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Florida Panthers Top 25 under 25: #13 Alex Petrovic

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This much-heralded defensive prospect finished the season with a strong NHL showing but must now show he can keep it up over a full slate of big-league games.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Petrovic

Position: Defense

Birthdate: 03/03/1992 (23)

Acquired: 2nd round selection (#36 overall) 2010 NHL Entry Draft

2014-15 Team/League: San Antonio Rampage (AHL)/ Florida Panthers (NHL)

Stats:

AHL:

GP G A PTS PIM +/-
41 3 17 20 59 -2

NHL:

GP G A PTS PIM +/-
33 0 3 3 34 -4

Nationality: Canadian

Size: 6'4"; 206 lbs.

Contract Status: Signed through conclusion of 2016-17 for $1,050,000 per season

The Florida Panthers have been patiently developing Alex Petrovic since the 2010 draft (a class that is shaping up to be quite a haul).  Petro has 144 AHL games, to go along with 46 NHL games under his belt. There is no question that he is big and has a deserved reputation as being a mean and punishing defenseman who enjoys throwing his body as well as fists (on occasion). Remember that it was Petrovic who broke Patrick Kane's collarbone, developing quite a following of haters in the Windy City (the majority of tweets from that time are unprintable here).

In those 46 NHL games, the big blue-liner has accumulated 67 penalty minutes, and in his aforementioned AHL career, he put up 240 penalty minutes. Whether that is a positive or negative attribute I will leave to you the reader. But anyone who is willing to step in as a rookie to defend a teammate from an established NHL physical player is absolutely top notch in my book:

Of course, this can on occasion lead to an over-aggressiveness that will have to be contained:

So what exactly do we have here? The Hockey's Future talent analysis describes him perfectly:

From Hockey's Future:

Petrovic is a gifted defenseman and an authoritative force in his own zone. He moves the puck well but it is in the physical game where he excels. He punishes opponents in the corners and intimidates attacking forwards. He has added weight and muscle to his already large frame and can get every ounce of his strength into his impressive slap shot. Petrovic skates well for his size, showing good maneuverability in all directions. Concussion issues in his second pro season slowed him but he appears back on track and on the verge of cracking the Panthers roster on a regular basis.

What can we expect moving forward? Well, despite his hard shot from the point, the young blueliner is not expected to put up much in the way of offensive numbers:

Petrovic attended training camp with the Panthers before being assigned to AHL affiliate San Antonio to start the 2014-15 season. Now in the third year of his original entry level contract, he was recalled by Florida in January 2015 and is seeing steady ice time in a lower pairing role. He does not have some of the offensive instincts and high level skills of some of the other young defensemen with the Panthers but his size and willingness to take care of things in his own end should compliment those players. Petrovic projects as a valuable two-way defender and a core player on the Florida blue line.

From our hometown correspondent, George Richards, back in 2012:

A stay at home defenseman, Petrovic is good at breaking opponents away from the puck and kicking it out.

Petrovic can also play a physical game – something that's going to get noticed by the Panthers.

"He's a big kid who has skills and really plays with an edge,'' McCabe said.

If this sounds vaguely like another young Florida defenseman- you are thinking in the right direction, as Petro shares many an attribute (including a hard, right-handed shot) with Erik Gudbranson. Petrovic would appear to have the potential to be a 3rd or 4th D-man at best. He could just as easily end up in a 5th D-man position, someday playing with the likes of shutdown defenders such as Jonathan Racine.

It appears that this young man's time as a prospect is coming to an end. There is every reason to believe that he will earn a full-time NHL position to accompany his new two-year contract with the Panthers. Expect a 3rd pairing role, although it is difficult to say who his partner will be in that role, although its likely to be Willie Mitchell or Dmitry Kulikov. This is a player who has arrived, and will now get the opportunity to prove whether he can stay in the NHL. We expect he will do so, but the competition will be fierce. A timely write up as we approach training camp, again from Hockey's Future:

Petrovic has been tested over the last three seasons, with each consecutive year providing him with more chances at the NHL level. He has quietly become a reliable choice for the Panthers, and should assume regular playing time next year.

Petrovic is likely to begin the season with the Panthers, but will need to continue to prove he belongs through the early part of the season, particularly with Dylan Olsen and Steven Kampfer nipping at his heels for ice time.

The Panthers are fortunate to have a wealth of young defensive prospects in the system as well as the NHL. We at LBC have previously written about young Ian McCoshen, who is less physical, but is perhaps more offensively gifted and similarly sized, as well as 24-year old Dmitry Kulikov, and his NHL Journey. But don't forget that Petro is also the same age and draft year as Gudbranson, who has a great deal more experience under his belt. Dylan Olsen and Jonathan Racine are both still in the system as well, and surprisingly effective Steven Kampfer will be pushing for playing time all season. Petrovic does not compare with the offensive talents of Aaron Ekblad or Michael Matheson, so there is little point in mentioning them together. Nonetheless, it is a crowded stable of defensemen with only six NHL positions available.

If Alex Petrovic is successful he will be little noticed, other than for the occasional bomb of a shot or monstrous hit. Good shutdown defenders are best unnoticed, as opposition is forced to try to beat other players on other avenues and stay away from them. Unfortunately for this young man, the leash is unlikely to be a long one: the Panthers will need to come out of the gate strong and as mistake free as possible. But Petro has always been cool under fire, and I expect him to join Gudbranson on a punishing defense that opponents dread playing against.

Where We Voted for Petrovic:

Shane Todd Jc Kevin Donny
13 11 14 8 12

Who We Voted 13th:

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
Alex Petrovic Michael Matheson Ian McCoshen Kyle Rau Kyle Rau