Are you feeling disoriented? Groggy? Perhaps don’t know where you are? If you are currently suffering from any of these symptoms you either just woke up from a long night out, or possibly fell victim to a right hook from Panthers’ defenseman Alex Petrovic.
Selected in the 2nd round (36th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, 21-year-old Petrovic has already begun to bring his own special blend of talent and force to the NHL. With his imposing frame and lovable insanity on the ice, the Panthers’ youthful defenseman made his first jump to the NHL last season – leaving a lot of cuts and bruises in his wake.
As the Panthers trudged through an injury laden season, Petrovic, as well as other top-prospects, were given the chance to make their mark with the pro club much sooner than expected. While making a mark would have been considered a success in its’ own right, the mark Petrovic left was a bit more forceful – and may have left a bruise. In 6 games last season, Petrovic recorded 10 hits and a whopping 25 PIMs, including 1 game misconduct. Although he didn’t record a point, the fact that Petrovic was able to establish a strong physical game early on at the NHL level should pay off greatly heading into the upcoming season.
“He got a little taste last year. He’s a big lanky guy who can really skate and move the puck, it’s rare.” said Panthers’ Manager of Player Development, Bryan McCabe, when asked about Petrovic. “He’s got a little edge to him, plays with a little grit as you guys saw at the end of the year in Tampa. He’s really coming into his own here, becoming more of a leader.”
The incident in Tampa that McCabe refers to took place in the Panthers’ final game of the 2012-2013 season when Petrovic dropped the gloves with longtime Lightning Captain, Vincent Lecavalier. Although there was no clear winner to the fight, the fact that Petrovic had the confidence to go after a player as established as Lecavalier in only his 6th career NHL game truly says a lot about his character and confidence. The Panthers would go on to win the game by a final score of 5-3, and thanks to Petrovic’s efforts, Lecavalier spent the last 5 minutes of his Lightning career in the penalty box.
After last season ending with a literal bang, Petrovic headed into this year’s development camp as one of the Panthers’ most highly touted defensive prospects. Currently, Petrovic is a part of an incredibly impressive group of young Panthers’ defenseman which includes players such as Erik Gudbranson (21), Colby Robak (23), Mike Matheson (19), and Dmitry Kulikov (22).
“Obviously, they have confidence in the new guys coming up and the guys they already have, so that’s awesome,” Petrovic said of the team’s faith in their young defensive core. “I’m proud to be in this position. I just have to go seize the moment.”
Given the complacency that the Panthers showed in the early stages of this year’s free agency period, Petrovic could very well be playing for a spot on the team’s opening night roster. Although he only competed in a handful of games last season, Petrovic already seems wise beyond his years and made it clear he knows what he has to do to succeed at the next level.
“The game moves a lot quicker, so you just kind of have to have your head up and make that first play,” Petrovic said of his brief stint in the NHL. “After the games recovery is huge, just little things that you don’t see on the ice play a big part in what you do on the ice.”
Already a physically gifted defender, Petrovic hits with authority and makes sure you know where it came from. While his offensive game still leaves something to be desired, his defense and willingness to drop the gloves with anyone will be a great asset to the Panthers’ while the rest of his game develops. If he does indeed make the opening day roster, you can count on Petrovic’s special blend of nastiness to bring fans at the BB&T Center to their feet more than once.
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