December 17, 2015

David Booth

David Booth was a hustling, strong skating forward with a heavy wrist shot. He started his career as a bit of a mini-power forward but would become a depth winger who drove possession by skating the puck into the zone and forcing an offensive zone faceoff by making the goalie stop an usually nonhazardous shot from the outside.

The Michigan native was one of hockey's more interesting players off the ice. The devout Christian with a love for big game hunting played four full seasons at Michigan State while originally studying dentistry before switching to general management. He would later get his pilot's license.

On the ice attending college allowed his game to mature. Aided by excellent off-ice conditioning he became an excellent athlete. His size and tremendous skating ability allowed him create a lot of space for himself. By the time he graduated from school in 2006, he had emerged as a better prospect than when he was drafted 53rd overall by the Florida Panthers back in 2004.

After a quiet rookie season adjusting to the pro game, Booth emerged with the Panthers as a top gunner, scoring 22 and then a career best 31 goals in years two or three. The future looked bright for Booth, a fan favorite in South Florida.

But if there was a constant criticism of his game was that his hard-driving style led a lot of precarious collisions, often resulting in unnecessary risk to injury by not protecting his body adequately. It seemed like only a matter of time before he pressed his luck too far.

"It's not as easy as just saying, 'Hey, keep your head up on the ice,'" Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer said. "The way David plays, he's aggressive. He goes after the puck. The play that night, he's making an extra effort, reaching for it. When he lifts his head up, there's a guy there. It's not something you can talk to a guy about and he can fix. That's how he plays."

During the 2009-10 season Booth was dangerously blindsided by a Mike Richards hit, resulting in a 45 game absence. His return was short lived as he would have his season ended in March by a second head shot as Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek hit him in the jaw with a bodycheck.

Booth never returned to his pre-concussion form, though Florida, Vancouver and Toronto all gave him opportunities.

The Panthers, looking to divest themselves of Booth's hefty contract, moved the popular Panther to Vancouver in 2011-12. The Canucks had hoped Booth could find chemistry with friend Ryan Kesler, as the two had played youth hockey together since the age of 12. But it never worked out, and the Canucks would finally buy out the remainder of his contract in 2014.

Booth resurfaced with Toronto for a quiet final season in his career before heading to Europe.

David Booth retired with 120 goals and 231 points in 502 career NHL games.

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