Sam Reinhart has an NHL career-high 39 goals for the Florida Panthers this season entering their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; MAX, truTV, TNT, TVAS).

But for Panthers coach Paul Maurice, it’s the forward’s hockey IQ that stands out the most.

“Next to Ron Francis, he’s the smartest player I’ve ever coached,” Maurice said of Reinhart, comparing him to the former NHL center who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 and is now general manager of the Seattle Kraken. “If there’s something going on on the ice that I’m not sure about, I’ll ask him. Reinhart almost articulates the game the way Ronnie Francis does. He can get to it very quick about what he thinks he’s seeing, whether we’re not breaking puck out the same way, our support’s off or this really works. Then you go back and watch the video, and he’s right.”

Reinhart’s intelligence and production has provided a huge boost for the Panthers (33-15-4), who have won six of their past seven entering Wednesday. They are second in the Atlantic Division, four points behind the Boston Bruins, and determined to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost the best-of-7 series to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games last season.

Reinhart leads the NHL with 22 power-play goals and has 64 points in 52 games. He’s 18 points shy of the career-best 82 he had in 2021-22, his first season with Florida, which acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres on July 24, 2021.

“It is remarkable. I do not think I have ever seen a player this hot,” Panthers center Sam Bennett said. “It seems like every time he touches the puck, there’s a good chance it is going into the net. A real good chance.

“It is awesome to watch, [and] a lot of fun knowing if you need a goal on the power play or wherever, he is out there. He has scored some massive goals for us this year. It is awesome to see.”

Reinhart showed an ability to score with the Sabres, who selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. His best season with them came in 2018-19, when he had 65 points (22 goals, 43 assists) in 82 games.

His former teammates know what he’s capable of.

“I think if you ask anyone who's played with him in this locker room, I don't think any of us are surprised; we watched it firsthand,” Buffalo center Casey Mittelstadt said. “He's such a unique player. I think he's so good with the puck, but also so good without the puck.

“I think you see all the power-play goals he scores and just finding the soft area and getting open, using that shot, he's got such a good shot. He's just such a smart player overall. I think that's definitely the best part of his game is his IQ and just knowing where the puck’s going to be and where he needs to be to get it.”

COL@FLA: Reinhart doubles the lead in 1st with a PPG

Why has it come together so well for Reinhart this season?

Maurice said he expected to start Reinhart at right wing with left wing Eetu Luostarinen and center Anton Lundell. The three were solid together during the Stanley Cup Playoffs before Luostarinen sustained a broken tibia in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Instead, Maurice put Reinhart and center Aleksander Barkov together, with Carter Verhaeghe at left wing. Reinhart and Barkov had shown great chemistry in last season’s training camp, but Maurice said it didn’t translate into points. Nevertheless, it was worth another shot, and the two have worked together at 5-on-5 and on special teams.

Barkov has 51 points (12 goals, 39 assists) in 46 games, and Verhaeghe has 53 points (26 goals, 27 assists) in 52 games.

“They just took off,” Maurice said. “That chemistry, synergy, it carries over to the power play because I’m not breaking up three lines. … They kill penalties together, they’re on the power play together and they’re 5-on-5 together. They’re just too good with each other to break them up.”

Reinhart is in the final season of a three-year contract he signed with the Panthers on Aug. 11, 2021, and can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He said during All-Star Weekend that contract talks with Florida have gone well and he’s fine with the process taking more time.

In the meantime, he hopes to keep scoring goals and help the Panthers win as many games as they can.

“It’s tough to not be a part of (the scoring),” he said. “I think the team we have in Florida, there’s a lot more we’re playing for and there’s a lot more we’re excited and challenging ourselves with.

“Me scoring some goals is going to help us get there at the end of the day too.” independent correspondents Heather Engel and George Richards contributed to this report