PORTLAND — Corey Tropp’s postseason scoring prowess may come as a surprise to some, but consider the capricious nature of playoff hockey.
A little-used rookie can jump off the bench and score a series-changing overtime goal. A goalie could have a bad night and become a scapegoat. A player cast in one role in the regular season can fill another one in the spring. And while it takes a complete effort throughout the roster to produce team success, individual contributions can’t be overlooked.
Enter Tropp, a rookie right wing for the Portland Pirates. Tropp, 21, leads the Pirates in postseason scoring with two goals and five assists. He has scored at least a point in five of Portland’s first six playoff games.
The Pirates open the best-of-seven Atlantic Division finals against the Binghamton Senators at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“It’s just working well with my linemates and finishing on our opportunities as a line,” Tropp said. “That’s a big part of the playoffs, so it’s definitely nice to chip in.”
A player known for his energy and quickness, Tropp has the ability to both produce points and be a physical presence. Filling a variety of roles over the course of the regular season, he finished with 10 goals, 30 assists and 113 penalty minutes in 76 games.
“Corey’s been a tremendous player all year,” Portland right wing Mark Mancari said. “With call-ups and things like that, he was put into a different role. He’s always been able to produce points. Just give him more ice time, and now things are going his way. The main thing in the playoffs is that you need it from everyone, and he’s been a leader and playing well, so it’s been good for our team.”
Tropp was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round of the 2007 NHL draft. After finishing as Michigan State’s leading scorer in 2009-10 with 20 goals and 22 assists in 37 games, he chose to forgo his senior year and turned pro.
Tropp’s decision to leave college came after one of his best friends, Andrew Rowe, also left early to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers. Another friend and teammate, Jeff Petry, left Michigan State in 2009 after his junior season to sign with the Edmonton Oilers.
“With two of my best buddies leaving and a few of the seniors graduating, I didn’t know how good of a team we were going to have,” Tropp said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my pro career started.”
Tropp had an up-and-down three years with the Spartans.
After scoring six goals and 11 assists in 42 games as a freshman, he missed 17 games as a sophomore — first because of a bout of mononucleosis, then because of a suspension for the second half of the season after he slashed Michigan’s Steve Kampfer as he was prone on the ice. Tropp finished the year with three goals and eight assists.
“That (sophomore) year, I’d just kind of like to forget about,” Tropp said. “But it was a good learning experience. It helps you grow up a lot. I had to face a lot of adversity and, obviously, I took a lot of heat for that incident (at Michigan), but I think it’s helped me become the player I am today.
“Everyone goes through tough times, and instead of looking at it as a negative, it’s something I had to learn from.”
Tropp credits the coaching staff and his teammates at Michigan State with helping him prepare for professional hockey. While he’s having a breakout postseason, he understands it’s not just the play of one player that will guarantee success.
“The one thing about our team is that we have four solid lines, and not many other teams can say that,” Tropp said.
“Everybody gets a good amount of ice time, and that’s a testament to our team because each line can score and chip in, and that’s how you win, when you get contributions from every line.”
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org