Picture this: A 10-year-old Patric Hornqvist bouncing off the walls most of his waking hours. Surely, he drove his parents crazy. “Yeah, probably,” the Penguins winger said with a smile this week.
Now picture this: A 35-year-old Hornqvist still revved up, flying to the net for tip-ins and screens, irritating goaltenders, cheerleading on the bench and in the locker room.
Maybe Hornqvist won’t lose that get-up-and-go as he moves through his 30s. Maybe he won’t lose a stare-down with the Energizer Bunny.
“I hope not,” he said. “I don’t think so. I’m 31 years old. I’m pretty old now. I still have it. I should have it for another … however many years I can play.”
That right there, along with an above-average skill set – did you see the pickoff move and nasty setup of an Evgeni Malkin goal Tuesday night? – is why the Penguins need to make a strong push to keep Hornqvist past this summer when he is eligible for unrestricted free agency.
No one involved is talking about Hornqvist’s future beyond this season, and there’s no indication that he might re-sign before he hits the market. Certainly, he’s entitled to test his value, and that value could be a strain on the Penguins’ salary cap constraints. It’s possible that after winning two (three??) Stanley Cups here, Hornqvist will decide to go to the highest bidder for what would likely be one last big contract.
He carries a $4.25 million hit this season.
Patric Hornqvist: No Desire to Move On
He is not, however, itching to leave. This is what he said when Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked whether he has an on/off switch with all that energy:
“Maybe. I just love to be around the guys and try to get better. Obviously, if you have fun with it, I think it helps. I love playing hockey. I love being around these guys. I think we have something great going on here.”
They do, and Hornqvist has become an important part. Maybe not Crosby-Malkin-Kessel-Murray important, but he ranks fourth on the team with 30 points, including 15 goals, and he fills a role that would not be easy to replace. He, in fact, made 37-year-old Chris Kunitz expendable, but there doesn’t appear to be an heir to replace Hornqvist.
Let’s not forget that the Penguins are still trying to replace Nick Bonino after he left via free agency last summer, and there are more solid third-line centers in the NHL than there are … whatever title you want to give to Hornqvist’s role.
He’s an energy guy, but that doesn’t really cover it all. He’s loathed by opponents, but he’s not a true agitator. Not all energy guys or agitators reach 400 career points. Hornqvist is eight points away, and 11 goals away from 200.
He’s not a pure scorer or pure playmaker, either. But he certainly does bring something.
“I’m just one of those guys who is easy to have fun around, I hope,” he said. “I bring a lot of energy.”
His energy seems unbounded. When rookie goaltender Tristan Jarry pitched a shutout earlier this season, Hornqvist interrupted Jarry’s postgame interview session. He bounced past, loudly clapping his hands and shouting words of congratulations and encouragement. We can only imagine what Hornqvist is like in the locker room when reporters aren’t around.
“For sure. It gets me going,” said fellow Swede Carl Hagelin, who along with Hornqvist and Malkin make up the second line these days.
“I spend a lot of time with him. It’s easy to be energetic around him and happy. In my life, it’s important to be around positive people and people that enjoy a good laugh and guys that are energetic like he is.”
Maybe He Was Born With It?!
Where does that come from? Hornqvist doesn’t know. He just feels compelled to exude energy.
“That’s my personality,” he said. “We’re all different. There’s 25 different kinds of guys here, and I’m the guy who likes to bring energy. That’s my job.”
It’s the same whether he’s around his teammates or his family.
“Once he gets to the rink, or when he plays with his daughter, that’s where his energy is,” Hagelin said.
Isabella Hornqvist is 4, an age where kids tend to have bursts of energy that can test parents’ patience. Not in this relationship.
“She’s pretty calm, actually,” Hornqvist said.
His motor is not enhanced by energy drinks. Hornqvist is a coffee guy, getting his caffeine from what is one of the most popular beverages in Sweden.
Not that he needs it.
“I like coffee, so I have a coffee before the game. Nothing crazy,” he said. “It usually doesn’t bother me anyway. I have a coffee at night and I can sleep. I’m one of those guys.”
Yeah, and he’s one of those guys who could help the Penguins beyond this season, something can be worked out.