' Trophy. Florida entered Friday's schedule one point back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild-card spot with an extra game played.

Tkachuk admitted not qualifying for the postseason would tarnish an otherwise outstanding debut year with the Panthers.

"I'm not just going somewhere where I'm able to be in 80-degree weather every day," he said. "I want to have a chance to be on a competitive team each and every year."

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